Will backing anti-BDS bills be a liability for 2020 Democratic hopefuls?
April 14, 2016. The day Democratic Party officials might have realized something was brewing on the American left. In the middle of a fiery primary debate between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the two were asked about the 2014 Gazan conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge.
Clinton defended Israel, which she said did not invite Hamas’ relentless rocket attacks. She further excoriated the terror organization, which she said had squandered an opportunity to rebuild Gaza. For this blazing defense of the Jewish state, she received mild applause.
Jewish maverick politician Sanders, meanwhile, castigated Israel for what he deemed its excessive use of force during the 51-day offensive.
“We had in the Gaza area some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,5000 that were killed. If you’re asking not just me but countries all over the world, was that was a disproportionate attack, the answer is yes, I believe it was,” Sanders said, to uproarious applause. “In the long run,” he continued, “if we are ever going to bring peace to that region, which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.” That line brought down the house.
According to long-time member of the Democratic National Committee James Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, that moment sent a message to Democrats. “I think Sanders discovered at the Brooklyn debate that there is a constituency that wants to hear about this,” Zogby recently told The Times of Israel.
Today in the Senate, most of the party’s leading 2020 prospective candidates seem to want to avoid creating a vulnerability with the pro-Palestinian constituency Zogby described.
Reuters’ article yesterday on the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act,” a bill which stalled Tuesday in the Senate, opens with a misleading and ominous reference to the legislation’s “measure to punish Americans who boycott Israel” (“First bill of new U.S. Congress, on Middle East policy, stalls in Senate“).
Further down, the article repeats this inaccurate and overly broad characterization of the bill’s supposed application to Americans at large, stating that it “would let state and local governments punish Americans for boycotting Israel.”
In fact, the bill would not sweepingly apply to “Americans” at large, but to “entities” engaged in geographically specific boycott activity. Thus, the bill clearly defines what constitutes an entity and what constitutes “activities described.” The bill states:
(a) State And Local Measures.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a State or local government may adopt and enforce measures that meet the requirements of subsection (c) to divest the assets of the State or local government from, prohibit investment of the assets of the State or local government in, or restrict contracting by the State or local government for goods and services with—
(1) an entity that the State or local government determines, using credible information available to the public, knowingly engages in an activity described in subsection (b);
(2) a successor entity or subunit of an entity described in paragraph (1); or
(3) an entity that owns or controls or is owned or controlled by an entity described in paragraph (1).
A Muslim civil rights group is suing to block the US state of Maryland from enforcing an executive order barring state agencies from contracting with businesses that boycott Israel.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and state Attorney General Brian Frosh on Wednesday on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state lawmaker.
The October 2017 executive order requires contractors to certify that they don’t boycott Israel. Ali’s federal lawsuit says the order bars him from bidding for government software contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organizations that “contribute to the oppression of Palestinians.”
CAIR says 26 states have enacted anti-BDS legislation similar to Maryland’s that prohibits the state from working with entities that boycott Israel, though none have passed measures making participating in a boycott of Israel illegal.
CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas noted that other federal lawsuits have challenged the anti-BDS measures in Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.
In December, CAIR filed a motion in a Texas federal court on behalf of a speech pathologist who was fired for refusing to sign an anti-BDS pledge included in her employment contract.
Shumsky’s book is framed as a history of roads not taken. But in light of Anziska’s account, it might also be read as a book about a road that was in fact taken. Indeed, as Anziska argues, the Oslo Accords that established the Palestinian Authority in 1994 “mirrored many of Begin’s original autonomy ideas.”
Today, leading members of the Israeli government continue to advocate for Palestinian autonomy as a substitute for statehood. Some contemporary Israeli autonomy plans, Anziska observes, call for an even more restrictive version of Palestinian self-rule than Begin had originally imagined.
The persistence of the idea of autonomy in Zionist thought from the 1920s to the present day should not come as a surprise. Zionist visions of autonomy were born in the mandate period, at a time in which Zionist leaders had to grapple with the question of how to rule over millions of Arabs if, and once, Jews became a majority. And though we tend to think of the mandate period as a bygone era, it is worth keeping in mind that for the past 100 years, with the exception of a short hiatus between 1948-1967, the territorial framework of Israel and Palestine had remained roughly that of the mandate years.
Shumsky’s book beautifully reminds us that the idea of autonomy originated in Eastern Europe as part of an egalitarian vision aimed at extending the right of self-determination to all minorities. But in so doing, his account obscures the fact that autonomy had been used in the past and remains today a tool designed primarily to prevent Palestinian self-determination.
We enjoyed the movie, but we were waiting for the newsreel, the piece de resistance. At first, when the march went on the screen, everybody was talking and cracking seeds. Then there was silence as they watched these thousands of African Americans and very few whites piling into the area where the podium had been set in DC near the reflection pool.
