White House Affirms Israel’s Right to Self-Defense

— by Sari Weintraub

President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the rocket attacks on Israel, condemning the attacks and affirming Israel’s right to defend itself. The White House released a statement, saying:

The President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Morsi about the rocket attacks being launched from Gaza into Israel, and the escalating violence in Gaza.

The President reiterated to Prime Minister Netanyahu the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defense in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians. The President urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. The two agreed that Hamas needs to stop its attacks on Israel to allow the situation to de-escalate.  The two leaders agreed to stay in close touch in the coming days.  Earlier today, Vice President Biden received a briefing from Prime Minister Netanyahu on the events in Gaza.

Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted:

I want to express my appreciation once again to President Obama for his unequivocal clear sided support for Israel’s right to defend itself.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration “strongly condemn[ed]” the attacks on Israel in a statement from the State Department, saying that “there is no justification for the violence that Hamas… [is] employing against the people of Israel.”

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

WASHINGTON, DC – To commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition is calling on Congress to swiftly reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), our nation’s most critical law that supports law enforcement training and services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

One in four women in the United States has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime while nearly one in five has been raped in her lifetime. Since its passage in 1994, VAWA has transformed the national response to violence against women. More victims are coming forward than ever before to access lifesaving services and move from crisis to stability. Despite VAWA’s comprehensive and cost saving responses, Congress has failed to pass a final reauthorization bill that continues VAWA’s lifesaving programs while strengthening protections for vulnerable populations.

More after the jump.
 
“Domestic violence is a crisis of epidemic proportions that affects all of our diverse religious communities,” said Lori Weinstein, Executive Director of Jewish Women International. “As a Coalition, we are calling on Congress to work with the faith community to pass a final, inclusive Violence Against Women Act reauthorization that builds upon past successes and includes critical new protections for all victims.”

In times of crisis, victims of violence often turn to their clergy and houses of worship for guidance and support. Faith leaders are on the front lines each day identifying victims, providing refuge and support, referring victims and their families to VAWA programs and services, and serving as victim advocates in their communities.

“As faith leaders, we see the consequences of sexual and domestic violence every week. We count on our local partners, from shelters to advocates to law enforcement to the courts, to serve as resources in our communities, provide training to community stakeholders and support victims. And they count on VAWA to continue to do this lifesaving work. As a Coalition, we are calling on Congress to reauthorize VAWA now and avoid jeopardizing nearly 20 years of progress,” said Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, Founder of FaithTrust Institute.

“For many victims, faith is central to their identity, their decision making, and their healing,” said Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter, Director of Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence. “It is imperative that service providers and faith communities build respectful, trusting collaborations that support victims and increase access to and effectiveness of services. The faith community is proud to stand strongly with our secular partners united by our commitment to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.”

“At the Peaceful Families Project, a national organization working to end abuse in the Muslim community, we believe that a better understanding of religious and cultural values can be used as a resource to prevent domestic violence, and that religion and culture should never be used to justify abuse. For 18 years, VAWA has played a key role in violence prevention and awareness. Congress must act quickly to reauthorize this critical legislation so that VAWA can continue to serve victims and expand education around this critical issue,” said Mona Malik, President of the Peaceful Families Project.

“For Christians, reauthorizing an effective and inclusive Violence Against Women Act isn’t a legislative issue, it’s a moral issue. VAWA save lives and needs to be reauthorized by Congress immediately,” said Amee Paparella, Director and Organizer for Women’s Advocacy of the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.

Jewish Women International convened the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition in 2007 to unite the collective energies and visions of the faith communities to work together in promoting national domestic violence legislation to protect women and children. Comprised of 35 organizations, this growing coalition represents many faiths and denominations and millions of congregants spanning diverse faith communities. To learn more about the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition, visit www.jwi.org/ic.

Sen. Arlen Specter’s funeral a tribute to his life of service


Arlen Specter and his wife, former City Councilwoman Joan Specter, enjoyed the Barnes Foundation opening gala this past May a few months before Specter learned his cancer had returned for the third and final bout. Photo: Bonnie Squires


Barack Obama and Joe Biden attend a press conference welcoming Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party at the White House April 29, 2009. Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images.


Sen. Arlen Specter and Gov. Ed Rendell during Specter campaign rally in Philadelphia, May 15, 2010. Photo: AP.


Sen. Arlen Specter was carried in a flag-bedecked limousine from Temple Har Zion to his eternal resting place at his family’s plot in Shalom Memorial Park. Photo: Daniel Loeb.

