November 18, 2018

Cohen Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations, Manafort Convicted of Fraud

REUTERS/Leah Millis

Two former acolytes of President Trump will likely be serving time in prison, as Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, plead guilty to violating campaign finance laws, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted of tax fraud.

Cohen reached a plea deal with prosecutors on August 21 in which he plead guilty to the campaign finance violations as well as tax and bank fraud. Cohen admitted in his plea agreement that he arranged two unlawful payments of hush money to two women on behalf of a presidential candidate.

While the two women and the candidate are not specified in the plea deal, it is widely believed that the candidate is Trump and the two women are porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both Daniels and McDougal have alleged that Trump engaged in affairs with them, which Trump has denied.

Also on August 21, Manafort was convicted for multiple counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and concealing foreign accounts in relation to his political consulting work for the Kremlin-backed Ukraine Party of Regions. There were an additional 10 counts that the jury couldn’t reach on verdict on.

Manafort could face up to 80 years in prison – and he’s still undergoing a trial in Washington, D.C. over charges of failing to register as a foreign agent and money laundering.

Following the convictions, Trump told reporters about Manafort, “It’s a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This is a witch hunt and a disgrace.” He has yet to comment on Cohen’s guilty plea.

Trump Confidant Puts Up – Then Deletes – Swastika Post on Instagram

Screenshot from Twitter.

Roger Stone, who has been a long time confidant to President Trump and was once an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, deleted an August 13 Instagram post that featured a swastika.

The post shows Stone, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rudy Giuliani, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Fox News’ Sean Hannity donning astronaut suits that have swastikas featured on the left side of their chests. There is also a swastika on the upper-right hand corner of the picture.

“I love this – proud to be in this crew – but the only lies being told are by liberal scumbags #maga #republican #infowars,” Stone wrote.

Stone later deleted the post and then apologized in a subsequent post under an image that had “SORRY” written in all caps.

“Last night I posted an image attacking me and other supporters of the President that was sent to me by a hater,” Stone wrote. “I did so to mock them. I did not notice the image had a swastika in the corner. When it was brought to my attention I deleted – so u libtards who are frothing at the mouth can stop sending insulting comments.”

Stone is currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible ties to the Russians.

Episode 102 – Bannon’s Canons and the Nation-State Bill

Photo by Raheem Kassam.

Behind every great man stands a great political strategist. As far as political earthquakes go, Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016 was at least an 8 on the Richter scale. Right up until the last second, no one saw it coming. But a few people were probably less surprised than most of us and one of them is surely Steve Bannon.

Considered by many to be the architect of Trump’s rise to the White House, Bannon is certainly a controversial figure. To most, he’s a either the despicable leader of the Alt-right or the savior of American pride and nationalism. And to the rest, he’s an enigma. Luckily, we’ve got Gadi Taub.

About a month ago, Dr. Taub, a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was able to sit down for about 2 hours with the man himself. You can find his in-depth analysis piece on the Haaretz website.

Although Bannon’s been dismissed from the administration, it seems that he might be the key to understanding the currents of change that took place and that are continuing to take place in America, as well as the Jews’ place in all this mess.

We’re thrilled to welcome back Gadi to the podcast to disambiguate Bannonism for us once and for all.

Trump Re-imposes Sanctions on Iran

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

President Trump announced on August 6 that he is re-imposing sanctions on Iran following the United States’ exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The sanctions, which were initially lifted under the deal, center on the auto industry and any instance of Iran buying U.S. dollars. A second round of sanctions will occur in November, focusing on Iran’s oil industry, which is the lifeblood of their economy.

“These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level,” Trump tweeted. “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised the sanctions in a statement.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” the statement read. “It has propped up the Syrian regime and participated in crimes against humanity in Syria. It continues to arm Hezbollah and support Hamas. It calls for Israel’s destruction and seeks ways to achieve that goal. It undermines Yemen and threatens our Gulf Arab partners. It plots attacks in Europe. It tramples on the human rights of its own people, beginning with women, LGBTQ individuals, and religious minorities. The list goes on and on.”

The statement concluded by saying, “Iran must know that Washington is determined to send a powerful message that its aggressive, bellicose behavior must change dramatically, or else it faces serious economic consequences. Yesterday’s U.S. decision should make that abundantly clear.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the sanctions by stating that the Iranian regime is open to dialogue with the United States, but only if it agrees to “compensation to the Iranian nation from 1953 until now,” referencing the ouster of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

However, the European Union (EU) is threatening to sanction businesses that stop conducting business in Iran due to Trump’s sanctions, as the EU is attempting to salvage the Iran deal.

The sanctions come amidst a tenuous time for the Iranian regime that is dealing economic calamity and intensifying protests against the regime.

Trump Administration Slaps Sanctions on Turkey for Imprisoning American Pastor

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Trump administration leveled sanctions against two Turkish officials on August 1 in response to Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor.

Fifty-year-old evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson from North Carolina is being accused by the Turkish government of espionage having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Gulenist Movement, which the Turkish government considers to be terror organizations. Brunson is currently under house arrest and faces up to 35 years in prison.

The Trump administration is demanding that Turkey free Brunson, claiming that there is no evidence that Brunson committed any wrongdoing. They are sanctioning Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Solu in response.

“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded with a statement that they “vehemently protest the sanctions” and that “a reciprocal response will be given without delay to this aggressive attitude which serves no purpose.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed for President Trump to accept a deal in which Turkey exchanges Brunson for businessman Fethullah Gülen, who Erdogan blames for orchestrating the failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

According to professor Efraim Inbar, the president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, Erdogan has allied himself with the likes of Hamas and the Iranian regime and has provided support for ISIS despite claiming that he fights them. Erdogan’s government has also promoted an anti-Semitic TV series that portrays Jews as insidious villains.

Jewish Cafe Owner Targeted for Trump Views

Photo courtesy of J. Asher Shalom.

Several weeks ago, Ruben Duran, 51, was driving on the 101 Freeway when he noticed a restaurant in the heart of Boyle Heights that he didn’t recognize. “I remember thinking it looked nice,” he said. “I Googled it and figured I’d come in when I had a chance.”

The restaurant in question was Asher Caffe and Lounge, which officially opened its doors on July 12. Earlier this week, Duran, who is Mexican American and lives in Highland Park, finally visited the cafe for a late breakfast with his twin brother, Tony.

Less than a week before, the kosher cafe made national headlines when the owner, Asher Shalom, an Israeli immigrant who has called Los Angeles home for 30 years, became mired in controversy over his pro-Donald Trump and perceived anti-immigrant views.

During the grand opening, around 30 protesters, led by a group called Defend Boyle Heights, clashed with Los Angeles Police Department officers. Shalom also had private security on hand in anticipation of the protests.

“The words they used outside weren’t, ‘You’re pro-Trump’ or ‘You’re a Republican,’ ” Shalom said. “It was much worse than that.”

Shalom told the Journal he heard anti-Semitic slurs hurled his way, including “dirty Jew.” He found feces smeared on his establishment, received threatening phone calls at the cafe and noticed a flurry of negative Yelp reviews.

Defend Boyle Heights, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, describes itself on its blog as an “anti-gentrification coalition devoted to community and our hood.” It organized the protest after discovering posts Shalom shared from pro-Trump accounts on his Facebook page, including, “I wish Democrats would fight as hard for Americans as they do for illegals.”

Shalom defended the accusations against him and was largely apologetic about his Facebook posts, referring to them as “a mistake” in a phone interview with the Journal.