Some were carrying babies, but that was not yet “de rigueur.” The look on their faces was at first sullen but as the crowd got larger and larger there were smiles on their faces. Why? They knew that the Washington police officers, known for their uneasiness with their clubs, had allowed all who arrived from outside the city to pass through the barriers.
There were some songs – maybe Joan Baez with “We Shall Overcome” maybe Harry Belafonte – maybe some other African American singers. There were a few speeches by other leaders and the crowd roared. They were all awaiting their man, MLK, who through non-violence had the process underway to obtain rights for African Americans.
JFK was not yet dead – that happened in November. Bobby Kennedy was attorney-general and he was on their side. The speech “I Have a Dream” rolled off of MLK’s tongue like one of the prophets of old. He had vision in it and he had the great mastery of preaching that the African Americans had acquired.
Rita and I watched in a silent movie house. The attendees were all Israelis, and we were mesmerized, even though they had no idea what he was saying since the newsreels had no subtitles. “I have a dream,” “I have a dream” over and over with MLK raising the crescendo each time he emphasized that phrase.
We were far away – we did not get calls then, too expensive – and our parents had not written about the march. So at the movie house, it was a personal event for us – and we absorbed it with joy and trepidation. Joy – we saw a new America emerging – trepidation because people like Bull Connors of Birmingham still made the African Americans pay with their lives – bombing of churches, ambushes – the Confederacy rose again.
At the end of that segment of the newsreel, it was amazing. Everyone watching the march, on a very hot Jerusalem night, cheered loudly. Behind us a guy said to his date – “zeh manhig” (That’s a leader), and we, still pleasantly stunned by the march and MLK’s speech, answered “You are right. He is a leader.” Some of his dreams certainly have come to be in a less polarized US, but clearly there is more to be done.
Ben-Dror Yemini: It’s time for a new leaf in Arab-Jewish relations
Legend has it that Jews in Israel hate Arabs and Arabs hate Jews. Hate is taking over the country and it comes in the shape of atrocious attacks like the one committed by Umm al-Fahm residents, or the incident in which Jewish hooligans assaulted an Arab just because he was an Arab. Here and there a new “survey” is published, initiated by a political figure who wants to prove that Israel is racist or that the Jews support apartheid.
The reality is much more complex. We need to bear in mind that Israeli Arabs go through a process of Israelization. And if we do rely on surveys, we are better off using thorough and professional ones such as Prof. Sammy Smooha’s annual Jewish-Arab Relations Index surveys or the Israel Democracy Index polls conducted by Prof. Tamar Hermann.
These surveys gives us a lot of input into Israeli society. While this information may not be reassuring, the picture that emerges is much more optimistic than the image portrayed by the media, which by its very nature mostly deals with violent events and divisive statements, and less with in-depth processes.
For example, according to one survey, 83% of Jews describe their personal situation as “good” or “very good,” compared to 64.5% of Israeli Arabs. There is a gap. Still, most Israeli Arabs are content with their lives.
Is Israel a democratic state for Arabs as well? In 2017, 45% of Israeli Arabs thought so, and a year later — only 33% did. We can assume that premature declarations about the “end of democracy” in general, and the Nation-State Law in particular, induced this decline.
When dealing with the root causes of Israeli Arabs’ declining sense of personal well-being, it is hard to ignore one fundamental issue: the political echelon. There is no doubt sound arguments can be made against MKs like Bezalel Smotrich of Jewish Home. And he is not alone—we must bear in mind that there are worse politicians in the Arab sector.
Outgoing MKs Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka of Joint List are the most conspicuous of the bunch. In recent years they have engaged in relentless incitement. They do not seek reconciliation or peace. On the contrary, they seek to divide, like when, for example, Zahalka turned young Arab men who wanted to enlist in national service (their number has grown in recent years, by the way) into “pariahs.”
Memorial ceremonies were held in Paris this week to mark the fourth anniversary of a deadly terror attack at a kosher supermarket there.
On Jan. 9, 2015, Amedy Coulibaly — who had pledged allegiance to ISIS — burst in to the Hyper Cacher in Porte de Vincennes in the city’s 20th arrondissement and took more than a dozen hostages.
A multi-hour standoff with police ensued, at the end of which the heavily-armed Coulibaly was killed in an exchange of fire. Four hostages — all Jews — were found murdered inside the store.
The attack occurred two days after 12 people were massacred by a pair of Islamist gunmen at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the French capital.
“Our pain is always present, our anger is still strong,” Francis Kalifat — the president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) — said on Wednesday.
A number of US-based Jewish groups also commented on the anniversary.
“The four victims were murdered solely for being Jewish,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said. “We will not stop fighting against antisemitism in Europe and around the globe.”
Yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which the staff of a satirical French comics publication, along with several bystanders, were murdered by jihadist terrorists inside their Paris offices. The killers were the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi who acted on their offense at Hebdo’s cartoon depictions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad by murdering 12 people in a shooting rampage after which, witnesses said, they could be heard to yell “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!” as they fled the scene.