— by Bonnie Squires

Har Zion Temple was the site of the funeral for Senator Arlen Specter, and the thousands of people who poured into the main sanctuary, which had to be opened up to include the ballroom behind it, represented a cross-section of America.

Judges and lawyers and U.S.  Attorneys and academics and heads of charities and former Specter staffers by the score populated the seats at Specter’s funeral.  Candidates and former candidates from both sides of the aisle came to pay tribute to a mover and shaker who according to every speaker, did the right thing, the fair thing, even when voting for President Obama’s stimulus package would cost him his seat in the Senate.

Specter’s influence crossed political boundaries, racial differences, and economic backgrounds, as evidenced by the huge diversity of those in attendance to pay their respects to Joan Specter and her family.

Federal officials, past and present, like Senator Bob Casey, former Senators Ted Kauffman and Harris Wofford, and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies; state officers, including Governor Tom Corbett; federal and state judges; leaders of academia; and hundreds and hundreds of other notables, like Gwen Goodman, former executive director of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Lee Ducat, founder of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.  Ducat nodded as each speaker mentioned Specter’s passionate defense of funding for cancer research and stem cell research, even when various Presidents decided to cut funidng of the National Institutes of Health.

Chief among the notables, however, was Vice President Joe Biden, who teared up as he spoke about Arlen Specter, his dear friend, who always was there for him, especially in times of personal crisis.

Biden and Specter seved in the U.S. Senate, and Biden said in his remarks that he knew he had spent more time with Specter than anyone else in the sanctuary, sitting with him in the Senate and especially in the Judiciary Committee meetings and hearings.

Biden also let people know that he had foregone campaign stops in two critical swing states, Colorado and Nevada, to pay tribute to his dear friend at Har Zion Temple.

President Obama that very morning had ordered all American flags to be flown at half-staff on all government properties, military bases, embassies, etc., in the nation and around the world, to salute Senator Arlen Specter on the day of his funeral.

But the people asked to speak by Joan Specter were close personal friends, like Biden.  Like Ed Rendell.  Like Flora Becker, widow of Judge Ed Becker.  Like Judge Jan DuBois.  Like Steve Harmelin, Esq.  Like Shanin Specter’s long-time law partner, Tom Kline.  Like Shanin Specter, the Senator’s son, and two of Arlen’s four grand-daughters.

Perhaps most remarkable, in all of their praise of Specter’s fairness and acumen, was the telling of how, less than two weeks before his demise, Specter insisted on teaching his class on the Constitution at Penn Law School.   I guess that was why Penn President Amy Gutmann was also in attendance.

Probably half the people in the throng owed their careers to Arlen Specter, either through having been hired by him when he was either District Attorney, or having been appointed by him when he chaired the Judiciary committee.

Although each of the speakers, including life-long friends Flora Becker, Judge Jan DuBois, attorney Steve Harmelin, Governor Ed Rendell, Specter’s son Shanin, and Vice President Biden shared wonderful anecdotes and memories of Specter, going back to Penn undergraduate and Yale Law School days, it was two of Specter’s granddaughters who made the greatest impact.  Sylvie Specter, by the way, is a friend and classmate at Penn of Biden’s own granddaughter.

Sylvie and Perri Specter told us that their grandfather had spent two weeks before his passing, working on yet another book – one that was a memoir with photographs from his amazing collection.  They announced that the family plans to complete the book and have it published, joining the array of Senator Specter’s other remarkable books.

Rabbi Kieffer, Rabbi Knopf and Cantor Vogel of Har Zion contributed to the testimonials, making this a remarkable send-off for a remarkable man.

Politifact Gives Thumbs Down On Paul Ryan’s Iran Sanction Claims

— by David Streeter

Politifact’s Ruling (emphasis added):

Ryan argued that ‘this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop (Congress) from putting the tough sanctions in place.’ He’s right that the Obama administration compromised with Russia and China to earn their backing in the U.N. Security Council, and pushed for legislative waivers and other flexibility from Congress as it organized an international coalition to counter Iran.

But just because the administration resisted plans in Congress does not mean it failed to get tough sanctions imposed. In fact, that international diplomacy has resulted in ‘what many now consider to be “crippling” sanctions.’ In fact, there’s now so much economic pressure on Iran that Congress’ research arm reports Iran may soon decide to seek a nuclear compromise.

