Soviet Jewry Movement and the 30th Anniversary of Freedom Sunday

AJC is proud to partner on a special program for Young Leaders commemorating the Soviet Jewry Movement and the 30th Anniversary of Freedom Sunday.
Connie Smukler and her family risked their lives and livelihoods to protect the rights of strangers on the other side of the world.  Join us on December 7 as an immigrant from the former Soviet Union interviews the woman who made his journey to America possible.

6:00 pm  Light kosher refreshments & networking
6:30 pm  Program: Dmitry Goldenberg interview with Connie Smukler followed by Audience Q&A
7:30 pm  Access to the Museum’s new panel exhibition, Power of Protest: The Movement to Free Soviet Jews

Note: The panel exhibition is on view at the museum through January 15, 2018.

Trump Senior Adviser Promotes Leading Anti-Semitic Hate Site Endorsement

ajdelgadoretweetmore1— by Eric Hananoki

A. J. Delgado, a senior adviser to Republican nominee Donald Trump, retweeted a Trump endorsement from an anti-Semitic website that started an online campaign harassing Jewish people.

Members of the alt-right and white nationalist movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including appearing in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.

On October 11, Delgado retweeted the anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff, which wrote:

At this point anyone not insane enough to want a war with Russia should vote Trump.

ajdelgadoretweetmoreThe tweet prior to the message that Delgado retweeted was an anti-Semitic attack on Republican strategist Dan Senor. The site’s Twitter account header image is of Confederate soldiers.

As Media Matters noted, The Right Stuff is a white nationalist blog that frequently leads anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish people.

The Right Stuff started the virulently anti-Semitic “parenthesis meme” in which Jewish names are surrounded by parentheses — “(((name)))” — often in order to target them for online abuse on social media. The Anti-Defamation League has added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols, with CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stating:

The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally.

According to The Right Stuff’s editors, they started the parenthesis meme because “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history.” They add: “The inner parenthesis represent the Jews’ subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism.”

The site’s leader, Mike Enoch, told The Guardian that the site believes in racial separation:

Other adherents emphasize their desire for racial separatism. Mike Enoch, from the site the Right Stuff, a major hub for the dissemination of alt-right materials, says: “The core principle, in my view, is ethno-nationalism, meaning that nations should be as ethnically and racially homogeneous as possible.

Enoch wrote in a Reddit AMA on the “Alt Right” subreddit that “if there had been a more stingent [sic] restriction on Jews entering academia and the media and lobbying politically many problems would not have arisen. The country was basically given over to Jews after 1965 and they had lots of power even before that.”

He added: “I think the idea that race is the foundation of a nation is the key. And yeah, I stand by that statement. I don’t care if a country has a social healthcare policy or something like that as long as it is white.”

State Department Special Envoy Fights Global Anti-Semitism

Ira Forman with ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer and ADL board members Judith Meyer and Doug Stanger

Ira Forman with ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer and ADL board members Judith Meyer and Doug Stanger

Ira Forman’s job is to identify and pursue anti-Semitism around the world. As a result, he knows where the trends are particularly disturbing and where there is reason to have hope. Recently, he brought this knowledge and experience to Philadelphia when he served as the keynote speaker for the closing board meeting of the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Forman works in the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. He was appointed to this position three years ago by Secretary of State John Kerry. Forman has an extensive resume, which, among other things, includes his work as Jewish outreach director for the Obama campaign, CEO and executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), and — very early in his career — political director and legislative liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

At the meeting in Philadelphia, Forman gave a run-down of the Jewish communities he has visited and discussed what the future may hold for Jews in those countries. For example, he pointed to a particularly disturbing survey of French Jews — which even pre-dated the Paris attacks — in which 47% said they were considering leaving France. Forman was then asked about the heartening response of thousands of French citizens who marched in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Kacher attacks. He said it was believed that if the Charlie Hebdo journalists had not also been killed, the response by non-Jews on behalf of the Jewish community would not have been as strong.