The Hebdo attack, it would later become clear, was a pivotal historical moment not because of the event itself but owing to the response. The aftermath of the Hebdo killings galvanized a set of opposing ideas about the nature and causes of the attacks, the value of free expression, the meaning of victimhood, which animated an ongoing conflict for control over cultural values in Western societies.
It only took a few days after the murder of cartoonists for the crime of their drawings before a certain fashionable political reaction coalesced in the American and Western press. While, of course, condemning the dreadful murders, certain sensitive observers couldn’t help but note that the scribblers at Hebdo really had gone too far with their drawings. And before long, many very smart and sophisticated people, New Yorker writers and PEN award winners among them, hastened to point out that—yes, yes, it was a very nasty thing, the shooting them down in cold blood—but the cartoonists were, nevertheless, rightfully understood, participating in their own form of violence because their cartoon’s mockery of Islam was an extension of the systemic oppression of Muslims in Europe and elsewhere.
The belief that art can be a form of violence is now a mainstay on elite college campuses and in the cultural landscape. But if you are wondering when it took root, I suggest that Hebdo played an important role.
“Everything has become blasphemous”, writes Riss, director of Charlie Hebdo, in the latest issue of the weekly issue that comes out on the anniversary of the massacre of his colleagues by two Islamists, the Kouachi brothers. Four years later, it is the same idea of freedom of expression that has become blasphemous in the West.
Charlie Hebdo’s troubles, culminating in the murder of its journalists and cartoonists, began with the solitary republishing of the Mohammed cartoons by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. In the four years since the massacre at number 10 of rue Nicolas-Appert in Paris, no European newspaper has republished a single sticker on the Prophet of Islam and all mainstream media have pixelled Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures.
From France to Germany, journalists and intellectuals under police guard because of their criticism and ideas about Islam cannot be counted (from the French Eric Zemmour to the German Hamed Abdel-Samad and Thilo Sarrazin).
At the end of the year there was the historic ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on the case of an Austrian woman who had called Mohammed a “pedophile” because of his relationship with a child, Aisha. In Austria, the woman was convicted in a sentence validated by the Strasbourg judges, who ruled that freedom of expression ends on the border with Islam.
“The day freedom of speech died in Europe”, wrote the American magazine Commentary about this ruling. The highest supranational legal entity in Europe has incorporated, de facto, the idea of blasphemy used in sharia and which cost the lives of Charlie Hebdo’s journalists.
But it is not just Islamists.
Davis has always insisted upon her total innocence in the courtroom attack. But there is no doubt about her links to the Black Panthers, a group that, despite recent attempts to romanticize it, was responsible for some horrific violence—often against its own members who were accused of betrayal or got caught up in factional conflicts. In a speech at a Black Panther rally in Oakland, California in November 1969, Davis reminds the crowd that the “sisters and brothers in Connecticut are still in jail.”
This is a reference to the Black Panthers arrested for the murder of 19-year-old Alex Rackley, who had joined the party several months earlier and was (wrongly) suspected of being an FBI informant; he was shot dead after three days of beatings and torture that included being scalded with boiling water.
One could say that the Panthers’ violence took place in the context of fighting back against brutal racial oppression that the nation had barely begun to dismantle. But that does not excuse their own brutality, often against victims who were among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
In the years that followed, Davis was also a strong ally of Jim Jones’s Jonestown commune in Guyana, which ended in the infamous mass suicide by poisoned Kool-Aid. But perhaps the most shameful part of her career is her consistent stance as a supporter of, and apologist for, repressive Communist states.
Davis had visited East Berlin and Cuba in the late 1960s and had come to admire those regimes. During her imprisonment, she became a political celebrity in the Soviet bloc; communist states that faced frequent international criticism for imprisoning dissenters got a lot of propaganda mileage out of championing a reputed political prisoner in the United States. Upon her release, Davis traveled to East Germany, Cuba, and the USSR to a hero’s welcome; she received honorary degrees, awards, medals, and prizes, and gave speeches praising her hosts.
On her trip to East Germany, Davis visited the Berlin Wall, where 262 people were killed trying to escape from communist paradise to capitalist hell. A 1972 photo shows her glowing as she shakes hands with Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the East German Communist Party who gave orders to shoot at escapees.
Jews in this country have long been accused of holding dual loyalties. This week, that canard was brought back into the media and political landscape not by white supremacists chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, but by Rashida Tlaib, a freshman Democrat, and a woman of color.
In response to a bill that would, among other things, challenge the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, Tlaib said that supporters of the legislation had ‘forgot what country they represent.’ Those words are familiar to anyone who’s read anything about anti-Semitic rhetoric. The implication is that Jews, especially Jewish public servants, are all nothing more than foreign agents – traitors, in other words. In a normal political moment, such a naked expression of anti-Semitism would garner bipartisan condemnation. But we are not in a normal political moment.
