Special Coverage: A Palestinian Died (Okay, and 6,000 Syrians Too)

(CAMERA) An Associated Press report published on April 1 noted that at least 6000 Syrians were reported killed in the civil conflict in March, the highest single month toll yet. During this same period, the main news item of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the death of a single Palestinian hunger striker, a convicted terrorist, in an Israeli prison.

According to a tally from a Lexis-Nexis media search, the New York Times published a total of 39 articles (news articles, editorials, and on its blog) in March that were mainly focused on Israel and the Palestinian conflict, plus an additional 24 on U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel. The Nexis search turned up 59 pieces — a substantial proportion were brief blog items — focused on the conflict in Syria.

More after the jump.
While acknowledging that The Times is not ignoring the Syrian conflict, considering the disproportionate toll in the two conflicts, 6,000 to 1, it is striking that the number of articles is of a similar magnitude. However, even more significant than the number of articles is the disparity in the depth of coverage. Here The Times continues to provide much greater amplification of the Palestinians plight in comparison to that of the Syrians.

In a month marked by accelerating slaughter in Syria, The Times chose to publish an 8,000-word cover story for its Sunday magazine (“Is This Where The Third Intifada Will Start?“), by Ben Ehrenreich, who has called for an end to the Jewish state and waxes poetically about the Palestinian “resisters” from a West Bank town engaged in sometimes violent protests. That story followed another extreme anti-Israel piece, a March 9 column by Joseph Levine arguing that “one really ought to question Israel’s right to exist.”

The Times might have noted — but of course, did not — that the tally of fatalities in the past month alone in Syria exceeds the total number of Israeli and Palestinian lives lost during the four most active years of the second Intifada (September 2000-September 2004).  

National Security Advisor to Europe: Add Hezbollah to Terrorist List

— by Daniel Ensign

In a column in Sunday’s New York Times, White House National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon condemned the terrorist acts committed by Hezbollah and called for the European Union to add Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations. Donilon’s column follows a recent report from the Bulgarian government denouncing Hezbollah’s role in the July Burgas bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and injured 32 others. Donilon wrote:

Since 2011, the group has murdered civilians in Bulgaria, seen its activities disrupted in Cyprus and Thailand, and worked to plot attacks elsewhere. It is helping to prop up the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria; and it acts as a proxy for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the region and beyond. In doing so, Hezbollah is putting the well-being of Lebanon and its people at risk.

Bani Brith International’s response on the subject after the jump.

Now that Bulgarian authorities have exposed Hezbollah’s global terrorist agenda, European governments must respond swiftly. They must disrupt its operational networks, stop flows of financial assistance to the group, crack down on Hezbollah-linked criminal enterprises and condemn the organization’s leaders for their continued pursuit of terrorism.

The United States applauds those countries that have long recognized Hezbollah’s nefarious nature and that have already condemned the group for the attack in Burgas. Europe must now act collectively and respond resolutely to this attack within its borders by adding Hezbollah to the European Union’s terrorist list. That is the next step toward ensuring that Burgas is the last successful Hezbollah operation on European soil.

Click here to read the full column.

B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement on this subject:

B’nai B’rith International hopes Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov’s meeting with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council yesterday to discuss the Burgas report will result in designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization throughout Europe.

Mladenov briefed the council on the findings of the report that holds Hezbollah responsible for the July 2012 attack in Burgas that left five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian dead, while wounding 30 others.

When asked by reporters if he believes Hezbollah should be named a terrorist organization by the EU, Mladenov replied: “Given the fact that we’ve already made quite firm statements about where we believe the responsibility for that attack lies, I think the answer is quite obvious.”

According to various news reports, there is no official timetable for the EU by which to reach a decision on Hezbollah’s designation. The council and other EU officials will examine the Burgas report and then bring it to a debate. A unanimous vote is needed to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

B’nai B’rith will continue to urge EU officials and other interested parties to name Hezbollah for what it truly is — a violent and dangerous organization whose acts of terror have been carried out on three continents.