“I myself am an immigrant and most of the people working for me are immigrants,” he said. “They love me and I love them and I’ll do anything for them. I don’t have anything against immigrants. I apologize and this was all a mistake. With this business, I’m trying to do something that’s good for the community, not just for Jews.”

He added that his pro-Trump views have less to do with immigration policy and more to do with business policy and U.S.-Israeli relations.

A Westwood resident and member of Westwood Kehilla Synagogue, Shalom moved his business Asher Fabric Concepts to Boyle Heights five years ago. The cafe is across the street in a mostly industrial area with few food options.

The posts also caught the attention of the Boyle of Heights Chamber of Commerce. Just before the grand opening, Shalom’s membership was revoked.

“These statements are not in line with the Chamber’s values and objectives,” the organization wrote in a statement. “In accordance with our bylaws, Asher Caffe and Lounge’s membership was revoked, membership dues were refunded and our participation in their grand opening was cancelled.”

In an email to the Journal, Jennifer Lahoda, the chamber’s board president, denied previous reports that the chamber was involved in the protests and had called for a boycott of the cafe.

Shalom said he appealed the board’s decision and is waiting to hear back. Lahoda told the Journal the board is set to make a decision in the next 30 days.

“I’m not sure what they’ll do,” Shalom said. “Both sides have apologized to each other. [Lahoda] said I’ll get a meeting with them soon. I’m sure they’re under a lot of pressure.”

Duran said that beyond curiosity, a compulsion to defend Shalom brought him and his brother, who both identify as Trump supporters, to the cafe.

“We’re here because we thought we needed to come back this place up,” Duran said. “I heard about them throwing feces and I was so upset. I just thought, I can’t believe they’re doing this crap.”

And what about the food?

“It’s great,” Duran said, between bites of salad. “We love it.”

Trump Offers to Hold Talks With Iran

REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

President Trump signaled a willingness to hold talks with the Iranian regime without preconditions, but Iran has rebuffed the suggestion.

In a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on July 30, Trump said, “If they [Iran] want to meet, I’ll meet any time they want.”

“Good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world,” Trump said. “No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Bahram Qasemi, however, said that the regime would not meet with Trump due to the Trump administration’s use of “sanctions and pressure” against the regime. Kamal Kharrazi, who heads Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, said that Iran “sees no value” in meeting with the Trump administration.

“Trump should first make up for his withdrawal from the nuclear deal and show that he respects his predecessors’ commitments and international law,” Kharrazi said.

An Israeli diplomatic source told the Times of Israel on July 31 that “senior American officials” told him that despite Trump’s statements, “There is no change in its tough policies toward Iran.”

Buttressing that claim is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comment on Trump’s remarks.

“If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he’s prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them,” Pompeo said in a July 30 interview on CNBC’s “Morning Bell.”

Trump and Iran Trade Barbs Over Twitter

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump and the Iranian regime have been trading barbs with each other over Twitter, with one warning the other not to a start war.

It began with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issuing a threat on July 22 to Trump to “not play with the lion’s tail” for his policies against the Iranian regime.

“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said.


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded with a tweet that read, “COLOR US UNIMPRESSED.”

“The world heard even harsher bluster a few months ago,” Zarif tweeted, referring to Trump’s “Fire and Fury” tweet toward North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. “And Iranians have heard them —albeit more civilized ones—for 40 yrs. We’ve been around for millennia & seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”

At a July 24 speech in front of the Veterans for Foreign Wars, Trump said that he’s “ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was by the previous administration” with Iran.

Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

Award-winning Hollywood showrunner Rob Long talks about happiness, craziness and, of course, Donald Trump.

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Check out this episode!

Local Kosher Café Faces Boycotts, Anti-Semitic Slurs Because Owner Is Trump Supporter

Screenshot from Facebook.

Asher Caffe and Lounge opened its doors in Boyle Heights for the first time on July 12 and was greeted with protests and chants of anti-Semitic slurs because the kosher restaurant’s owner is a supporter of President Trump.

Asher Shalom, the owner of the restaurant, shared a Facebook post from a Donald Trump fan page that stated, “I wish Democrats would fight as hard for Americans as they do for illegals.” He also shared a post from someone named Garth Limburg that read, “We bring people from sh*thole countries because sh*thole Democrats need sh*thole votes so they can turn America into a sh*hole.”

Additionally, Shalom re-tweeted a February 2017 tweet from Trump that read, “Our legal system is broken! ‘77% of our refugees allowed into the U.S. since travel reprieve hail from seven suspect countries!’ (WT) SO DANGEROUS!”

These posts led a group called Defend Boyle Heights, which hails itself as “an anti-gentrification coalition,” to advocate a boycott against the restaurant due to their “anti-immigrant” owner.

“We already know the dangers the Gentry bring to our communities with their trigger happy hands to call the cops on regular hood sh*t,” Defend Boyle Heights wrote on Facebook. “Now we have #GentryTrumpSupporters and make money off the communities they hate so much! F*CK ‘EM!”

When they learned of the exact timing of the restaurant’s opening, Defend Boyle Heights wrote in another Facebook post, “Show up tomorrow and let them know that the Gentry Trump Supporters are NOT welcomed in our hood in any creative way you please!!!” They also referred to Shalom as a “xenophobe.”

Shalom’s son, David, told The Daily Wire that they faced “anti-Semitic slurs” as well as “pro-Palestinian chants” during the protests. The protests also consisted of chants of “these racists have got to go” and “Gentry, get the f*ck out” as well as protesters harassing restaurant customers with cries of “Shame!”

Here are a couple of videos sent to the Journal from the boycotts:

Additionally, the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce revoked Shalom’s membership to their organization and also called for a boycott.

Shalom responded to the criticism with a statement that he immigrated to America 30 years ago and that several of his employees are immigrants.

“I believe that all people should be treated with humanity, dignity and respect – there is no hate tolerated at Asher Caffè & Lounge,” Shalom said. “It has always been my vision to create a communal space for Boyle Heights where family, friends and colleagues can come together over good food and to celebrate what makes our community so great.”

Currently, the restaurant has a three-star rating on Yelp. While there were plenty of posts alleging that Shalom is a “racist” and a “xenophobe” for supporting Trump, others were complimentary of the restaurant.

“A nice grab and go place with helpful staff, and pretty décor,” Yelp user named Queen R. wrote. “Also if you can’t find parking- they bring it to your car!!! This was perhaps the most amazing thing.”

Another user named Ayton A. wrote, “Love having another great kosher option to eat near my office in DTLA. The place is conveniently located & has ample parking. The food is excellent and the service is great. My favorite is the shakshuka and the Margherita flatbread.”

Trump Walks Back Russian Meddling Remarks

REUTERS/Leah Millis

President Trump sparked controversy on July 16 by proclaiming in a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 United States election. Trump walked back those comments on July 17.

When asked during the July 16 press conference if he believed Putin or the intelligence community on Russia meddling, Trump responded, “My people came to me; [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

A day later, Trump told reporters, “I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies, always have.”

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said. “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

The president added that he meant to say, “I don’t see any reason why it WOULDN’T be Russia” in the July 16 press conference.

Trump also told reporters that he and Putin discussed North Korea and denuclearization.

Trump Downplays Russia Election Meddling in Press Conference With Putin

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Trump held a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, after the two met face-to-face. During the press conference, Trump expressed warmth toward Putin and downplayed Russia’s meddling of the 2016 election.