However, Forman did express hope for some smaller Jewish communities. He also emphasized that outside the United States, England seems to be the most secure place for Jews to live.

In order to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Forman and his staff travel the world. They often work in cooperation with agencies like the ADL, as well as with other nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Photo by Bonnie Squires

Sanders Strips the Facts From Gaza

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got it very wrong on Israel and Gaza. In an interview with the editorial board of The New York Daily News, Sanders absurdly claimed that Israel killed 10,000 innocent people in the 2014 Gaza War. After the Anti-Defamation League called on Sanders to correct his misstatement, the Sanders campaign issued a statement saying that Sanders was thinking of the number wounded, not the death toll, and that Sanders “immediately accepted” the interviewer’s finding that 2,000 Palestinians were killed. The ADL welcomed Sanders’ clarification, but Shai Franklin explains why Bernie-Come-Lately does no favors for Mideast peace.

There is no evidence in the record that Sanders accepted the 2,000 figure or that he acknowledged that the death toll included over 900 militants. Sanders’ ignorance of the death toll in Gaza demonstrates that he is not ready to be president and shows that while his heart might be in the right place, his head is not in the game.

Yair Rosenberg argues that Sanders’ “mistake had nothing to do with his being anti-Israel, and everything to do with his not knowing much about foreign policy.” Throughout the interview, Sanders showed his ignorance not only of foreign policy matters, but of domestic matters as well.

The American Jewish Committee correctly noted that Sanders still needs to clarify his “stinging and unjust” accusation that Israel’s self-defensive response was “indiscriminate.”

Compare Sanders’ views on the Gaza War to Hillary Clinton’s. Watch Hillary Clinton refuse to let Jon Stewart goad her into unfairly criticizing Israel’s conduct during the Gaza War. Hillary puts the blame squarely where it belongs: on Hamas.

Supreme Court Takes On Affordable Care Act Again

the PillSince its founding in 2003, Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) has been in the forefront of the Jewish community in supporting the right to reproductive freedom and protecting religious liberty. Sometimes we take the lead by filing amicus briefs in the Supreme Court, as we did in the Hobby Lobby case, arguing that private corporations should not be able to claim a religious right to deny their employees access to reproductive healthcare services. At other times we work in coalition with Jewish and non-Jewish groups.

Recently JSPAN joined with the ADL in asking the Supreme Court to uphold the provision in the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate that requires a religious institution opposed to contraception to sign a waiver stating such, after which employees can receive it through third parties.

In Zubik v Burwell, petitioners claim that merely signing a waiver violates the signers’ religious tenets, and is thus unconstitutional according to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. JSPAN heartily agrees with the ADL that signing the waiver does not pass RFRA’s “substantial burden” test. Moreover, finding for the petitioners would prevent employees who favor the use of contraceptives from exercising their own freedom of religion. An ADL press release said, “Allowing one’s religious beliefs to be an effective veto of virtually any federal law or rule would undermine our country as a nation of laws.”

Joining JSPAN in recognizing this as an issue of great interest to Jews were Bend the Arc (of which JSPAN is an affiliate), Keshet, National Council of Jewish Women, and Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.

Rabbi George Stern, Executive Director
Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, President

Kerry’s Support of Israel Is Unquestionable


Kerry and Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman.

— by Steve Sheffey

Last Sunday, The Daily Beast reported that it obtained a tape (which it has not released) of Secretary of State John Kerry at a private meeting with unidentified “world leaders,” in which he said that if a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not reached soon, Israel will risk becoming “an apartheid state”:

A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.

If this sounds familiar to you, you are right. In 2010, then-Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak said that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, Israel will become either a binational state or an apartheid state.

More after the jump.
Barak said that “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic… if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Barak is the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history. Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert are among the other Israeli leaders who have used the term “apartheid” similarly.

After Ehud Barak made his remarks in 2010, did the Zionist Organization of America and the Emergency Committee for Israel call on him to resign? Did Protect Our Heritage PAC urge its members to flood the Israeli embassy with protest calls? Did other organizations send stand-alone emails condemning his remarks?