Federal Regulation Of Prison Calling Rates On The Way

For an inmate trying to maintain his connection to the outside world, a 15-minute phone call with a loved one might cost $17.00!

The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rule-making, taking the first step towards federal regulation of prison calling rates. According to the satement of commissioner Mignon Clyburn:

The telephone is a crucial instrument for the incarcerated, and those who care about them, because voice calling is often the only communications option available. Most inmates along with their families and friends are low-income, so in-person visits due to distance and expense are infrequent. It is not uncommon for state prisons to be located hundreds of miles away from urban centers, but even in places where the facility is nearby, the engagement often requires a significant amount of time to clear security. And because many of these complexes are frequently overcrowded and ill-equipped to handle the volume of visitors, the wait (not even to mention the economic burden of missing work, etc.) is quite severe.

More after the jump.
On September 26, the New York Times had published an op-ed about the subject and explained:

The calls are expensive because they are placed through independent telephone companies that pay the state a “commission” — essentially a legalized kickback — that ranges from 15% to 60% either as a portion of revenue, a fixed upfront fee or a combination of both. According to a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative, a research group based in Massachusetts, depending on the size of the kickback, a 15-minute call can cost the family as little as $2.36 or as much as $17.

By November 9th, the PPI had collected 36,690 comments on the website Sum Of Us to send to the FCC, which helped the process. In fact, it was the third petition for this issue in the last decade:

In the first petition for rulemaking, filed in 2003, petitioners requested that the Commission “prohibit exclusive inmate calling service agreements and collect call-only restrictions at privately-administered prisons and require such facilities to permit multiple long distance carriers to interconnect with prison telephone systems”.

In the second petition, filed in 2007, petitioners proposed that the Commission require debit calling, prohibit per-call charges and establish rate caps for all interstate, interexchange inmate calling services.

New York Times and Ha’aretz Get An F In E-1 Geography

With Israel’s announcement that it plans to proceed with construction in Area E-1, east of Jerusalem, earlier falsehoods about that land reemerge. Thus, Ha’aretz reports that construction in E-1

would effectively bisect the West Bank and sever the physical link between the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem.

Similarly, the New York Times reports:

Construction in E1, in West Bank territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war, would connect the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem, dividing the West Bank in two. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from the capital, making the contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations last week virtually impossible.

So is it true that construction in E-1 would bisect the West Bank, and severing Palestinian contiguity, and cutting off Palestinian areas from Jerusalem? The answer is no. As CAMERA pointed out in 2005 (The Contiguity Double Standard):

Palestinian contiguity in the West Bank would be no more cut off with the so-called E-1 corridor than would Israeli contiguity if Israel were to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, even with slight modifications.

Here’s why. First, take a look at this map of the region.

More after the jump.
As CAMERA earlier explained:

The black X marks the approximate location of the new neighborhood near Ma’aleh Adumim. To the west of the X is Jerusalem. The red line surrounding the X is the planned route of the security barrier, which will encircle Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.

Those who charge that Israeli building in Ma’aleh Adumim severs north-south contiguity disregard the fact that Palestinian-controlled areas would be connected by land east of Ma’aleh Adumim (marked on the map) that is at its narrowest point ~15 km wide.

Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor.

Ironically, many of those who argue for greater contiguity between Palestinian areas, at the same time promote Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 boundaries, which (even with minor modifications) would confine Israel to a far less contiguous territory than that of the West Bank. As shown on the map above, there is a roughly 15 km wide strip of land separating the Green Line (and the Security Fence) from the Mediterranean Sea (near Herzliya). Also shown is the circuitous route necessary to travel via this corridor between northern and southern Israel. (e.g. from Arad to Beit Shean.)

Nor is it true that the construction would cut off Palestinian areas from Jerusalem. Access to Jerusalem through Abu Dis, Eizariya, Hizma and Anata is not prevented by the proposed neighborhood, nor would it be precluded by a string of neighborhoods connecting Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem.