That’s the opposite of what Ryan’s critique suggests. He employs a sliver of truth in service of a misleading impression. We rate his claim Mostly False.

 

Memories of Senator Arlen Specter (1930-2012)

— President Barack Obama

Arlen Specter was always a fighter.  From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.  He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others.  When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, “I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I’m going to beat this, too.”  Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come.  Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family.

— Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of former Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Specter sat in the Republican Party for most of his career, and he was a consummate public servant whom we respected greatly as he advocated for Pennsylvanians — and a crucial voice of moderation. When he joined the Democratic Party later in his career, we were proud to welcome him as a Jewish Democrat — and his votes were crucial to helping President Obama during the first year of his presidency. Senator Specter has left behind a proud legacy of public service that will hopefully guide future generations of public servants, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice had the honor to interview Senator Specter in our August 2009 edition.

More after the jump.
— Vice-President Joe Biden

Jill and I are deeply saddened. Arlen Specter was a great Senator who lived his life the way he died, with dignity and courage. He was my friend and I admired him a great deal.

For over three decades, I watched his political courage accomplish great feats and was awed by his physical courage to never give up.  Arlen never walked away from his principles and was at his best when they were challenged.

Jill and I are thinking of Joan at the moment – she was an incredible partner through his life journey. Our hearts go out to Shanin and Stephen and all who were deeply touched by his life.  

VP Debate Shows Why Obama Is Choice of Most American Jews

(NJDC) In last night’s debate, Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) demonstrated the clear contrast between the policies of the two campaigns. In a discussion that covered issues ranging from Iran to health care, Biden showed once again that it’s President Obama and the Democratic Party who share the values of the majority of Jewish voters.

  • With 35 years of foreign policy experience in the Senate, Biden shut down Ryan’s smears against the president’s record on Iran. The Vice President affirmed that

    “We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon” and said about sanctions,

    These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period…The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled… he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon… That’s why these crippling sanctions, which [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu says we should continue… the fact of the matter is, he says they’re working.

    On the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, Biden reiterated the historically close relationship between the two countries, stating, “The Israelis and the United   States, our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place… there is no difference between our view and theirs.”

    In addition to Politifact exposing one of Ryan’s blatantly false Israel claims, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg added his voice to the chorus of journalists and experts noting that the Romney/Ryan ticket offers little difference from the Obama Administration on Iran by tweeting:

    Ryan is quoting President Obama verbatim on why Iran shouldn’t be allowed to have a nuclear weapon

  • Biden reiterated the importance of this election on the future of the Supreme Court, reminding viewers that the next president will likely get to nominate up to two new justices and that Republican challenger Mitt Romney would likely “appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw abortion.” He also mentioned that Romney’s legal advisor is Robert Bork, who has previously attacked Supreme Court Justice (then nominee) Elena Kagan over her admiration of a distinguished Israeli Supreme Court Justice.
  • Ryan admitted during the debate that his and Romney’s Medicare plan entails telling seniors to “choose your plan, and then Medicare subsidizes your premiums,” which Biden pointed out is the definition of a voucher system. Ryan also agreed with moderator Martha Raddatz that he had previously stood by President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize social security and would continue to do so.
  • NJDC’s Honorary Co-Chair Senator Ron Wyden (D-O) pushed back forcefully on Ryan invoking his name to defend his plans for Medicare. Wyden wrote in a Facebook post:

    The Romney/Ryan plan on Medicare pulls the safety net out from under the poorest and most vulnerable seniors, taking away the opportunity for nursing home care from seniors who need it and have no other options.

    The Wyden-Ryan white paper strengthened the safety net for these dual eligibles. The Romney/Ryan version shreds it. The republican ticket knows that neither I, nor any other Democrat, would support these policies.

  • CNN exposed one of Ryan’s major misleading statements regarding the effects of Obamacare on seniors. Their analysis can be viewed in the video on the right.
  • Biden closed the debate by staunchly defending the separation of church and state, particularly regarding a woman’s right to choose, stating that despite his personal views as a Catholic, he would not impose those views on others, and that regardless of religion, “I do not believe that we have a right to tell… women they can’t control their body.”
  • Overall, Ryan spouted off at least 24 myths during his debate performance, according to Think Progress.

As DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, “Tonight’s debate… showcased two very different approaches to facts, details and core convictions: Vice President Biden understands they matter, and Congressman Paul Ryan obviously does not.” This debate has shown yet again why President Obama and Vice President Biden are the clear choice for most Jewish voters.