The wisdom and morality of the now-stalled bill is certainly up for discussion. It is possible to both vehemently oppose the BDS movement and to still question the merit of such legislation out of concerns that it may violate the spirit of the First Amendment.
It is also possible to support the BDS movement, and believe the bill to be unethical. There’s nothing wrong with a difference of opinion. But Tlaib did not reserve her criticism for the text of the legislation, or even the consequences its implementation might have. Instead, she went after the people who supported it – not for what legislation they do or don’t advocate for, but for who they are.
It is ironic that Tlaib should be the one levying charges of dual loyalty. Like many Americans, Tlaib has a multi-layered heritage. She comes from somewhere. She’s American, but there is also more to her background and story. Tlaib is the child of Palestinian immigrants, and is vocal and proud about her roots. That’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. In fact, it’s an exceptionally American thing. Yet while Tlaib cherishes her own heritage, she seems suspicious of that of her colleagues – more specifically, her Jewish colleagues.
Alan M. Dershowitz: Is Rashida Tlaib Guilty of Bigotry?
To single out only the “Jew among nations,” and not the dozens of far more serious violators of human rights is bigotry pure and simple, and those who support BDS only against Israel are guilty of bigotry.
What is unacceptable is discriminatory actions, and nothing can be more discriminatory than singling out an ally with one of the best records of human rights in the world for a boycott, while continuing to do business with the worst human rights offenders in the world.
Many of the same bigots who support BDS against Israel, oppose boycotting Cuba, Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other human rights violators. Legislation designed to end such discriminatory actions would be constitutional, if it did not prohibit advocacy.
No one has accused Tlaib of forgetting what country she represents when she supports the Palestinian cause, even though Palestinian terrorists, acting in the name of “Palestine,” have killed numerous Americans. Americans of any religion have the right to support Israel, and most do, without being accused of disloyalty, just as Americans of any religion have the right to support the Palestinian cause. It is both bigoted and hypocritical to apply a different standard to Jews who support Israel than to Muslims who support the Palestinian cause…. If she is the “new face” of the Democratic Party, we Democrats should begin worrying.
Tlaib, during her campaign, was initially supportive of the two-state solution, but after winning her Democratic primary, she switched her position to supporting a one-state solution. Her policy flip made her lose the endorsement of the openly liberal Jewish group, J Street.
Omar and Tlaib weren’t the only ones to fall into the trap of conduct that crossed well into the territory of anti-Semitism. Keith Ellison, who was the first Muslim elected to Congress and is now Minnesota’s attorney general, was repeatedly denounced by Jewish groups, particularly in the past year, for his ties to raging anti-Semite and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Now, Omar, Tlaib, and Ellison certainly can express their First Amendment rights however maliciously they want, yet we shouldn’t allow their ideas give the impression to other Americans that this is monolithic thinking among Muslims both in the United States and around the world.
It shouldn’t be difficult to be critical of the policies and actions of a government and not make sweeping generalizations that devolve into hatred for an entire group of people.
The biggest challenge will be how long can their supporters let this conduct continue before they call them out on it. If the state of politics has taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t hold our breath.
Kollab doesn’t. At no point does she say precisely what she’s apologizing for. A good apology: 1. Uses the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” (she does that! Yay!) 2. Is specific about what one is apologizing for (nope) 3. Makes clear that one understands the impact of one’s words or actions on others (nope again), 4. Makes clear how this won’t happen again (yay again! she does that by saying that she’s now “adopted strong values of inclusion, tolerance, and humanity,” and noting, “I take my profession and the Hippocratic oath seriously,” meaning that she will not actually give Jews the wrong meds, though she never spells out that this tweet is what she’s referring to) and 5. Makes amends. Explanation of one’s actions can be illuminating but is more often risky, because it easily veers into excuse-making, as it does here: She said bad things about Jews because Palestine. No. The worst problem, though, is that she uses her (completely valid!) sympathy for Palestinians as a rationale for her hatred of Jews. Pointing to the plight of the Palestinians as an excuse for anti-Semitism is akin to Kevin Spacey attempting to distract us from accusations of child sexual abuse by talking about being a proud gay man.
And again: If you don’t tell us what you said, making clear just how bad the statements were, even if it is personally embarrassing to you, it’s hard to read your apology as genuine. This is a flaw in media reporting about apologies, too: If the apologizer doesn’t say what they’re apologizing for, it’s up to the media outlet to do it. Otherwise, reporting on the apology is as incomplete as a story about a trial verdict that never mentions the alleged crimes. (My other SorrryWatch pet peeve is newspapers using “apologizes” in a headline when the story is about someone expressing regret. Regret is not apology.)
In sum: You can’t truly own an apology—or make clear that you understand why your words or actions upset others, or move forward ethically and open-heartedly—without saying precisely what you’re apologizing for. That is decidedly missing both in Kollab’s statement and in much of the media coverage that followed it.