Israel Frequent Subject At Democratic National Convention

The New York Times has developed a wonderful tool to see how often any given word was used at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

There was a bit of excitement at the DNC as Democrats were criticized for removing any mention of Israel from their platform (Republicans had removed all but one mention of Israel from their platform.) Democrats were quick to amend the platform and restore the language regarding Israel.

However, I still wondered how central Israel was to the Democrats and the Republicans at the National Conventions, so I used the New York Times’ “At the National Conventions, the Words They Used” tool:

It turns out that Democrats mentioned Israel over four times as often as did Republicans.

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, Democrats mentioned Israel 68 times per 250,000 words.

Former US Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) led the pack along with discussion of Israel by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, Republicans mentioned Israel 15 times per 250,000 words.

Israel was mentioned by Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Congressional candidate Mark Meadows (R-TX).

Examples from all eight speakers follow the jump.
Robert Wexler (D-FL), Former U.S. representative

Four years ago, I stood at the convention podium in Denver affirming Barack Obama’s heartfelt, steadfast commitment to the state of Israel.

Over the past four years, the president has proven this commitment time and again, in both word and deed. And the Democratic platform reflects the president’s unflinching commitment to Israel’s security and future as a Jewish state.

To strengthen Israel’s qualitative military advantage, the president has increased security assistance to Israel to record levels — more than any other president.

When he visited Sderot in 2008 — an Israeli town along the Gaza border besieged by constant rocket attacks, President Obama saw for himself the toll terrorism takes on Israelis. And that’s why he secured the funds to deploy the iron dome anti-rocket defense system which has already saved countless Israeli lives.

And under President Obama, the U.S. and Israel are firmly committed to stopping one of the gravest threats to international security: Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. The president has explicitly stated that an Iranian nuclear weapon is “unacceptable” And that He will mobilize all instruments of U.S. power- economic, diplomatic, Intelligence, And military — to prevent, not contain, a nuclear Iran.

Due to the president’s strong leadership, Iran is more isolated than ever. He has marshaled the international community to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. Iran’s oil exports have plummeted and its currency value has been slashed in half.

Not only has he stoodup to Iran, President Obama Also has bravely Stood up for Israel In the international community.

  • When the anti-Israel Goldstone report was released, questioning Israel’s right to self-defense, President Obama challenged it.
  • When the U.N. held the Israel-bashing Durban conference, President ObamaLed an international boycott of it.
  • When a violent Egyptian mob stormed the Israeli embassy In Cairo, it was President Obama Whointervened to ensure the safety Of the Israelis Trapped inside.
  • In the wake Of the Gaza flotilla, President Obama’s support for Israel never waned.

Now, the president’s opponents have been busy distorting his record.

Last week, Mitt Romney claimed that the president has thrown Israel “under the bus.”

Perhaps Mr. Romney should listen to those who know best — Israel’s leaders.

  • Listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has thanked president Obama For “unprecedented” security cooperation and for wearing His support For the Jewish state as a “badge of honor.”
  • Listen to Defense minister Ehud Barak Who has repeatedly declared that president Obama Has done more for Israeli security than any U.S. president He can remember.
  • And listen to Israel’s beloved president, Shimon Peres, Who recently said, “Mr. President, You have pledged a lasting friendship For Israel. You stated that Israel’s security is ‘sacrosanct’ for you. So you pledged. So you act. So you’re acting. As a great leader, as a genuine friend.”

Now is the time to continue the strong us-Israel relationship.

Now is the time to stand with Israel As it works toward peace and security… Toward two states, a secure Israel Living side by side with an independent, Non-militarized Palestinian state.

Now is the time to support Israel As a thriving, Democratic, and secure homeland for the Jewish people by re-electing Barack Obama As president of the United States.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

Barack Obama promised always to stand with Israel, to tighten sanctions on Iran and take nothing off the table.

And when it comes to Israel, my friends, I’ll take the word of Israel’s prime minister over Mitt Romney any day.

Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)

When it comes to one of our closest allies, Israel, President Obama has been resolute. (Cheers, applause.) The two biggest threats to Israel are the threat of nuclear weapons from Iran and the launching of Hezbollah rockets from Lebanon.

The president has imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Iran, and provided record amounts of security to aid Israel.