Click here to read a transcript of the debate

Video of debate follows the jump.

Senate Extends Tax Cuts For Middle Class On Strictly Party Line Vote

The Senate extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income. 51 Democrats voted for the bill, but Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Jim Webb (D-VA) joined all of the 47 Republican voted against it.

Earlier today, the GOP plan was defeated on a 45-54 vote. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted with the Republicans while Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted with the Democrats. The Republican plan would included even income beyond $250,000 in the extension of the tax cut.

Statement by President Obama follows the jump.
Statement by President Obama on the Passage of the Middle Class Tax Cut Extension:

With the Senate’s vote, the House Republicans are now the only people left in Washington holding hostage the middle-class tax cuts for 98% of Americans and nearly every small business owner.  The last thing a typical middle class family can afford is a $2,200 tax hike at the beginning of next year.  It’s time for House Republicans to drop their demand for another $1 trillion giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and give our families and small businesses the financial security and certainty that they need.  Our economy isn’t built from the top-down, it’s built from a strong and growing middle class, and that’s who we should be fighting for.

 

Romney’s Foreign Policy Views “Downright Dangerous”

— by Max Samis

Over the course of his presidential run, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has made some outlandish comment on foreign policy, including that he would “do the opposite” of President Barack Obama on Israel, and that Russia is the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.” Romney has earned condemnations from multiple public officials for his statements, including from Vice President Joe Biden and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell. In addition, the Los Angeles Times found last month that despite his heated rhetoric, Romney has yet to offer any specifics of what he would do differently than Obama-especially on Iran.

Now, Romney’s policies have been examined by Fred Kaplan, a noted foreign policy expert and writer for Slate. Kaplan’s judgment? That “Romney doesn’t seem to understand – nor do some of his advisers – the extent to which the world has changed since the end of the Cold War,” and that his “statements on foreign policy range from vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.”

Highlights of Kaplan’s article follow the jump.

Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. presidential elections do not hinge on foreign policy. On this point, conventional wisdom is almost certainly correct. But it shouldn’t be, for two reasons. First, foreign policy is the one realm in which presidents can do pretty much what they want. (Congress may rant at some action but rarely halts it.) Second, in this election in particular, Mitt Romney’s statements on foreign policy range from vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.

Does Romney believe the things that he’s said about arms control, Russia, the Middle East, the defense budget, and the rest? Who can say? He has no experience on any of these issues. But his advisers do; they represent, mainly, the Dick Cheney wing of the Republican Party (some, notably John Bolton, veer well to the right of even that). While not all presidents wind up following their advisers, Romney has placed his byline atop some of his coterie’s most egregious arguments-not least, several op-ed pieces against President Obama’s New START with Russia, pieces that rank as the most ignorant I’ve read in nearly 40 years of following the nuclear debate…

Romney doesn’t seem to understand-nor do some of his advisers-the extent to which the world has changed since the end of the Cold War. International politics were never as cut and dried as that era’s image suggested-two superpowers, each dominating its sphere of the globe and competing for influence at the margins of the other’s domain…

Which leads to Romney’s final complaint: that Obama’s foreign policies ‘have not communicated American strength and resolve.’ It’s not clear what Romney means by this; he cites no examples. The one case in which he had to concede Obama did well-ordering the killing of Bin Laden-certainly communicates more strength and resolve than anything Bush did on that front. To the extent America’s image has been tarnished under Obama’s presidency, the main reason has to do with what some see as an excess of ‘strength and resolve’-the quintupling of drone attacks launched against targets in Pakistan, Sudan, and Somalia under Bush.

Which leads to some questions: What is Romney’s position on drone strikes? What’s his position on Afghanistan? During the Republican debates, he once said that his position was not to negotiate with the Taliban but to defeat them. What does that mean? Does he want to keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops there after NATO’s 2014 deadline? To what end? Doing what? He also once said that military spending should consume at least 4 percent of gross domestic product. Obama’s most recent military budget ($525 billion, not counting the cost of the war in Afghanistan) amounts to 3 percent. So Romney intends to raise the budget by one-third, or by about $175 billion a year-by more than $1 trillion in the next six years. Where is he going to get the money? What’s he going to spend it on? No details. None.

Is Romney an extremist? Or, in keeping with the GOP approach to politics in general these days, has he simply calculated that it’s best not to agree with Obama on anything? Either way, one thing is clear: He is not a serious man.

Click here to read the full article.