Trump said that relations between the United States and Russia were at an all-time low because “we’ve all been foolish,” stating that both the United States and Russia were at fault. He proceeded to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and, collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, calling the probe a “disaster.”

Trump went on to suggest that Russia did not interfere in the election at all.

“My people came to me; [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump added that Putin made him “an incredible offer” to work with the investigators on the Mueller probe into the 12 Russian nationals that were indicted by the Department of Justice on July 13 over U.S. election hacking.

Coats issued a statement responding to Trump’s assertion that Russia didn’t interfere into the 2016 election.

“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said.

Trump has been criticized by members of both political parties over his Russian meddling comments.

“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in a statement. “That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.”

Jewish Community Leaders Respond to Supreme Court Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Following that announcement, the Journal asked local leaders to respond.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

The vacancy left by Justice Kennedy’s retirement is a critical one for the future of civil rights, civil liberties and our democracy. At a time where hard-fought progress in LGBT rights, voting rights and women’s rights are threatened, and immigrants and vulnerable communities in our country are under attack, the role of an independent Supreme Court — and one that protects the constitutional rights of all Americans — is more important than ever.

We are concerned that Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court. Because he has written and spoken prolifically on many issues of deep concern, we believe his positions merit close scrutiny. These include his demonstrated hostility to reproductive freedom and his past support for greatly expanded and unchecked executive power.

We cannot let Justice Kennedy’s retirement jeopardize hard-fought progress in securing our civil rights and civil liberties. Senators should probe Judge Kavanaugh carefully to ensure that he will respect basic principles of equality, independence, church-state separation and civil rights. As the [Senate Judiciary Committee] reviews the full record, unless they are completely satisfied that Judge Kavanaugh will in fact respect such basic principles as a justice on the Supreme Court, they should oppose his nomination.

Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler

Brett Kavanaugh is an affront to the values and priorities of a vast majority of the American Jewish community. From workers’ rights to civil rights, from reproductive rights to LGBTQ rights and immigrants’ rights, this nominee’s track record is hostile toward the issues our community has fought for over generations, and he has no business serving on the court.

The President and Senate Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell] lack the moral authority to radically shift the balance of our nation’s highest court. But the American people have a voice in this process through our elected senators, and we demand that the Senate reject this radical, dangerous nominee.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier

Judge Kavanaugh is respectful to the Constitution and understands the special responsibility that a Supreme Court judge has. He seems to be a wonderful family man and committed to community services, especially for those in need. He came across as a mainstream person and he did not strike me as an ideologue. He was impressive.

Workmen’s Circle Executive Director Ann Tobeck

President Trump is doubling down on his war against the working people of this country with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. In recent months and weeks, we have witnessed monumental setbacks for women, workers, unions, immigrants and disenfranchised groups in our country. We are profoundly concerned that the Supreme Court will continue down this path and scale back — or abolish — many of the hard-fought-for civil rights, liberties and worker protections that have been part of the bedrock of the United States. While the President’s selection of a conservative candidate is not a surprise, it exemplifies the direction of this administration to further divide, rather than unite, our county.

At the Workmen’s Circle, we are committed to resisting the attacks of this administration on the freedoms that have been a foundation of what makes our country truly great. We implore our elected representatives in Washington to meticulously scrutinize Mr. Kavanaugh’s record, to ask the tough questions and to ensure that our next Supreme Court justice will protect, and not cripple, the rights and freedoms that must remain intrinsic to our country’s democracy.

American Jewish Committee General Counsel Marc Stern

While there is little doubt that Judge Kavanaugh has the technical qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court, that by no means alone qualifies [him]. No less important is the nominee’s openness to arguments that challenge his own views and previously expressed beliefs, a robust commitment to protecting the liberties the Constitution guarantees, and assuring all citizens the equal protection of the laws. Moreover, the Senate should not confirm a nominee who comes to the bench with the intention of radically and systematically rewriting American constitutional law.

It is imperative that the Supreme Court remains truly an independent branch of our government and does not become merely an extension of partisan politics. Proper Senate evaluation of Judge Kavanaugh will be critical to assuring that the court steers clear of any ideological tilting, as the justices hear arguments and deliberate on cases affecting longstanding landmark decisions, such as Roe v. Wade.

AJC recognizes that the hard cases that come before the court do not necessarily have only one self-evident, correct answer. Neither liberals or conservatives have an exclusive on constitutional interpretation.

Ohr HaTorah Rabbi Mordechai Finley

Most Americans, including me, did not want Trump to be president. Now that he is, we have basically two choices: Oppose everything he does, or oppose his proposed actions on a case-by-case basis. I am a case-by-case person. I don’t think it adds to civil discourse to oppose Kavanaugh simply because No. 45 nominated him. My question is whether there is something about Kavanaugh that makes him unfit to be a justice. So far, I have not found anything, but the day is young.

I happen to be pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay marriage, in favor of liberalizing immigration policy dramatically, in favor of reducing carbon emissions, pro justice regarding marginalized communities, etc. From what I have gathered so far, I don’t see Kavanaugh doing anything radical in those areas. I predict that he will make decisions that I oppose, but not decisions that will fundamentally threaten the Constitution.

Young Israel of Orange County Rabbi Dov Fischer

Judge Kavanaugh’s 300-plus judicial opinions are solid and smart. His opinions reflect that he supports religious rights and liberties and core constitutional values.  On abortion, he rejected the left’s race to find a new constitutional right for under-age undocumented immigrants to have an immediate abortion. He seems steadfastly pro-Second Amendment. And he rejects efforts by federal agencies to regulate as an uncontrolled fourth arm of government when they fail to conduct administrative findings that would balance the economic and social costs of new proposed regulations.

He is a man of character: feeding the homeless, tutoring kids in the inner cities, coaching kids basketball.

Not only have many of Judge Kavanaugh’s majority opinions been upheld on appeals by the Supreme Court, but the court even has adopted some of his dissents on appeal, deeming them the better law than the majority opinions he countered. His 100 most-cited legal opinions have been cited by 210 other judges in their opinions. Thirty-nine of his own 48 judicial appellate clerks have gone on to clerk for United States Supreme Court justices; that means that justices across the ideological spectrum have deemed Judge Kavanaugh’s clerks especially well trained and suited for the highest of judicial work. He will make an extraordinary Supreme Court justice.

Jewish Republican Alliance Co-Founder Bruce Karasik

The Jewish Republican Alliance praises President Trump for an outstanding selection and enthusiastically endorses the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.  With credentials that are beyond reproach, Judge Kavanaugh has always been committed to equal justice under the law,  and to applying the Constitution as written in all of his decisions. The JRA is encouraging the Senate to now swiftly confirm Judge Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Justice.

Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Vacancy


After a week of deliberation and speculation, President Trump has picked his Supreme Court nominee: Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

In front of a televised audience, Trump said that he was looking for a candidate who would faithfully follow the rule of law and called Kavanaugh a “judge’s judge.”

“The rule of law is our nation’s proud heritage. It is the cornerstone of our freedom. It is what guarantees equal justice,” Trump said. “And the Senate now has a chance to protect this glorious heritage by sending Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”

Kavanaugh followed Trump by saying he was “humbled” by the nomination.

“My judicial philosophy is straightforward: a judge must be independent,” Kavanaugh said, adding that a judge must follow the law, not make the law.