President Barack Obama (D-IL)

Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)

President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus – (boos) – even has he as relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (R-CA)

They know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us. From Israel to Colombia, from Poland to the Philippines, our allies and friends have to know that we will be reliable and consistent and determined.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

We can’t afford to cause our friends and allies, from Latin America, to Europe, to Asia, to the Middle East and especially in Israel, a nation under existential threat, to doubt America’s leadership.

Congressional Candidate Mark Meadows (R-NC)

We need a White House that will unflinchingly support our strongest ally, Israel. (Cheers, applause.) We need a president who believes in America.

AFP, When the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty?

While some are raising concerns about the future of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty now that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate has won Egypt’s presidential race, AFP has a different issue with the historic bilateral agreement. Today AFP refers to “1980, the year after Cairo signed its peace agreement with Tel Aviv.” (Emphasis added.)

AFP would hardly be the first to relocate Israel’s capital from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, but the misinformation is all the more jarring in light of then-President Anwar Sadat’s unprecedented trip to Jerusalem in 1978, paving the way to the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement.

Perhaps AFP would do well to review its own archives from that time, including this AFP photograph of Sadat addressing the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in the capital city, Jerusalem:

AFP’s own caption reads:

Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (L) addresses the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem 20 November 1977 during his historic visit to Israel, as Israeli Premier Yitzhak Begin (C) listens to him. Thirty years ago, the Egyptian leader became the first Arab leader to visit the Jewish state. AFP PHOTO/FILES

Anwar Sadat’s obituary in the New York Times states:

Eleven days before Mr. Sadat made his trip to Jerusalem, he said in Cairo that he was willing to go to ”the ends of the earth,” and even to the Israeli Parliament, in the cause of peace. The Israeli Government made known that he was welcome in Jerusalem, and after complex negotiations he flew there, although a state of war still existed between the two nations.

His eyes were moist and his lips taut with suppressed emotion as he arrived, but his Arabic was firm and resonant when, hours later, he told the hushed Israeli Parliament, ”If you want to live with us in this part of the world, in sincerity I tell you that we welcome you among us with all security and safety.

In 1978, the leader of the Egyptian nation, which at the time was in a state of war with Israel, could bring himself to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but in 2012, AFP cannot?

Reprinted from CAMERA

Jewish Organizations Push To Protect Women

— by Max Samis

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act — which has been passed and reauthorized with bipartisan support several times since it’s inception in 1994 — prominent Democrats marked April 17 as “Equal Pay Day,” recognizing the importance of continuing to fight for gender equality in the workplace. Several leading Democrats issued statements and penned op-eds in order to raise awareness of the issue, as well as the larger fight for women’s rights.

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

President Obama and Democrats understand that equal pay is so important for women and their families that one of the first pieces of legislation Democrats passed in 2009 and the first bill the President signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensures that women can fight for equal pay for equal work, and on National Equal Pay Day we celebrate our continued fight for economic equality, regardless of gender.

The President’s commitment to women is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and the GOP’s attitude toward equal pay for women. While Democrats and the President were making equal pay for equal work a priority, nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Mitt Romney has called a ‘hero,’ recently repealed that state’s fair pay law; and Mitt Romney refuses to say if he would have signed Lilly Ledbetter had he been president at the time. His campaign on a conference call last week couldn’t even articulate a response when asked his position on the law….

On Equal Pay Day women can rest assured that Democrats and President Obama will continue the fight for equal pay for equal work and will fight for their right to make health care choices for themselves and their families. It’s a shame that Mitt Romney and Republicans can’t say the same thing.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — the first female speaker in American history — also said:

I’m proud of the accomplishments of the Democratic-led Congress on behalf of equal pay and fairness. The Lilly Ledbetter Act-the first bill President Obama signed into law-restored the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay in court. Further, under the Affordable Care Act, soon women will no longer be charged higher premiums than men for the same coverage and no longer will being a woman be treated as a pre-existing condition.  

