Congress Passes U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act

— by Elanna Cahn

Congress passed the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), which strengthens the relationship between the U.S. and Israel on issues such as defense and energy:

Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Iron_Dome_Intercepts_Rockets_from_the_Gaza_Strip

An Israel Defense Forces anti-missile “Iron Dome” system.

  • increasing the value of the U.S. forward-deployed weapons stockpile in Israel and authorizes additional defense transfers;
  • requiring the administration to take steps toward allowing Israel to be included in the top-tier category for license-free exports of certain U.S. technologies and products;
  • encouraging government and private sector cooperation between the two countries in several areas such as energy, water, agriculture, cyber-security, and alternative fuel technologies;
  • stating U.S. policy should include Israel in the list of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, when Israel satisfies the requirements for inclusion;
  • requiring the administration to provide more frequent and more detailed assessments on the status of Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors;
  • strengthening collaboration between the U.S. and Israel on energy development and encourages increased cooperation between the two countries’ academic, business and governmental sectors.

The National Democratic Jewish Council’s chair, Greg A. Rosenbaum, said that the Act “sends a clear, bipartisan message that the U.S.-Israel bond is unbreakable.”

As we have said time and time again, Israel must not become a partisan wedge issue. No party has a claim on being a ‘better’ friend to Israel, and any attempt to claim that is absurd.

Blunt Amendment on Purim Eve: Guests in a Christian Nation

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought light to many dark places in American society. It was most famous for opening businesses and institutions which operated in public to members of all races. Less well known were its provisions which prevented discrimination on the basis of sex, creed, national origin, and religion. In the matter of discrimination in the workplace, the act clearly places responsibility for establishing a work environment free of harassment on the operator of the business. Court decisions later established that employers needed to make themselves aware of harassment of minorities in the workplace, that their toleration of such harassment made them liable to penalties and prosecution under the law, that their encouragement of such harassment would lose them federal business.

More after the jump.
The far-reaching consequences of the Civil Rights Act can be seen most clearly in the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency. Unlike Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Obama’s appreciation for the role that the Civil Rights Act played in providing him with opportunities — for his education, for his advancement, for political career, for his being taken seriously as a human being — has always been open and straightforward. Obama’s recent interpretation of the Affordable Care Act — to guarantee that employees of religious institutions who were not themselves members of management’s religious faith were able to practice the tenets of the employees’ own faith, without the intimidation, coercion, and harassment of the employer’s religious restrictions on those employees — is something that Jews in particular should be grateful to their friend in the White House, who stuck up for our rights.

The Catholic Church has taken the mission of the Civil Rights Act, and stood it on its head. It is not the big bad government imposing free practice of religion on the helpless Catholic institutions — who employ followers of Judaism, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, Unitarianism, Muslims, Buddhists, Farsis, Hindus and others whose religious beliefs may differ from the Church — not just in matters of contraception, or about when life begins and ends, or about the relative importance of the lives of a woman and her fetus before childbirth. It is in fact the big bad government which has allowed such Catholic institutions to flourish and prosper, tax free, as they compete with for-profit hospitals, even as the Church provides right-to-life demonstrators at secular institutions to increase their costs of doing business. It is rather these powerful institutions who now influence the votes of our Senators Toomey and Casey — who both voted for the Blunt Amendment this past week. It is these powerful institutions, who demand exception from having to provide a harassment-free workplace for their employees, on the grounds that their employees’ free practice of religion offends management’s religious moral sensibility.

I have had to remind some friends, who were not alive at the time of the Civil Rights Movement, that some white churches in the South justified their practice of segregation on religious grounds. Such churches encouraged “Knights” to act in their defense. As government contemplated the Civil Rights Act, these churches too claimed that the government would intrude on their members’ freedom of religion. Many South African white members of the Dutch Reformed Church also justified their apartheid regime, by appealing to their interpretation of scripture, and to the teachings of their church. The coercive use of religious doctrine is not of course confined just to racial segregation and racist governments.

At this time of Purim, where we celebrate the resourcefulness of Mordechai and Esther in proclaiming their Judaism, and attempt to drown out with groggers the name of he who tried to exterminate our people for attempting to practice our basic Covenant, I would urge my compatriots to support their own civil rights, and to support the Obama position on the universal support for women’s health care services — to be exercised as the employee and not the employer sees fit, and to prevent religious harassment in the workplace from being justified, by a sense of freedom which treats the religious freedom of neighbors as if some of us were only “guests” in a Christian Nation.

Jewish Values Not on the Agenda For the 2011 Values Voter Summit

— David Streeter

2011 “Values Voter” Summit Schedule Featuring GOP Presidential Candidates To Conflict Yet Again with the Jewish High Holidays

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today criticized the 2011 Values Voter Summit in part because — for the third consecutive year* — the conservative conference coincides with the Jewish High Holidays. The 2011 Values Voter Summit, which will feature a majority of the Republican presidential candidates, perfectly symbolizes how the modern conservative movement does not include Jewish values under its umbrella. This year, the conference occurs on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

More after the jump.

NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

Conservatives have been aggressively targeting Jews recently by touting their pro-Israel positions. But what they continually fail to understand is that pro-Israel rhetoric only goes so far. Polling consistently shows that the sweeping majority of American Jews abhor the conservative domestic policy positions — particularly on social issues — that will be discussed this weekend. With this in mind, American conservatives should explain how they intend to make Jews feel welcome in a political movement that advances an agenda opposed by most in the Jewish community and continually holds its flagship conference on the Jewish High Holidays.

This year’s conference falls on Yom Kippur — the holiest day of the year — and will likely have significant ramifications for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket. Such a repeated scheduling conflict further symbolizes that the conservative movement and the Republican Party do not represent the values of most American Jews. Quite simply, this weekend’s confab is a textbook example of why Jews remain solidly committed to the Democratic Party and its positions.

Republican presidential candidates attending this year’s summit include:

  • Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry
  • Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
  • Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain
  • Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

Other Republican elected officials speaking this weekend include:

  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
  • House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)
  • Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Representatives Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Mike Pompeo (K-KS), Steve King (R-IA), and Jim Jordan (R-OH)
  • Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

Leading conservative media personalities Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are also scheduled to speak.

In addition, the 2011 Values Voter Summit has many breakout sessions scheduled for the weekend that conflict with the sensibilities of most Jewish voters. While Republicans on Capitol Hill pay lip service to a supposed jobs agenda, this conservative summit focuses on such hot-button social issues as “How the Welfare State Erodes the Family,” “Exposing and Defunding Planned Parenthood, America’s Abortion Giant,” and “Straight Talk on Gay ‘Marriage'” [Values Voter Summit] — conflicting with the positions of the vast majority of American Jews.

With such an extreme lineup, most Jews would be unlikely to attend. But the scheduling of the event — which makes it impossible for any Jew observing Yom Kippur to attend — takes this year’s conference to new heights in repelling Jews from the conservative movement.

The 2011 Values Voter Summit’s content, in addition to its scheduling, contains nearly all of the elements that remind most Jews that today’s conservative movement and its Republican leaders do not reflect their values. Events such as this are a prime example of why the Democratic Party remains the historic and continued political home for the sweeping majority of American Jews.

* – Details:

  • In 2010, the Values Voter Summit was held September 16-19 — conflicting with Yom Kippur, which fell on September 17-18.
  • In 2009, the Values Voter Summit was held September 18-20 — conflicting with Rosh Hashanah, which fell on September 18-20.