However, and this is a big, however: I am less than eager to promote the work of Canary Mission, the organization that broke this news. Canary Mission is a shadowy organization that has repeatedly focused on finding dirt on undergraduate pro-Palestine activists. It’s anonymous, sweeping, and creepy. And, it turns out, secretly funded by Jewish Federation. Not Good. If Jews want to be crystal clear that being anti-Semitic and being anti-Israel are two completely different things, we can’t ourselves muddy the waters this way. That’s doing exactly what Kollab did.
On July 4, 1975, a deadly refrigerator bomb exploded in Jerusalem, killing 14 people and injuring 62 more. Standing approximately 15 meters away from the blast was a young American woman, in Israel to visit her grandmother during the summer before entering college, who had just stood next to the deadly refrigerator. She had planned to take a pre-medicine curriculum in college.
Whatever doubts that young lady may have had about becoming a physician disappeared when she realized that the best she could do in the bloody aftermath of the attack was to remove herself from the scene so that the professionals could help the victims; the experience made her resolve to attain and use medical skills and credentials so that she could help sick and injured people.
That American teenager (who is now my wife) continues to practice medicine after more than three decades, and still uses her skills to save the lives of patients of diverse backgrounds. Her intention to become a physician to help others stands in stark contrast to that of a pre-medical student named Lara Kollab, who in 2012 publicly stated an intent to abuse her prospective medical credentials by mis-prescribing medication to Jewish patients who would be unfortunate enough to be treated by her.
Kollab’s social media postings were brought to the attention of the Cleveland Clinic, the medical institution where she had been employed. By late December 2018, Kollab’s cyber misdeeds gained worldwide notoriety, and the Cleveland Clinic then issued a statement confirming that Kollab had been separated from the Clinic in September 2018.
The pro-Israel community can effectively improve the landscape on campus not by persistently lamenting or hyping up the threat, but by taking practical steps to spread positive narratives about the Jewish state. This is accomplished by training the articulate pro-Israel voices who will make a case for Israel on campus that appeals to the masses rather than only preaching to the choir.
During these challenging times, there’s no shortage of Jewish and Israeli organizations who work on training young pro-Israel activists. That’s a good thing for our community. Yet, among the various groups engaging in this space, Hasbara Fellowships is the only player which is uniquely qualified to fill the role of cultivating a new generation of Israel advocates, specifically because our existence preceded the BDS movement.
Today, on the outset of 2019, the campus arena is arguably the greatest hotspot for the BDS movement, which was launched in 2005. Founded in 2001, Hasbara Fellowships has the crucial and strategic advantage of taking the long held view of the BDS threat and not having our judgment clouded by the common pitfall of knee-jerk, short-term decision-making in reaction to current events.
BDS is a strategy for those who wish to harm Israel. But even before BDS existed, anti-Israel propaganda was commonplace on college campuses. It took different forms – apartheid walls, protests, mock checkpoints – but had the same objective. Hasbara Fellowships was created precisely at the time when this coordinated anti-Israel campaign sprouted up on campuses. In the ensuing two decades, we have trained and supported students to stand up against such propaganda.
That being said, BDS is a strategy which is more strategic than its predecessors. Instead of creating guerrilla theater, it focuses on persuading influential members of the student body. If a student government votes for an Israel divestment resolution, it appears that the university itself is supporting BDS, even though in reality, a student body vote has no bearing on a school administration’s policy. This façade has amounted to a PR victory for Israel’s haters. BDS has also helped anti-Israel campus activists rally their proponents around a focused goal, and build allies through linking the suffering of the Palestinian people with the marginalization of other minority populations and intentionally excluding Jewish voices from this space.
Yet in all honesty, BDS hasn’t changed the focus of Hasbara Fellowships. We help students fight and defeat BDS, just like all the other anti-Israel strategies that have surfaced over the years. Eventually, BDS will lose its shelf life and a new anti-Israel strategy will emerge.
A major Dutch pensions group has reversed its 2014 blacklisting of Israeli banks.
PGGM had divested from all five leading Israeli banks over “ethical concerns” pertaining to their presence or actions in the West Bank, disputed territory where Palestinians are the majority but where hundreds of thousands of Israelis also live.
The decision to blacklist the banks was seen at the time as a major victory for advocates of attempts to boycott Israel.
But on Wednesday, the Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad, or NIW, revealed that the Israeli banks have been taken off the blacklist and are therefore now presumed eligible for investment and other transactions by PGGM.
The report did not say whether PGGM has invested or otherwise dealt with the banks in question.
Two weeks ago, The Algemeiner published an article I wrote highlighting the hypocrisy of the United Church of Christ (UCC).
In 2015, the denomination’s General Synod passed a resolution calling on church entities to divest themselves from companies that profit from the Israeli presence in the West Bank. As it turned out, the denomination’s pension fund, called the Pension Boards, still owns proscribed stocks named in the 2015 resolution.