On Equal Pay Day, we honor all of our nation’s women, who through their labor – at home and in the workplace – have made our country strong. And we recommit to opening the doors of opportunity for the next generation of women.

Graph of pay gap by profession, a map of pay gap by state, and op/eds by Senators Gillibrand and Boxer follow the jump.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post, discussing the importance of pay equity not just to women, but to the national economy as a whole. Gillibrand wrote:

…[T]he issue of pay equity is not merely one of fairness. Equal pay for equal work is vital for our economic growth and middle class financial security. With more and more women contributing to household incomes, the lack of equal pay for women hurts all middle class working families-men and children included. In New York alone, women head more than 1,000,000 households. It’s estimated that because of the wage gap, New York families are deprived of $8600 a year. Nationwide, it’s been estimated that if women were paid a dollar on the dollar for equal work, the U.S. GDP could grow up to 9 percent.

Gillibrand also discussed pay equity in regards to women’s health. She wrote:

In addition to being an economic security issue, the failure to pay women a salary that’s equal to men for equal work is also a women’s health issue. The fact is that the salary women are paid directly impacts the type of health care services they are able to access for both themselves and their families. For example, if we closed the wage gap, a working woman in New York would be able to afford more than 2 years worth of additional family health insurance premiums. At a time when women’s health services are increasingly vulnerable to budget cuts, it’s more important than ever that women have financial security to maintain access to basic care for them and their families.

In Politico, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an op-ed asserting that contrary to what Republicans may have you believe, the “war on women” is very real:

Suppose it’s the championship basketball game and one player is committing foul after foul. Each time, he denies he’s committed any offense.

Eventually, he fouls out. But even as he heads to the bench, he’s protesting that he did nothing wrong.

That’s what we’re seeing today from Republicans who claim there is no ‘war on women.’ The Republican National Committee chairman likened it to a ‘war on caterpillars.’ The Senate Republican leader claims it’s all manufactured – even as female members of his caucus warn about the growing backlash against the GOP from women.

House Republicans have introduced more than 30 bills that would restrict a woman’s reproductive health care. Those same Republicans, who decry an all-too-powerful government, have no problem deciding what health care is right for our daughters, or sisters or mothers….

Here in Congress, 116 Republicans in the House and 19 Republicans in the Senate are co-sponsors of ‘personhood’ legislation, which would criminalize abortion with no exceptions for the mother’s life or health. … It could even bar doctors from providing life-saving care to women with dangerous ectopic pregnancies.

It doesn’t end there. Republicans in Congress blocked an international treaty – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – even though the only other nations refusing to ratify it are Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga.

They also oppose increasing the minimum wage – when women make up about two-thirds of all workers now earning minimum wage or less. Not one Republican is a cosponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which helps protect women from domestic violence, when the bill was in the Senate Judiciary Committee. They voted to repeal the health care law – including the part that says no more gender discrimination in the pricing of health insurance policies and the part that offers free preventive services like mammograms, STD screening, well-woman visits and birth control.

The facts are the facts. The Republicans have launched a war on women. Despite all the denials, women get it – and so do the men who care about them.

In addition to the fight for pay equality, Democrats have pushed for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Led by Vice President Joe Biden – who originally wrote and sponsored the bill as a Senator from Delaware in 1994 – a group of lawmakers and private citizens spoke today about the importance of passing the bill with bipartisan support. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown wrote:

‘The idea we’re still fighting about this in Congress, that this is even a debatable issue, is truly sad,’ Biden said during remarks at the Eisenhower Office Building. ‘It’s not a reflection on the law. It is a reflection on our inability in this town to deal with something that by now should just be over in terms of debate about it.’

‘No one should question whether this is needed,’ Biden said at the end of his remarks. ‘It would have been bad if the law had never been passed. But imagine now, the message it sends if it is not reauthorized. Just ask what message it would send to every one of our daughters, every woman imprisoned in their home.’

Several prominent Jewish organizations have also spoken out in favor of VAWA’s reauthorization. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Hadassah have all urged their supporters to contact their local Congressional delegations and urge that they vote to pass the reauthorization of VAWA immediately. This is too important to wait.