“I will always strive to follow the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law,” Kavanaugh concluded.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“We are concerned that Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “Because he has written and spoken prolifically on many issues of deep concern, we believe his positions merit close scrutiny. These include his demonstrated hostility to reproductive freedom and his past support for greatly expanded and unchecked executive power. ”

Kavanaugh, a federal judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, clerked for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. His record also consists of working on independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigations into the Clinton administration as well as on President George W. Bush’s White House counsel.

As a judge, Kavanaugh has tended to generally align with the constitutionalist line of thinking, however some conservative critics have expressed skepticism over some of Kavanaugh’s cases, most notably a 2011 case that ruled that the Obamacare individual mandate was a tax.

Report: North Korea Secretly Ramping Up Secret Nuclear Production

KCNA/via Reuters

Despite North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un pledging to denuclearize in a recent summit with President Trump, a new report states that the Kim regime is ramping up its nuclear production in hidden areas.

According to NBC News, several members of the intelligence community have concluded there are multiple undisclosed sites where the Kim regime has increased its uranium production. The U.S. has always known about North Korea’s main nuclear production facility in Yongbyon and another undisclosed site; this latest intelligence report is the first to reveal multiple undisclosed nuclear production sites.

“There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they [North Korea] are trying to deceive the U.S.,” an official told NBC.

Another official stated that it was always believed that Kim would attempt deception, but the fact that Kim has agreed to halt nuclear and missile tests is a positive development.

Kim also doesn’t appear to be ending his murderous ways anytime soon either. The Sun recently reported that a top North Korean lieutenant was executed by firing squad for providing troops with extra food and fuel rations.

Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s Travel Ban

REUTERS/Leah Millis

The Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban of people from a handful countries by a margin of 5-4.

Under the ban, immigration from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are restricted. The Trump administration has claimed that the ban is necessary for national security purposes, and the Supreme Court agreed.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that federal law “exudes deference to the president” when it comes to setting limits on immigration, adding that the president just has to prove that doing so is in “the interests of the United States.”

“The proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices,” Roberts wrote.

In the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor claimed that the travel ban “was motivated by anti-Muslim animus” based on Trump’s past statements on Muslims and that the ban has resulted in “pain and suffering” on “countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”

Trump hailed the ruling as a “profound vindication” in a White House statement.

“As long as I am President, I will defend the sovereignty, safety, and security of the American People, and fight for an immigration system that serves the national interests of the United States and its citizens,” Trump said.

Dem Senate Candidate Calls Jerusalem Move An ‘Incitement to Violence’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Texas Senate Democratic candidate Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke called the moving of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem an “incitement to violence” at a June 24 campaign event.

Video of the event shows that a woman identifying herself as a Muslim asking O’Rourke where he stood on the move; she called it “arguably one of the worst humanitarian disasters our world faces today.”

O’Rourke responded by calling the move “unnecessarily provocative.”

“Everyone who knows anything about the Middle East, who knows the status of Jerusalem and East Israel, the status of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the state of Israel knew there were going to be those that would suffer as a result, as they predictably have,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke added that the move hasn’t done anything to help achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and claimed that as an ally to both, the U.S. can leverage Israel into ending West Bank settlements.

“It’s going to be up to those two powers to produce the peace, but we can do a better job and we can certainly stop providing incentives and incitement to violence, which I think that move did,” O’Rourke said.

Since the embassy move happened, there have been riots at the Israel-Gaza border that have resulted in Palestinian deaths – several of whom were terrorists – although since then the size of the riots has declined.

The latest poll shows O’Rourke trailing incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) by 10 points.

H/T: Free Beacon


Clergy and Community Unite for Separated Migrant Children

Waving banners proclaiming everything from ‘Jesus Was a Brown Skinned Refugee’ to ‘Rulers Tearing Babies Away From Parents is ‘Biblical?’ around 200 people participated in an early morning interfaith protest at the Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building on June 21.

Billed “a non-violent, interfaith protest against the violence against children and their parents taking place along America’s southern border,” the vigil was co-sponsored by several religious organizations including Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), T’ruah – the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Bend the Arc, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Sacred resistance.

The protest was organized before President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 stating that the government would no longer separate children from their parents at the border. However, the vigil went ahead as planned, with speakers and attendees protesting the shortcomings of Trump’s order, including no reunification plan for the 2,300 children that have already been separated from their parents; lack of resources to detain entire families; and that families are being detained at all.

During the event CLUE Rabbi Aryeh Cohen blew the shofar, Reverend Susan Russell of Pasadena’s All Saint’s Church led a Christian call to worship, and Salam Al-Marayati from the Muslim Public Affairs Council translated verses from the Koran, which read, in part, “People are at a loss. They are losing time. They are losing their spirit. Except, God says, those who are committed to faith and who will do the work of justice.”

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Temple Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica and Reverend Jaime Edwards-Acton of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood, brought out their guitars and led the crowd in singing, ‘Somebody’s hurting my brother and it’s gone on far too long, yes it’s gone on far too long, and we won’t stay silent anymore.’ Janice Mautner Markham from the band Mostly Kosher accompanied them on the violin.

Reverend Tera Klein and Samantha Gupta of the Throop Unitarian Universalist Church lit a candle inside a chalice and declared, “This chalice and its flame were born out of another time and place where families were being separated, detained, tortured and made less than human: the Nazi occupation.”

Throughout their speech, the two women had the crowd shout out, “Families belong together!”

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David Judea in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, decried not just the current administration’s zero tolerance policy, but the hate and division that he said has become a hallmark of Trump’s presidency.

“We are living in a time and place in which it is possible to say that Mexicans are rapists and drug runners, and be elected to the highest office in the land,” Kanefsky said.  “We are living in a time when it is possible to say that all Muslims are suspect and need to be banned from our country.”

He added America has a deep cultural problem “in which we are dehumanizing one another. It is possible to rip children from the arms of their parents only when you don’t regard those parents as full human beings.”

In a call to action, Kanefsky said that everyone is a human being and must be treated that way. “The moment that our sense of shared humanity returns is the moment when the sun shines again on the United States of America.”

Rabbi Susan Goldberg of Wilshire Boulevard Temple said, “I am a mother and I am a rabbi. And at this moment, as a mother, how can your heart not leave your body when you think of these children who are torn from their parents?”

The hour-long protest ended with participants singing ‘We shall overcome.’ However, many attendees immediately made their way around the corner for yet another rally in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention center.

Organized by the Latino Caucus and Children Over Politics, many speakers shared their immigrant stories. Among them was 18-year-old Yamilex Rustrian who escaped Guatemala with her sister when she was just 7, after their father was shot and killed by gang members.

Rustrian told the Journal she came to speak because it was important that communities come together and know that the president’s executive order “didn’t actually change anything. Our families are still being separated and our families are still struggling at the border and also in the detention centers. We are going to  [keep] bringing awareness and keep holding politicians accountable.”

Nicole Levi is a senior at Palisades High School and a Jewish Journal summer intern.

Simon Wiesenthal Center SMACKS Child Separation Policy Critics for Invoking Holocaust Comparison

Screenshot from Twitter.

The issue of separating children from their parents at the border has sparked an intense, emotional debate throughout the country over the past few days, even causing some to compare the policy to Nazi Germany. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has had enough of those comparisons.

Among those who have made the Nazi comparison include former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden and former CNN host Soledad O’Brien:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also seemed to invoke the comparison on June 19, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: “This is the United States of America. It isn’t Nazi Germany, and there’s a difference. And we don’t take children from their parents until now and I think it’s such a sad day.”