It didn’t get much attention at the time, but that resolution passed by the UCC’s General Synod had two huge loopholes in it that were lost in the congratulatory fanfare about the resolution’s passage. First, it still allowed for UCC entities to own proscribed stocks, as long as they were lumped together with other securities (“comingled”) as part of an index or mutual fund. Given that a lot of Church investments are in mutual funds, that’s a pretty big loophole.
Second, and even more importantly, pension fund managers have a fiduciary responsibility to manage their funds based on risk and return — and nothing else. This is a legal obligation enshrined in federal law, and trumps any resolution affirmed by the attention-seeking, virtue-signaling junkies that attend the UCC’s General Synod.
Debate over divestment resolutions gives delegates a chance to mug for the folks at home who are watching the proceedings on a live-feed, but as far as prohibiting pension managers from investing in proscribed stocks, it doesn’t happen.
In 2016, Jewish critics of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump became targets of online anti-Semitic attacks that often took the form of digital images, frequently featuring a humanoid frog in a Nazi uniform. These images—“memes” in Internet lingo—introduced the public to an underground online subculture of jokey neo-Nazism. Gavriel Rosenfeld explains the subculture’s development and its dangers:
Memes are videos, catchphrases, and images that spread and mutate from user to user through social-networking sites. . . . [A]s transgressive, attention-grabbing clickbait became an easy method of attracting eyeballs, a new phenomenon arose: the more popular the web image, the greater its likelihood of being “Hitlerized”—from memes of [characters from the children’s cartoon] Teletubbies with Hitler mustaches to jokey depictions of the Führer himself. I have called this the “law of ironic Hitlerization,” and it is anything but funny. This smirking irony helped to normalize Hitler and Nazism in certain precincts of the Internet.
The insidiousness of this trend is epitomized by the fate of Pepe the Frog. Created by the artist Matt Furie in 2005, the cartoon character was originally a likeable loser who did whatever he felt like (“Feels good, man!” was his slogan). Eventually Pepe became Hitlerized, at first for laughs, then as a coded message or secret handshake, and eventually as the ubiquitous symbol of the alt-right. Among his subtler uses was the mocking phrase, “Green lives matter.” . . .
The transformation of Pepe the Frog from innocuous Internet icon to de-facto swastika highlights the utility of memes for the alt-right. They are the visual counterparts to the idiosyncratic vocabulary and numerology used by the alt-right—for instance, “cucks” for mainstream conservatives and “1488” to signal the fourteen-word white-power pledge together with the salutation “Heil Hitler” (the eighth letter of the alphabet is h). The ostensible irony of these catchphrases provides extremists with plausible deniability. . . .
[In effect], ironic memes are gateway drugs. Various alt-right activists have reported that they were initially attracted to ironic memes as fun ways to troll liberals, and their prolonged exposure eventually led them to become “red-pilled”—in their parlance, “enlightened”—and embrace more overtly anti-Semitic imagery. This explains why some members of the alt-right eventually migrated from Pepe the Frog to “Le Happy Merchant,” a hooked-nosed Jew rubbing his hands together conspiratorially. The image was seen on the 4chan website as early as 2012 and is arguably the most widely used anti-Semitic meme on the web today.
The New York Times late last year, under pressure, said it was suspending its moneymaking “Times Journeys” journalist-guided vacation tours of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Has the paper’s news coverage of Iran gotten any better as a result?
Not if three recent examples are any indication.
The January 10 Times features a tale of woe about a Norwegian Air Boeing 737 jet that has been sitting in Iran for a month after an unscheduled emergency landing.
“The jet appeared to be caught up in United States sanctions on Tehran’s nuclear program that prohibit civilian aircraft sales, including services and parts,” the Times reports.
The newspaper quotes a managing director of the consulting firm Aviation Advocacy, Andrew Charlton, as saying, “It’s an example of how this sort of sanctions is a dampener on safe international aviation.”
The Times doesn’t seem to consider that it might be “a dampener on safe international aviation” to give the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime a bunch of “civilian” passenger jets that the regime can then use to airlift Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops and weapons around the world, or even to fly, September 11-style, into American or Israeli targets.
The January 9 Times carries a dispatch reporting, “The European Union penalized Iran on Tuesday over allegations that the country’s intelligence service orchestrated a series of assassination plots in Europe in recent years, including the killing of two Iranians in the Netherlands with ties to anti-government extremist groups.”
The use of the description “anti-government” to describe these assassination victims is bizarre. They don’t appear to have been doctrinaire anarchists, opposed to all government. Rather, they oppose the current terror-sponsoring, Israel-hating, dissident-jailing regime in Iran. It’s as if the Times were going around describing Nancy Pelosi, or Charles Schumer, or its own editorial writers and Washington bureau, as “anti-government” because they oppose President Trump. It’s as if the Times had been around during the American Revolution and described George Washington as “anti-government.” Not that every Iranian oppositionist is a Pelosi, Schumer, or Washington. But language such as “anti-government” obscures rather than enlightens, serving the Iranian regime’s interest in marginalizing possible alternatives.