  • Click here to read Senator Gillibrand’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read Senator Boxer’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read about how President Barack Obama’s actions have reflected Jewish values, including his accomplishments on women’s rights.

US Gender Pay Gap By State

Celebrate Passover with Recipes from the White House!

— by Max Samis

In preparation for the upcoming Passover holiday, President Barack Obama invited members of the Jewish community to the White House for a special cooking demonstration and discussion. Sponsored by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the National Endowment for the Humanities, White House chef Bill Yosses worked with Jewish chef Joan Nathan to demonstrate how to make, among other dishes, apple and pear charoset and matzo chremsel.

Haaretz writer Vered Guttman was one of the guests invited to the event. Guttman wrote:

Before the seder each year, guests are asked to send Bill and White House executive chef Cris Comerford their own family’s Passover recipes. The chefs then design a menu for the seder and prepare the dishes according to the guests’ recipes.

In previous years they served the classics: haroset and brisket. When we met Wednesday. Bill said they were still working on this year’s menu. He did know, however, which desserts would be served: A flourless chocolate cake (which he promises will be on the White House website before the holiday) and a delicious sounding apricot roll cake, that he was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Bill gets extra points for a dessert that is not only fabulous, but also inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. Does the president eat Jewish or Israeli food during the year? I asked.

‘The president LOVES Israeli couscous!’ Bill didn’t have to think much before he answered. Since Israeli couscous is one of the most popular foods imported from Israel, it is often the target of boycott threats by anti-Israeli groups.

More after the jump.


Joan Nathan and Bill Yosses preparing haroset together at the White House. Photo by Vered Guttman

In addition to the President’s love of Israeli couscous, Guttman spoke with Yosses about other Israeli foods used in the White House. Guttman wrote:

Obama keeps a very open mind about food and likes to try new dishes, Bill told me. He added that the Israeli produce imported to the U.S. is known at the White House kitchen to be of highest quality and the chefs like to use Israeli vegetables and fruit. He could not tell me where they get their produce, as the White House chefs are instructed not to reveal their suppliers for security reasons.

As Joan began her demonstration, she told us that the Passover seder is the holiday most-observed by American Jews. Joan herself will host 44 guests at her house in Washington next week. ‘Nowhere in the world, except for Israel and the U.S., do Jews feel that comfortable,’ Joan said as she started her cooking demonstration.

It has been a tradition since the 2008 presidential campaign for the Obama family to host a private seder for their Jewish staffers. In a 2010 article in the New York Times, Jodi Kantor wrote about the seder’s roots in Pennsylvania and how it has grown. Kantor wrote:

One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. ‘Hey, is this the Seder?’ Barack Obama  asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

As the White House seder grows in scope and tradition, American Jews can be proud that the President of the United States will once again be observing Passover in the White House.

What Do Romney And The New York Times Have In Common?

They both take liberties with their “quotes.”

President Obama’s AIPAC speech last week was well received on both sides of aisle, but perhaps the New York Times found it message standing up to the Iranian nuclear program a little too clear, and sought to muddy the waters. Helen Cooper wrote

CAMERA: Mr. Obama, who has often lamented the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, made reference to European and American intelligence assessments that have found no evidence that Iran has decided to pursue a nuclear weapon.

A March 6 page-one story by Mark Landler in the International Herald Tribune made the same claim (in virtually the same words). And, yet, you can watch or read the speech until Ahmadinejad is a Zionist and still you will not find a single reference to European or American intelligence assessments that have found no evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.

Similarly, Gov. Mitt Romney has earned a reputation for playing fast and lose with his “quotes” when the actual source does not quite fit his narrative.

The Romney campaigns very first television  ad earned a Pants on Fire rating from Polifact. According to Think Progress, Romney

Romney Campaign TV Ad

Thinkprogress Parody Ad

dishonestly presents a 2008 McCain campaign quote as the words of President Obama. The ad features a voice-over of Obama saying “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” Then-candidate Obama indeed said those words, perhaps dozens of times during the closing month of the 2008 campaign. The only problem? Obama was actually quoting the words of a strategist from Sen. John McCain’s campaign.