Additionally, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough ranted on June 15 that the children at the border “are being marched away to showers,” adding that “the Nazis had said that they were taking people to the showers and then they never came back.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper condemned such comparisons in a June 19 statement, saying that while the child separation policy is “unacceptable,” comparisons to the Holocaust are “sickening.”

“All they achieve is to demean the memory of 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and confuse young people who know little or nothing about history,” Hier and Cooper said. “Our border guards and Homeland Security personnel are the opposite of Nazis. Critics should stop slandering them. We live in the world’s greatest democracy. Our elected officials have the tools to fix what’s broken and our national debate shouldn’t be tainted by Holocaust revisionism and misappropriation.”

On June 20, President Trump announced that he would be signing an executive order to end the policy. His action is expected to be challenged in the courts, as it contradicts a 9th Circuit Court decision. The administration is hoping that Congress can change the law.

The Cries of a Child

In 2015, the picture of a 3-year-old, Aylan Kurdi, wearing a bright red shirt, blue pants and sneakers, lying face down in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey, focused the world’s attention for a minute on the Syrian refugee crisis. The sight of this helpless, dead, innocent child was needed for people to be able to also see the hundreds of thousands of other Syrians killed in the civil war, and to humanize those who attempted to flee that hell to refuge elsewhere.

John Moore’s picture of a Honduran 2-year-old, wearing clothes in a similar color combination to Aylan’s (red shirt, blue pants, sneakers), her dark hair matted across her face, standing, crying, next to her mother as they were taken into custody near the Mexico-U.S. border, might define the current immigration crisis. It has grabbed people’s attention for this week.

The Donald Trump administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy toward undocumented immigration, in which children are separated from their parents, has generated wall-to-wall criticism. In the Jewish world, social justice and human rights organizations (Bend the Arc, T’ruah, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice) condemned the move, but so did everybody else, including all the denominational organizations — even the Orthodox Union, which days before had given Attorney General Jeff Sessions an award.

It is hard to find anyone who is defending the unholy trinity of Trump, Sessions and Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller. Even members of Miller’s family are condemning the policy.

Aside from Trump’s blatantly false assertions that these are policies the Democrats put into place and he cannot do anything about it, Sessions’ and Miller’s defense of their policies (they didn’t get the memo that they were Democratic policies) is that they are all about the United States as a nation of laws.

We must hear the cries of the children and their parents. We must stop this criminal behavior masquerading as law. Call your senators, call your representatives. Do not rest until this has been stopped.

Miller is quoted in The New York Times as saying, “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”

Sessions, meanwhile, said in a speech on June 14, “Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.” He proceeded to back this up with a biblical citation: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government … because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

In addition to the fact that the vast majority of Christian clergy oppose this policy, including Trump’s favorite evangelical, Franklin Graham, this verse has a rather checkered history on these shores.

In an interview in The Washington Post, John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania said, “There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked. … One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by Loyalists, those who opposed the American Revolution.” The other, Fea said, “is in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. I mean, this is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made.”

Aside from the tendentiousness of the claim of the zero-tolerance policy (that people who cross the border to seek asylum are breaking the law, since the United States is obligated under international law to grant asylum), does our tradition have anything to say about the conflict between laws and values? Should an asylum seeker be able to cross the border illegally in order to be able to make a legal claim of asylum?

Before we answer this question, we have to state clearly that there is no justification for causing lasting harm to children in order to intimidate their parents. The president’s explicit and implicit statements in which he says that the separation of children is a bargaining chip in order to get the border wall funded, or in order to deter future refugees from seeking asylum, has no moral foundation.

Jewish tradition is very clear that pikuach nefesh, or the saving a life, overrides or sets aside all other commandments (except idolatry, illicit sexual relations and murder). Therefore, one is obligated (not merely permitted) to violate the Shabbat to save a life. However, this is not the only time that the rabbis valorize going against the halachah in service to a greater good.

The Talmud (Babylonian Talmud Baba Metzia 82b-83a) establishes very detailed laws and regulations for the responsibilities of a worker who is hired as a porter. The porter, in most cases, is responsible for the well-being of the objects that were assigned to him to carry. At the end of this discussion, however, the story is told of two porters who were hired by a sage to carry barrels of wine. The barrels broke in a manner that would have obligated them to pay. However, when the rabbi who hired them brought them to judgment before Rav, the latter found that the porters should not have to pay the damages and, furthermore, the employer should pay them their wages as they were hungry and had no money for food. Rav’s rationale was not a learned excursus that undermined the previous legal discussion. Rather, the justification was a verse from Proverbs (2:20): “So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the just.” The admonition to do justice set aside the specifics of the case so that the workers would not go hungry. And this case is not a lone instance of moral imperative overriding legal obligation. (The so-called takanat hashavim relieves a thief of the obligation of returning a specific object in favor of paying back its value. A father refuses to allow his son to be assessed for damages as a slave as it would degrade the son, and the Sages approve. And on and on.)

These instances of conflicts between the law and moral obligations, however, would not come into play since refugees who are seeking asylum are fleeing life-threatening situations. However, rather than recognize the right to asylum of people who fear for their lives, in flat legalese the attorney general has limited the number of refugees who might find sanctuary at our borders. In addition to separating children from parents, directing that immigration proceedings were criminal and not civil, he also has excluded victims of domestic abuse and gang violence from applying for asylum. “Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions writes. Then he adds in a footnote: “Accordingly, few such claims would satisfy the legal standard to determine whether an alien has a credible fear of persecution.” A “credible fear of persecution” is the legal basis for a grant of asylum.

It is obvious now, if it wasn’t earlier, that while the separation of children from their families is the latest and most egregious action of this administration, its ultimate objective is to radically reduce immigration. Period. To this end, Trump started his campaign by labeling refugees coming over the southern border as rapists, and now he calls them “murderers and thieves.” The separation of children from their parents, which will traumatize these kids for years and which is a violation of international law, is only a bargaining chip for the president. He is holding these children (and their parents) hostage for funding for his border wall (which Mexico was going to pay for).

So, what can we do?

• Encourage members of Congress to speak out against family separation and hold the administration accountable through statements, letters and social media.

• Urge them to decrease the funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that enables the administration’s family separation practices.

We must hear the cries of the children and their parents. We must stop this criminal behavior masquerading as law. Call your senators, call your representatives. Do not rest until this has been stopped.

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen is the rabbi-in-residence in Southern California for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.

Trump, Kim Jong Un Sign Symbolic Agreement


President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement on the evening of June 11 in Singapore that commit the two countries to further negotiations.

The agreement featured four main points: establishing relations between the two countries, creating “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korea Peninsula,” North Korea committing to denuclearization in exchange for the U.S. providing security guarantees to North Korea, and repatriation between the two countries on prisoners of war from the Korean War.

Additionally, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that a “step-by-step denuclearization process” has been agreed to:

“I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past,” Trump said.

Trump also called Kim “a very talented man.”

Kim said through a translator, “Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy…from a science fiction movie.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump for the summit with Kim.

“I congratulate US President Donald Trump for the historic summit in Singapore,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is an important step in the effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

The full text of the agreement can be read here.

North Koreans Also Have Human Rights

For almost three decades, U.S. administrations have tiptoed around the egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the Kim regimes in North Korea. But U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo already has changed the equation, by succeeding in securing the release of American detainees Kim Dong-chul, Kim (Tony) Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song. A reminder to us and the world that the United States still has the clout to move the needle on human rights.