Multiple recent Reuters articles incorrectly report that moving the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a dramatic move away from the two-state solution. For instance, a Dec. 30 article, “Brazil moving its embassy to Jerusalem matter of ‘when, not if’: Netanyahu,” (Dec. 30) reported about the possible Brazilian move:
Such a move by Bolsonaro would be a sharp shift in Brazilian foreign policy, which has traditionally backed a two-stated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That piece appeared in Arabic as well.
A Dec. 31 article, “Bolsonaro takes office in Brazil, says nation ‘liberated from socialism,” took an even more extreme line, saying a Jerusalem embassy move would be a “break” from the two-state solution:
As a clear sign of that diplomatic shift, Bolsonaro plans to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with Brazil’s traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.
In fact, as is apparent from the cases of the American and Guatemalan embassies, relocation to Jerusalem is not a shift away from a two-state solution.
Famed author of the internationally-acclaimed Harry Potter book series J.K. Rowling blasted an antisemitic Twitter post on Wednesday evening.
The original post was created by Twitter user @stafford4jc, whose posts primarily consist of support for UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who himself is often criticized for making antisemitic comments.
The Twitter user said that Stephen Fry, a well-known British-Jewish comedian and actor, can’t risk upsetting J.K. Rowling because he “makes money from the [Harry Potter] books.”
Fry had narrated the audiobooks for the Harry Potter series.
Rowling hit back, writing that “nothing says ‘our movement has no problem with antisemitism’ than suggesting a man of Jewish ancestry is secretly motivated by fear of losing money.”
This is not the first time J.K. Rowling has fought antisemitism on Twitter. She mocked the Labour party’s attitude toward Jews in a tweet thread on December 22:
In October, Rowling responded to an article written by a Jewish ex-Labour member, saying that it is “the most profoundly shocking first-hand account of what it’s like to be a Jew in the Labour Party in 2018.”
The first ever UK funeral for a group of Holocaust victims will take place next weekend after the Imperial War Museum contacted the chief rabbi about human remains it had stored for two decades.
Remains discovered by a survivor at Auschwitz, and likely to be from five adults and a child, will finally be laid to rest at Bushey New Cemetery on 20 January in an extraordinary event to which survivors and other community members are being urged to attend.
IWM revealed yesterday that a container containing suspected remains was given to it by an unnamed individual – thought to be a survivor – in 1997 as part of a collection of Holocaust-related items said to have originated at Auschwitz.
Despite stating that it did not wish to acquire the container, it was still sent to the museum. In 2005, IWM said, testing confirmed the vessel held adult and child remains, though the numbers could not be totally guaranteed.
IWM houses facilities to store human tissue which it is legally able to do, and said it “cared“ for them for the last 22 years before deciding it was “no longer appropriate“ to do so during a review ahead of the creation of its new Holocaust galleries, due to open in 2021.
It then contacted the office of the Chief Rabbi and Auschwitz Museum for their advice at the end of last year.
Michael Goldstein, President of the United Synagogue, said: “For everyone connected with the United Synagogue, and I’m quite sure the entire community, this can only be described as the ultimate act of kindness, chesed shel emet in Hebrew, because, as with all burials, nobody can be thanked for what you’ve done. We have the opportunity to do what was denied to our brothers and sisters during the Holocaust: to provide a dignified and appropriate Jewish burial.
Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, two prominent French Nazi hunters, won the Jewish Book Council’s top US book award on Wednesday.
“Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Serge and Beate Klarsfeld” includes first person accounts of the couple’s 50-plus years of pursuing Nazi war criminals.
The Jewish Book Council noted that the Klarsfelds were hesitant at first to work on an autobiography, saying they lacked “talent for storytelling,” but were pleased with the final product.
Other winners were announced in categories such as American Jewish studies, contemporary Jewish life and practice, biography and more. They include former prime minister Ehud Barak’s autobiography and the memoir of Alice Shalvi, a pioneer of feminism and woman’s rights in Israel.
Born September 17, 1935, in the Romanian capital Bucharest, Serge Klarsfeld escaped the Holocaust after his family moved to France but saw his father taken away to die in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp.
He was naturalized in 1950, and 10 years later, while studying at the prestigious Science-Po university in Paris, Klarsfled met Beate Kuenzel, the daughter of a former German soldier, on a metro platform.
The two, who married three years later, decided to bring fugitive Nazis to justice, a mission they pursued for more than half a century.
The oldest synagogue in the US capital was wheeled on Wednesday to its third and likely final location.
Following the recitation of the Jewish traveler’s prayer, the Adas Israel synagogue, built back in 1876, was ceremoniously moved one block down Third Street. It will neighbor the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington’s 25,000-square-foot, $40 million Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum, scheduled to open in 2021.