Another eyebrow-raising moment in the ad comes when it attacks “record foreclosures,” despite the fact that Romney’s stated housing policy is “don’t try and stop the foreclosure process.”

Politico reports that the Romney campaign is asserting that its ad was intentionally deceptive and dishonest. “We used that quote intentionally,” Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstorm said.

ThinkProgress has produced a parody ad, using Romney’s own standards for accuracy.

Here is the actual October 2008 Obama quote in context. The portion used by Romney is in bold:

Even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you are worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your homes, my opponent’s campaign announced earlier this month that they want to ‘turn the page’ on the discussion about our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead. Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.'”

Well, New Hampshire, last night we had a debate. I think you saw a bit of the McCain attack strategy in action. But here’s what Senator McCain doesn’t seem to understand. With the economy in turmoil and the American Dream at risk, the American people don’t want to hear politicians attack each other – you want to hear about how we’re going to attack the challenges facing middle class families each and every day. You want to hear about the issues that matter in your lives. You want to hear about how we’re going to bring about the change that we desperately need for our country. That’s what the American people want to hear.

Even when Romney is being endorsed by newspapers, he is very selective in editing the endorsement to remove any sign of hesitation by the newspaper emailing that endorsement to the voters. According to Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker, the Romney campaign “has no better friend than the ellipsis”.

Examples of some of the fine redaction by the eager staff at the Romney Campaign follow the jump.

  1. “Mr. Romney may not be the debater that Mr. Gingrich is (although he’s getting better). And he doesn’t have the same social conservative credentials as Mr. Santorum.”
    Savannah Morning News, March 1, 2012
  2. “He is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, attending the prestigious Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills before receiving his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in 1971. He also is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, both in 1975. Following his graduations he worked for Bain & Co. before starting the highly successful Bain Capital, a venture capital and investment firm, in 1984.”
    Midland Daily News, Michigan, February 26, 2012
  3. “Perhaps that is why he sometimes appears so awkward in public, especially when talking about himself and, in particular, his personal wealth.”
    Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 3, 2012
  4. “Yes, out-of-context declarations like ‘I enjoy firing people’ and ‘I don’t care about the poor’ contribute to the caricature of a rich swell, akin to that of Donald Trump. Really? Where are the trophy wives? The ostentatious lifestyle? The garish displays of life among the rich and famous? You will have to look hard.”
    Arizona Republic, February 24, 2012
  5. “We have our issues with Romney, to be sure. His opposition to the Dream Act for illegal-immigrant children raised in the U.S. is not one we support. And his effort to position himself as the ‘toughest’ GOP candidate on immigration issues is a concern.”
    Arizona Republic, February 24, 2012
  6. “In fact, this newspaper does not embrace many of his ideas on taxation, which give too great a reward to the wealthy and not enough help for the poor and middle class.”
    -Times Daily of Florence, Alabama, March 9, 2012
  7. “His stance against government interaction to revive the domestic automobile industry is disappointing. Also disappointing are inconsistencies in his message…”
    Grand Rapids Press, February 22, 2012
  8. “Consistency is certainly a problem for Romney. The one-time moderate has adjusted his positions on so many issues-including abortion and gay rights-that his core beliefs are a mystery. In this campaign, he has tried so hard to prove his conservative bona fides that he has undercut one of his greatest selling points: the pragmatism that enabled him to get things done as a Republican governor in one of the nation’s most Democratic and liberal states.”
    Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 3, 2012
  9. “That has been just one example of some of the shape-shifting Romney has done to appeal to conservative primary voters who believe he is too moderate. So, it’s not unfair to wonder who the real Romney is.”
    Birmingham News, March 7, 2012

Romney and Paul? That’s The Ticket

— by David Streeter

Over the last few months, The New York Times and The Washington Post have reported on the “strategic partnership” between Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). This week, The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Slate’s Dave Weigel both noted that the Paul campaign’s latest negative ad is directed at Romney’s main rival-former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)-despite the claims in the ad applying to both Santorum and Romney. Many have speculated that Romney has been courting Paul in order to ensure a unified Republican Party if he receives the nomination. Stein also noted regarding the Romney-Paul relationship:


Mitt Romney gave his big economic policy statement today at Ford Field Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. However, Romney doesn’t draw the kind of crowds that Ron Paul does. However, Romney calculates that his delegates along with Paul’s will be enough to capture the Republican nomination, August in Tampa.

The Texas Republican has refused to attack Romney during televised debates. He’s also devoted a considerable portion of his vast campaign resources to television ads that undermine Romney’s opponent of the week, from Rick Perry, to Newt Gingrich, to his latest foe, Rick Santorum.

Paul and Romney are reportedly friends, but that seemed like only half the story. The most logical explanation for the alliance was that Romney had promised Paul some sort of future role, either at the GOP convention or even in his administration. Some also speculated that Romney might have plans for Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

More after the jump.
Lately though, there has been speculation that Romney could select Paul to be his running mate. The Daily Mail’s Toby Harnden wrote after last night’s debate:

After tonight’s debate, in which Ron Paul and Mitt Romney repeatedly attacked Rick Santorum over his 16-year record in Congress, the former US Senator for Pennsylvania hinted that something nefarious was going on.

‘You have to ask Congressman Paul and Governor Romney what they’ve got going together,’ Santorum told reporters in the spin room in Mesa, Arizona. ‘Their commercials look a lot alike and so do their attacks.’

Santorum’s top strategist John Brabender went even further, charging that the two men had ‘joined forces’ and were coordinating attacks against his man.

‘Clearly there’s a tag team strategy between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. For all I know, Mitt Romney might be considering Ron Paul as his running mate. Clearly there is now an alliance between those two and you saw that certainly in the debate.’

There has also been speculation that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) — Paul’s son who shares many of his father’s same anti-Israel views — could be a potential vice presidential candidate. According to WFPL:

Senator Rand Paul first discussed his higher aspirations at the beginning of this year. He said he wouldn’t close the door on being a Vice Presidential candidate. After a speech in Louisville today, Paul held that door firmly open, saying he wants to be part of the national debate.

Paul’s name has swirled as a possible pick that would give Romney points with the Tea Party.

When asked directly what he would say if Romney made the offer, Paul tried to punt.

‘I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I can say it would be an honor to be considered,’ he said.

The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis wrote:

Of course, this could be much ado about nothing – just a politician answering a question. On the other hand, it is sure to spark more speculation that some sort of deal may be in the works between the Romney and Paul camps. It’s not as if Ron Paul’s campaign hasn’t stoked speculation. As the Dallas Morning News reported, Paul’s national campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, recently said: ‘Any Republican should have Rand Paul on his short list.’

On the surface, tapping Paul as veep might not make sense. But conservatives are refusing to go along and eat the dog food with Romney – and adding Rand Paul to the ticket would fire conservatives up – and ensure that Ron Paul drops any plans to launch a 3rd party challenge.

And just imagine if Romney arrives at the GOP convention needing some of Paul’s delegates to win the nomination?

It’s not an absurd idea.

The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh observed that the elder Paul-by being quiescent and cooperating with Romney and the mainstream of the GOP-could be paving the way for a future presidential run by his son:

There is only one politician whom Paul regularly praises in his speeches-a man he coyly refers to as a ‘senator from Kentucky.’ If Paul sees a future for himself in the Republican Party, it is through his son Rand, who might have an easier time than his father in attracting traditional conservatives to his cause. (During his campaign for the Senate, for example, Rand Paul declined to rule out using force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.) Unlike most politicians on the verge of retirement, Paul can’t accurately claim that he has nothing to lose by breaking with the party that has been his home for all but one of his years in politics. Hope for his son’s prospects-and a disinclination to put him in an awkward position-might be enough to keep Paul from ending his political career with another third-party campaign. If he split the vote, indirectly helping to reĆ«lect [sic] Obama, it might be a long time before Republicans were willing to get behind anyone named Paul.

More information on why Ron Paul matters is available here.