On the eve of the Singapore summit on denuclearization, we urge President Donald Trump to put the release of Japanese, other foreign and South Korean abductees, the reunion of separated Korean families, and the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean political prison camps, as the bill the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must foot to become a normal and responsible member of the international community.

Three generations of the Kim family regime have continued to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at the expense of the human security of North Koreans, and to egregiously violate the human rights of its citizens. In order to tackle North Korean threats, the Trump administration has applied three of the four fundamental elements of national power (diplomatic, information, military, economic power — DIME): economic power through the strengthening of the international sanctions regime; military power through the deployment of assets to the region and the reaffirming of U.S. commitment to our Korean and Japanese allies; and diplomatic power, employing for the first time summit diplomacy, made possible by the maximum economic and military pressure and the resuscitation of inter-Korean dialogue, starting with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Kim Jong-un wants security guarantees, but history has taught time and again that liberal democracies shouldn’t try to guarantee the survival of a regime that runs political prison camps and commits crimes against humanity. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his key advisers represent a generation of progressive intellectuals who helped democratize their nation. Their lasting legacy however, will be ultimately defined by their stance on North Korean human rights. Will they appease tyranny and lead the Republic of Korea (South Korea) down the path of catastrophic compromise? Or will they become the heroes who brought freedom and human rights to both Koreas, thus decisively opening the path of unification under a truly democratic and prosperous Republic of Korea?

Time will tell. But early signs are not encouraging. The recent ban on leaflet balloon launches and loudspeaker broadcasting into North Korea is one reason for concern. North Korean escapees in South Korea give voice to silenced millions. At this critical crossroads in history, the South Korean administration must protect these heroes and ensure their voices are heard, not muffled.

All this puts the spotlight on the United States’ summit diplomacy. Will it be a historic achievement for President Trump or just another déjà vu North Korean scam?

Under any conceivable outcome, in order to achieve ultimate peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia — a fundamental U.S. security interest — the nature of the Kim regime and its horrific human rights abuses must remain in focus.

Human rights cannot be treated as a sidebar issue, possibly sacrificed for a wink and a nod and photo-op with Kim. Human rights must not be abandoned to appease the Kim regime.

Human rights cannot be postponed until an ever-elusive future scenario in which the Kim regime miraculously agrees to protect the rights of its citizens. Despots do not give away human rights out of the goodness of their hearts. Human rights always are achieved and protected through struggle.

Can the U.S. remove a nuclear threat and guarantee human rights and dignity simultaneously?

President Trump, please take note: America already did it and with a much more dangerous foe. During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan and then-Secretary of State George Shultz used the issue of freedom for Soviet Jewry as the litmus test for Soviet intentions on nuclear disarmament. Eventually, human rights prevailed and the communist system dissolved without a shot being fired.

The U.S. should counter Kim’s cycle of “charm offensives” not through appeasement but through verifiable changes in North Korea. It is important to witness the blowing up of one nuclear test site. Of equal importance will be the dismantling of Kim’s gulag. When that occurs — and only then — can the world be assured that the two estranged Koreas are on the path to a peaceful reunification and a hopeful future for all.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Greg Scarlatoiu is executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Morgan Freeman: Good Man, Bad Flirt

I think Morgan is a pervy old man who innocently flirted with women. Based on the news we are hearing, I simply do not think he should be taken down the path of being a man who has sexually assaulted women. By comparison, I think Donald Trump is a sexual predator who has no boundaries. I mean no disrespect to any woman who has been assaulted, belittled, manipulated, intimidated, raped, or had her career damaged by men who abuse power, but we are walking on a tightrope and damage is done with one accusation, so we must be clear on not only what we are saying, but how we say it. These are sensitive times.

There is a difference between being a man who does not know how to flirt, and a man who knows what he is saying and doing is wrong, but does it anyway. In watching interviews with Mr. Freeman where he is accused of harassment, I just don’t see it. I don’t see how anyone would see it as anything other than an old man flirting. I’m not saying he should be excused because he is old, but there is something charming about what he said and the way he said it. At the end of the day he is rich and famous, but he is also just an 80-year-old man and the CNN reporter has made ridiculous accusations.

Sexual harassment is not what Mr. Freeman did, and CNN is trying to spin nothing into something, but the something is nothing. I hope this story goes away and Mr. Freeman is not adversely affected by this desperation. I welcome Mr. Freeman to flirt with me and would happily flirt back. Only difference is that I would be good at it. Bless him. Important to note I am in no way trying to dissuade women from coming forward, or questioning a woman’s truth. I am simply saying that for this particular man, and this particular instance, there is nothing to see here folks. I stand with women and also stand with Morgan Freeman.

We live in a time when people are encouraged to be brave and come forward with their experiences. It has been a long time coming and for someone who dealt with this 30 years ago, I am in awe of these changes. Thirty years ago I was the victim of a violent sexual assault and the experience of going to the police, pressing charges, and going through two trials was ultimately more difficult that the actual assault. I marvel at the strides we have taken, but know we have a long way to go. I am a woman of prayer so I will pray for those who come forward, pray for those falsely accused, and pray we continue to move forward while keeping the faith.


Jerusalem Celebrates, Gaza Burns

FILE PHOTO: A worker on a crane hangs a U.S. flag next to an Israeli flag, next to the entrance to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

On the night of May 14, the leading headline of The Washington Post said, “More than 50 killed in Gaza protests as U.S. opens its new embassy in Jerusalem.” Headlines of other newspapers were not much different.

There is no doubt the headlines were factually accurate. But so would a headline saying, “More than 50 killed in Gaza as the moon was a waning crescent,” or “More than 50 killed in Gaza as Arambulo named co-anchor of NBC4’s ‘Today in LA.’ ” Were they unbiased? Not quite. They suggested a causation: The U.S. opens an embassy and hence people get killed. But the causation is faulty: Gazans were killed last week, when the United States had not yet opened its embassy. Gazans were killed for a simple reason: Ignoring warnings, thousands of them decided to get too close to the Israeli border.

There are arguments one could make against President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. People in Gaza getting killed is not one of them. A country such as the United States, a country such as Israel, cannot curb strategic decisions because of inconveniences such as demonstrations. Small things can be postponed to prevent anger. Small decisions can be altered to avoid violent incidents. But not important, historic moves.

At the end of this week, no matter the final tally of Gazans getting hurt, only one event will be counted as “historic.” The opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is a historic decision of great symbolic significance. Lives lost for no good reason in Gaza — as saddening as it is — is routine. Eleven years ago, on  May 16, 2007, I wrote this about Gaza: “The Gaza Strip is burning, drifting into chaos, turning into hell — and nobody seems to have a way out of this mess. Dozens of people were killed in Gaza in the last couple of weeks, the victims of lawlessness and power struggles between clans and families, gangsters and militias.” Sounds familiar? I assume it does. This is what routine looks like. This is what disregard for human life feels like. And that was 11 years to the week before a U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem.

A legitimate country is allowed to defend its border. A legitimate country is allowed to choose its capital.

Why were so many lives lost in Gaza? To give a straight answer, one must begin with the obvious: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has no interest in having more Gazans killed, yet its mission is not to save Gazans’ lives. Its mission — remember, the IDF is a military serving a country — is to defeat an enemy. And in the case of Gaza this past week, the meaning of this was preventing unauthorized, possibly dangerous people from crossing the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip.