The Jewish Historical Society displayed some of the museum’s artifacts, such as a lace collar worn by US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in addition to a law school notebook used by US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
The building was last moved in 2016 to allow for the construction of the $1.3 billion, 2.2 million-square-foot multipurpose Capitol Crossing project.
It was an arrest operation that made headlines all over the world, not only because of the target, the drug baron El Chapo, considered the most-wanted man in the world (once Osama bin Laden was taken down), but also because of the other unwilling participants – one of Mexico’s biggest telenovella stars and American actor Sean Penn. Since then, speculation and stories have surrounded just how the man who managed to escape prison again and again. This weekend, for the first time, we will publish the full story behind the capture of El Chapo, a story that features a phone interception system known as Pegasus, created by the Israeli company NSO.
The story starts in 2011, when the initial development of the Pegasus system was completed.
Pegasus can take full control of a cell phone, including listening in on calls, reading every written communication, using its microphone to eavesdrop on conversations held in its vicinity, and taking photos (but not video) with its camera. It was also able to obtain access to all of the information needed to log into bank accounts, emails and so on without needing to hack into these accounts. The system even allowed control and monitoring of battery use, so the person whose phone was being broken into remained none the wiser of the fact he or she was being stripped of their privacy.
The chairman of the NSO board of directors, Maj. Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal, and CEOs Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio set out to demonstrate their product to the first customer. For the first time, sources familiar with the company’s history confirm that this customer was Mexico, which was suffering from unbridled organized crime, drug cartels and human trafficking.
The deal worked out very successfully for both sides. A task force set up to combat crime had suddenly grown eyes and ears, and its members excitedly embraced NSO staff when out of nowhere they could see and hear what had always been impenetrable and out of reach, especially when it came to the encrypted BBM text message service on BlackBerrys, the phone of choice for cartel members.
“CloudEndure is now an Amazon Web Services Company,” Israeli cloud-computing startup CloudEndure announced on its website, confirming speculation about its being acquired by the US tech giant.
Earlier this week, Globes financial website said Amazon was in talks to buy the Ramat-Gan, Israel-based startup for $250 million, in a bid to get an added edge to the cloud services it provides.
CloudEndure’s software enables companies to load their data to and across clouds with near-zero downtime and no data loss that could be caused by human error, network failure or other disruptions, according to the firm’s website.
The Israeli startup was founded in 2012 and has raised some $20 million, according to the database of Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the industry.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers IT infrastructure services, known as cloud-computing services, to businesses in some 190 countries, with data center locations in the US, Europe, Brazil, Singapore, Japan and Australia, according to its website.
Over the past month, Netflix has quietly added a handful of new Israeli shows to its platform, broadcasting them around the globe in more than a dozen languages. Now, more than 130 million people can watch shows like When Heroes Fly, Shtisel, Hashoter Hatov and the film The Cakemaker.
On Thursday, the Keshet series When Heroes Fly became available on Netflix after considerable success at home. The show won the top prize at the Canneseries International Series Festival last year, and then received both acclaim and top ratings when it premiered in Israel. The show begins 10 years after the Second Lebanon War, depicting four friends and IDF veterans who still carry both physical and psychological scars. They are forced to reluctantly reunite to track down Yaeli – the sister of one and the ex-girlfriend of another – who they all believed was killed in an accident in Colombia years before.
In the last week of December, Netflix also added the cop comedy from Yes titled Hashoter Hatov (The Good Cop). The show, which premiered in Israel in 2015, features a cop who moves back in with his family after a breakup – and has to contend with their questionable behavior and potentially illegal ties. Netflix has kept the show’s transliterated title of Hashoter Hatov, likely to differentiate it from its English-language remake The Good Cop, which was based on the original Yes show. That version, which stars Tony Danza and Josh Groban as the father and son, hit Netflix last fall.
In mid-December, Netflix added two seasons of the buzzed-about Yes show Shtisel. The show features Akiva, a young haredi (ultra-Orthodox) man living in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood (played by Michael Aloni, also one of the stars of When Heroes Fly). His father wants him to follow a very certain path, but Akiva isn’t entirely sure he can follow along.
More than two years ago, Amazon announced it was picking up the show for a US remake titled Emmis, set in the ultra-Orthodox community of Brooklyn, but the series never progressed further.
And on January 1, Netflix also added an Israeli film – The Cakemaker – which was the country’s nomination this year for the foreign language Oscar award. The movie – which ultimately wasn’t nominated in the category – focuses on a young German baker who falls in love with a married Israeli man named Oren visiting Berlin. When Oren suddenly dies, the baker winds up in Jerusalem looking for closure – and finds himself growing closer to Oren’s widow.
Rachel Riley is an English television presenter best known for co-presenting Channel 4 daytime puzzle show Countdown. She has recently become an online campaigner on social media against antisemitism, taking on virtually every one of Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitic followers.
Here she speaks about how she came to do what she is doing. Her insights from her experiences – including the hatred she has encountered and the tactics of the Jew haters in claiming they are only “anti-Zionist” – are really worth listening to.
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