None of that happened. But it did happen the day after Kerry’s remarks were reported, before he even had a chance to respond.

Kerry did not say Israel was an apartheid state. He said that if it does not reach a two-state solution, an apartheid state is one possible outcome.

One South African judge, Richard Goldstone, eloquently explained in The New York Times in 2011 why it is so wrong and inappropriate to call Israel and apartheid state:

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

Barak, Olmert, Livni, and Kerry were wrong to use the term not because they said Israel was an apartheid state — it is clearly not and they clearly did not — but because the term is so charged, loaded, and capable of misinterpretation. Using that term was a mistake.

But the over-reaction was also a mistake. If Kerry had really said Israel was an apartheid state, then the reaction would have been appropriate. But he did not, and it is clear even from the Daily Beast report what he meant.

The correct response, from a pro-Israel advocacy standpoint, would have been to tone down the response, lay off the panic button, and remember that Kerry has been a strong friend of Israel throughout his decades-long career. We have enough real enemies without creating for ourselves imagined ones.

Unfortunately, some of our right-wing friends just could not resist this “gotcha” moment. This forced centrist and even center-left organizations to join in, lest they be accused by the right or by certain of their donors of being soft on the apartheid accusation.

The result is that we have got the world entertaining the absurd notion that the U.S. Secretary of State might think that Israel is an apartheid state. Even the best public relations firm could not have given the Palestinians a better earned media bonanza. Nice job, guys.

Below is the full text of the strong statement Kerry released on Monday:

For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel, I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.

I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe.

First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.  Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.

Second, I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.

At least some organizations might have acted differently if they had just waited 24 hours.

The Anti-Defamation League welcomed Kerry’s statement:

While we may disagree from time to time, we have never doubted Secretary Kerry’s commitment to Israel’s security and his good faith efforts to find a fair, equitable and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a true friend of Israel. His statement makes that clear, and we consider this chapter closed.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, said that Israel deeply appreciates Kerry’s efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians, that Kerry did not threaten Israel, and that “his decades of support for Israel reflect an abiding commitment to Israel’s security and its future.”

Bloomberg’s Jeff Goldberg, who acknowledged that he too has used the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s possible future as well as today’s realities, explained why he no longer uses that term:

The problem is not inside Israel; the problem is on the West Bank. The settlers who entangle Israel in the lives of Palestinians believe that they are the vanguard of Zionism. In fact, they are the vanguard of binationalism. Their myopia will lead to the end of Israel as a democracy and as a haven for the Jewish people. The regime they help impose on Palestinians is cruel, unfair and unnecessary. Rather than label this regime in an incendiary fashion, I now prefer simply to describe its disagreeable qualities.

But if Kerry, following Barak’s lead, wants to warn about a possible apartheid future for Israel, I’m not going to condemn him as anti-Israel. Israeli leaders must open their minds to the possibility that he has their long-term interests at heart.

In the New Yorker, John Cassidy explained what we can learn from this episode:

As the prospects for a permanent peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians deteriorates, the standard of the debate in this country’s capital is deteriorating with it. Rather than supporting efforts to find peace, as they did in the not-so-distant past, Republicans are increasingly using Israel as a wedge issue to divide Democrats, raise money, and mobilize their own supporters…

That’s just politics, you (or Macbeth) might say — “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” To some extent, I would agree. But if there’s ever going to be an end to this wretched problem, somebody — and it’s almost certainly going to have be an American President or Secretary of State — is going to have to rise above politics and bring the two sides together. What just happened to John Kerry demonstrated why that’s getting even harder to do.

The goal of pro-Israel advocacy is to bring the U.S. and Israel closer, not to create divisions for partisan gain. That is why so many pro-Israel members of Congress from both parties wisely refrained from public comment. Following Kerry’s statement and the statement of support for Kerry from Israel, there is really not much more that can or should be said.

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Obama: “Foxman Has Been a Tireless Voice Against Anti-Semitism”


Foxman.

— President Barack Obama

For decades, Abe Foxman has been a tireless voice against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms, always calling us to reject hatred and embrace our common humanity.

Michelle and I wish him well as he prepares to leave the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League — an organization that he built, and led with such passion and persistence. Abe is irreplaceable, but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.

ASA Israel Boycott Widely Condemned


Related Article: Is Your Alma Mater Complicit in ASA’s Israel Boycott? Includes universities’ contact information so that you can make your views known.

— by Steve Sheffey

The American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been condemned by organizations, politicians and public figures from all across the political spectrum.

The American Association of University Professors said in an official letter that it opposes academic boycotts, including the ASA boycott, as violations of academic freedom.

The Anti-Defamation League wrote in a press release, “This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the [ASA] should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change.”

Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is based on a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.

Comments from Ambassador Oren, Rep. Schneider, JStreet, Peter Beinart and Jeff Goldberg follow the jump.
The former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in his official Facebook page that the boycott “singles out the world’s only Jewish state, the Middle East’s only democracy, undermines academic freedom, and defies Abu Mazen’s opposition to such boycotts.”

More needs to be said about fighting back. The United States has long imposed strict penalties on companies complying with the Arab boycott of Israel. Similar measures should be enacted denying state and Federal funding for any activities associated with the promoters of this racist anti-democratic measure.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) tweeted that the “decision by ASA to boycott Israeli academic institutions is misdirected and wrong.”

In its official blog, JStreet wrote that it “strongly opposes the American Studies Association’s decision today to boycott Israeli colleges and universities.”

Unilaterally placing blame on one party, as the ASA boycott does, is an overly simplistic and unhelpful approach to an incredibly complicated and dynamic political situation. And it is one that is not befitting of an academic community.

The Daily Beast columnist, Peter Beinart, wrote that the boycott is “dead wrong,” because it denies “the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.”

The Bloomberg columnist, Jeff Goldberg, wrote, “Is it a coincidence that these academics are singling out the world’s only Jewish-majority country for boycott? Only to those who know nothing of the history of anti-Semitic scapegoating.”

Click here to sign up to Steve Sheffey’s newsletter.

Message to NRA & GOP: Stand with ADL and B’nai B’rith Against Beck

— by Aaron Keyak

Glenn Beck’s use of disgusting imagery, showing a leading Jewish American as a Nazi, at the National Rifle Association’s convention was deeply offensive. The NRA and Republican leaders must stand with the ADL and B’nai B’rith in condemning Glenn Beck — especially those who selected him to give the NRA’s keynote address. This isn’t only about what Beck said, but the disturbing fact that his stunt was embraced with applause and cheers by attendees at the NRA’s national convention. The NRA’s crowd is the Republican base and all Americans must take note.

Report from ABC News after the jump.
ABC News reported:

Glenn Beck roused the National Rifle Association’s annual convention this weekend with his attacks on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he also aroused criticism by a major Jewish group for depicting the mayor giving a Nazi salute.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League called Becks’ comments “deeply offensive on so many levels,” and B’nai B’rith called for Beck to apologize.

“Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker at the NRA’s annual convention, trivializes the Holocaust when he compares New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Adolf Hitler,” B’nai B’rith told ABC News.

“The casual use of Nazi imagery or words serves to undermine the atrocities of the Holocaust. Glenn Beck should apologize,” the organization said. […]

Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, objected to the image and Beck’s comments:

“While he doesn’t say it, it seems Glenn Beck is implying through an image of Mayor Bloomberg in an apparent Hitlerian salute is that the mayor’s policies on gun ownership and other issues are turning New York city into a Nazi-like state. That suggestion is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive on so many levels,” Foxman said.

“Glenn Beck should know better. He has drawn similar inappropriate analogies to the Holocaust before. We wish he would stop trivializing the history of the Holocaust to score partisan political points,” he added.