As this column was written, the afternoon of May 15, the IDF had achieved its objective: No one was able to cross the border into Israel. The price was high. It was high for the Palestinians. Israel will get its unfair share of criticism from people who have nothing to offer but words of condemnation. This was also to be expected. And also to be ignored. Again, not because criticism means nothing, but rather because there are things of higher importance to worry about. Such as not letting unauthorized hostile people cross into Israel.

Of course, any bloodshed is regretful. Yet to achieve its objectives, the IDF had to use lethal force. Circumstances on the ground dictate using such measures. The winds made tear gas ineffective. The proximity of the border made it essential to stop Gazan demonstrators from getting too close, lest thousands of them flood the fence, thus forcing the IDF to use even more lethal means. Leaflets warned them not to go near the fence. Media outlets were used to clarify that consequences could be dire. Hence, an unbiased, sincere newspaper headline should have said, “More than 50 killed in Gaza while Hamas leaders ignored warnings.”

So, yes, Jerusalem celebrated while Gaza burned. Not because Gaza burned. And, yes, the U.S. moved its embassy while Gaza burned. But this is not what made Gaza burn.

It all comes down to legitimacy. Having embassies move to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, is about legitimacy. Letting Israel keep the integrity of its borders is about legitimacy. President Donald Trump gained the respect and appreciation of Israelis because of his no-nonsense acceptance of a reality, and because of his no-nonsense rejection of delegitimization masqueraded as policy differences. A legitimate country is allowed to defend its border. A legitimate country is allowed to choose its capital.

Why Democrats Missed the Boat in Jerusalem

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On May 14, the Donald Trump administration officially opened the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. It was a moment to cherish: an acknowledgment by the most powerful nation on the planet that Jerusalem was indeed Jewish, that it is the eternal capital of Israel, and that neither revisionist history nor sheer anti-Semitic malice can separate Jerusalem from her people.

Naturally, zero elected Democrats showed up.

On the surface, this decision makes little sense. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled his excitement over the Trump administration’s decision: “In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Back in 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move with bipartisan support; in the Senate, the bill passed 93-5. In June 2017, a bill reaffirming the principles of the 1995 vote passed 90-0 in the Senate.

Yet no Congressional Democrats showed up to the Jerusalem event. By contrast, a bevy of elected Republicans, showed up in Jerusalem to celebrate.

According to Israeli reporter Ariel Kahana, every member of Congress was invited to attend, but “people involved in the process blame the Democratic leadership of Congress.”

So, why didn’t the Democrats show up?

Antipathy for Trump is no answer — this was a foreign policy ceremony intended to cement relations with America’s key ally in the region. Trump’s warm welcome in Israel should not have put off Democrats from doing honor to a nation that a Democratic president, Harry Truman, had a strong hand in founding.

Democrats didn’t want to attend the opening of the embassy because they were afraid of their own base.

No, more likely, Democrats didn’t want to attend because they were afraid of their own base. Unfortunately, the Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades — as of January 2018, while 79 percent of Republicans sympathized with Israel, just 27 percent of Democrats did. Again, this makes little sense considering that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only LGBT-friendly country in the region, and the only country in the region that allows serious religious diversity. But for Democrats, considerations of governmental liberalism take a back seat to intersectionality.

Intersectionality posits that Western civilization has victimized particular groups, and that those groups therefore must have the leading role in discussing politics. Thus, Israel’s success has actually cut against Democratic support: By becoming more prosperous and powerful, Israel now becomes a perpetuator of the “system” intersectionality wishes to attack. Thus, gay Jews waving rainbow flags with stars of David have been barred from Dyke Marches in Chicago on behalf of Palestinian sympathizers, even though rainbow flags likely end with beatings under Palestinian rule. Thus, Linda Sarsour, an openly anti-Semitic fellow traveler of Louis Farrakhan, continues to maintain her popularity with the Women’s March, even as she tweets hatred about Israel.

Israel has become too successful to maintain its appeal to the coalition of victimhood promulgated and celebrated by the intersectional left. And so Israel must be denied legitimacy.

The problem for Democrats is that in order to deny Israel legitimacy — especially at a time when Palestinians are ruled by terrorist groups Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic jihad — Israel’s historical ties to the land of Israel must be soft-pedaled. These terrorist governments have no moral claims to the land, not when they are busily pursuing murder and repression and impoverishment of their own people. So they must make historical claims that deny the Jewish connection with Israel. This they do with alacrity.

Never has there been less of a case for Democrats to split with Republicans on Israel — not in the face of Iran’s genocidal aspirations, Syria’s horrors and the rise of terrorist groups on all of Israel’s borders. Yet the split grows wider, not narrower. Until Democrats throw aside victimhood ideology in favor of the morality that used to govern their party, it will continue to widen.

Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author.

U.S. Embassy Officially Opens in Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claps his hands during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Israel May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

After years of politicians pledging to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, the move officially happened on May 14.

In a video message, President Trump told attendees of the ceremony celebrating the Jerusalem move, “Exactly 70 years ago the United States under Harry Truman became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. Today, we officially open the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations. It’s been a long time coming.”

Trump also tweeted:

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, praised the president for following through on a campaign promise.

“While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once in office, this president delivered,” Kushner said. “Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.”

Kushner later added, “Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the opening of the embassy made for “a glorious day.”

“President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” Netanyahu said.

“In Jerusalem, King David established Jerusalem as a capital 3,000 years ago,” Netanyahu said. “King Solomon later built the Temple, and over 2,000 years later, we got to hear the sentence ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ We are here in Jerusalem, and we are here to stay.”

Netanyahu proceeded to thank Trump “for making the bond between us stronger than ever” and proclaimed that the Jerusalem move brings the prospect of peace closer to reality.

“You can only build peace upon truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu said. “May the opening of this embassy spread the truth far and wide.”

Among those in attendance included Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Lindsey Graham, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

By Nixing Iran Nuclear Deal, Trump Opens a New Chapter in Volatile Mideast

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor, 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File photo

With European powers either unable, or unwilling, to meet his demand to “fix” the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump on May 8 followed through on his threat to “nix” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as it is formally known, and re-impose “the highest level of” economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction — that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program,” Trump asserted. “We will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.”

The president in January warned that he would scrap the accord unless its “disastrous flaws” were addressed, and, to this end, had for months been lobbying France, Great Britain and Germany to formulate a side agreement to eliminate the JCPOA’s so-called “sunset clauses” — which remove limitations on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium in just over a decade — as well as curb the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program and involvement in fomenting unrest in the Middle East.

The question now is: What comes next? While Tehran threatened to take measures “stronger than [Trump] imagines” now that the United States has backed away from the deal — including “vigorously” jump-starting its uranium enrichment program — the Iranian regime is believed to have contingency plans for the continuation of the accord without American participation. In fact, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani  kept this door open, saying on May 7 that “what [Tehran wants] for the deal is that it’s preserved and guaranteed by the non-Americans.”

While Trump vowed to continue working with allies to find a “real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat,” most analysts agree that it is exceedingly unlikely that Tehran will abide by any such process. In fact, Iran’s foreign ministry issued a statement describing the White House’s move as “illegal and illegitimate.”

By contrast, initial contacts by The Media Line with opposition sources in Tehran suggest that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s critics were energized by Trump’s words, which included a direct address to the “long-suffering people of Iran … [with whom] America stands.”

The president in January warned that he would scrap the accord unless its “disastrous flaws” were addressed.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on national television just moments after Trump’s speech in order to reaffirm his support for the “brave decision.” This, while no doubt cognizant of the fact that Washington’s move raises the heat on Iran, whose rulers may conclude that they have little to lose by unleashing their proxies on Israel.

Efraim Kam, a former colonel in the research division of Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence and currently a senior fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, said that “it is more likely than unlikely that the Iranians will respond,” although he does “not think there will be a major war, but instead a [tit-for-tat] exchange.”

Indeed, the Israeli army is on high alert in the north, where municipalities were ordered on the day of Trump’s announcement to unlock public bomb shelters over what the military called “unusual Iranian forces” in Syria. The Iranian mullahs may even determine that opening a front against Israel is in their best interest, using the conflagration as justification to restart their atomic program, if not make a full-out dash for a nuclear bomb.

Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel’s Arrow defense program, developed jointly with the U.S. to neutralize the threat posed by longer-range ballistic missiles, concurs that “there is a very high potential for an intensification. Iran has spoken of a reprisal [against Israel] but the question is how it will be expressed. The Iranians are good chess players and will do something that will give them the maximum benefit with minimum damage.”

By ditching the JCPOA, then, Trump effectively opened Pandora’s box in the Middle East tinderbox. Many world leaders have warned that such action could lead to a large-scale military confrontation, not only involving the Jewish state and Sunni Arab countries, but also potentially the United States and Russia, which has re-emerged as a force in the region.
In the past, historians have described such conflicts — those involving multiple players and pitting global powers against one another — as world wars.

Finally, Iran Meets Resistance: Four Comments On Trump’s Decision

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

1. The Middle East suddenly looks different.

Note both the US and its controversial decision to pull out of the Iran deal – and Syria and the repetitive military blows that Iran absorbed in recent months.

Note these two developments and realize that something important has changed: Iran, after a long period of relative calm and easy choices, faces tough opposition from the US and Israel. Iran has to reconsider the benefit and the possible cost of its actions. On Tuesday – Trump drew a diplomatic red line. The status quo is over, and the ball is now in Iran’s court.

On Tuesday night, hours after Trump made his announcements, sites near Damascus were bombed again. Another red line was reemphasized: Israel would not permit a significant Iranian presence in Syria. The sites bombed were reportedly the sites from which Iran was ready to launch an attack on Israel. So the status quo of Iranian presence in Syria is also challenged.

Trump presented Iran with a choice: Resist and bear possibly grim consequences, or renegotiate a deal which the US is ready to accept.

Syria’s limited skirmishes present Iran with a choice: Insist and bear possibly grim consequences, or give up on your Syrian dream.

2. In February 2015, when Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel was about to speak about Iran before Congress, I pleaded with him to reconsider his speech. “Speaking up next month before the United States Congress”, I wrote, “would not serve Israel’s interests. Instead of being an opportunity to seriously address the risks of Iran’s nuclear program, such a speech would scuttle the discussion.”

Is now the time to say that he was right and I was wrong? I am not yet sure about that, but I think it is time to consider the possibility that he, indeed, was right. Yes, his speech was enraging to the administration. But at that point in time, Netanyahu correctly assessed that Obama and Kerry had crossed a point of no return concerning the agreement. They were going to sign it no matter what. Yes – Netanyahu also enraged Democratic legislators. It is still a problem for Israel that the Iran deal is perceived in the US (much less so in Israel) as a partisan issue. But at that point in time Netanyahu was ready to pay a political price with the Democratic Party to scuttle a deal he perceived as highly dangerous for Israel.

Did he achieve what he wanted? At the time of the speech he did not. A deal was signed. Israel was ignored. Netanyahu was ridiculed for his speech. Yet a seed was planted. His speech did establish Israel’s uncompromising position. And it did serve for many American politicians as an opportunity to state their own position on the Iran deal. Netanyahu can make a solid case that what we see today is at least partially the result of what he did three years ago. An honest observer must consider this case – and with it, his previous position.

3. Donald Trump made up his mind a long time ago that the deal was not an achievement but rather an embarrassment. He made up his mind a long time ago that what he wants is to ditch the deal. He should get credit even from rivals for being a man of his word – this is what we all want from our politicians, don’t we?

Well, that depends. We all like to commend the leaders who make good on promises they’ve made during election season. That is, unless we dislike these promises. If we dislike these promises, what we’d say is as follows: A good leader is a leader who can see the difference between promises given during election time, and the realities of having to govern.

In other words: Trump will be praised for doing as he said he’d do by those wanting him to do just that. He will be condemned by all others, and will not even get credit for, yet again, doing what he said he was going to do.

4. Trump deserves credit, but only if ditching the nuclear deal is a first step of many to follow. In fact, this is the most important fact we all need to understand as we assess the meaning of today’s news: These news items are just nuggets. They are but one step in a long process. Judging the wisdom and predicting the outcome of Trump’s action is something we all do, without noticing that for the time being, as we hear the sound of bombs going off near Damascus, and as Trump’s words still echo, our judgments and predictions mean little.

Think of it this way– a car beginning its journey to a faraway city. Is it going in the right direction? Maybe it did for the first ten miles– but if after ten miles it takes the wrong turn, or breaks down, or has no fuel, the car will never get where it needs to go. And, of course, the same is true if you believe that the car began its journey headed the wrong way. A sober driver can still recalculate and turn around. A wise driver might still take another way that is less crowded.

Is Trump’s car headed in the right direction? I think it is, but this doesn’t mean it will get to its final destination. You might think that it’s headed in the wrong direction, but this also doesn’t mean that Trump’s car is lost. One thing both supporters and opponents of Trump’s decision can agree on: It is a new day in the Middle East, a new day for Iran, and a day of reckoning.

Report: Qatar Attempting to Buy Stake in Conservative News Outlet

Screenshot from Facebook.

A new report is suggesting that Qatar is trying to buy a stake in Newsmax, a conservative news outlet.

According to Politico, there have been numerous meetings in 2018 between Newsmax representatives and Qatari cabinet members, all of which have been headed by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is the brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The Qataris are aiming for a $90 million investment into Newsmax for political reasons.

It is not yet known if the meetings have resulted into anything substantial, although the Politico report noted that Newsmax’s coverage of Qatar has become more positive of late.

Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, who is an ally of President Trump, denied that the talks had ever taken place.

“This is all false,” Ruddy told Politico.

If the report is accurate, it would reflect Qatar’s increasing desperation to regain standing internationally, as it has become increasingly isolated in the region thanks to its funding of terrorism and growing ties to Iran. They had previously been trying to woo over influential figures in the pro-Israel crowd, such as attorney Alan Dershowitz.

The Qatari-funded Al Jazeera reportedly spied on pro-Israel organizations in an effort to supposedly expose Jewish influence on America’s government.

Netanyahu Praises Trump For Exiting ‘Disastrous’ Iran Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou/Pool

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Trump for exiting from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, denouncing the deal as “disastrous.”

In a video, Netanyahu said that Israel “opposed the nuclear deal from the start.”

“Rather than blocking Iran’s path to the bomb, the deal actually paved Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu added that the deal increased the chances of war, pointing to Iran’s increased aggression in the Middle East, the ramping up of their ballistic missiles program and the increased attempts to conceal their nuclear weapons program since the implementation of the deal as evidence of this.

“If you leave all of this unchanged, all this combined is a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world,” Netanyahu said. “This is why Israel thinks that President Trump did a historic move and this is why Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, not today, not in a decade, not ever.”

The full video can be seen below: