Senator Barbara Boxer Speaking in Philadelphia

Barbara Boxer (r) and Bonnie Squires (l).

Bonnie Squires (L) and Barbara Boxer (R).

Sen. Barbara Boxer visited public media station WHYY in Philadelphia to launch her latest book, “The Art of Tough,” a memoir of her decades of service in both Congress and the Senate. For the first time since 1976, she may not be running for election, but she doesn’t plan on going away. She represented California in Congress from 1983 to 1992. Then in ’92, she entered the U.S. Senate. Next on her agenda as a private citizen is to create a political action committee (PAC).

Sen. Boxer announced that she will be a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Then she launched into a spirited defense of Hillary Clinton, saying, “Hillary is authentic, the smartest person in the room. She’s shy. But she is just herself, ever since she was in college.” While she had a few choice words about Donald Trump, she repeatedly described Hillary as “authentic.” [Read more…]

PJVoice is Going to the Democratic National Convention

dnc2016We’re pleased to announce that PJVoice has been credentialed to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 24 – 28, 2016. We plan to post both here on our website and via our twitter feed (@PJVoice). We will be sharing our experiences, showing pictures of people we meet, covering events and making you feel as if you’re there.

Most people only know the part of political conventions that are shown on the television in the evening, but there is much more! Business of the party is handled at business meetings and caucus meetings throughout the day. Events are planned by NGOs, businesses and other organizations. After the day’s events, there are after-parties, concerts and receptions. In addition, there are multiple public events relating to politics, history and just plain fun.  [Read more…]

Boycott Divestment Summer Camp

— by Alana Goodman

Reprinted with permission from The Washington Free Beacon

Anti-Israel college students will trek to a scenic campsite in upstate New York this summer to learn how to launch campus boycotts against the Jewish state at a program subsidized and run by one of America’s largest Quaker faith groups.

The American Friends Service Committee “We Divest Campaign Student Leadership Team Summer Training Institute” describes itself as a “five (5) day intensive program for campus [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] organizers-those with campaigns already running and those hoping to get one launched in the 2013-2014 school year.”

More after the jump.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was officially launched by a network of pro-Palestinian groups in 2005 and seeks to use economic and cultural boycotts to isolate Israel, force the government’s hand on Palestinian negotiations, and evoke comparisons between the Jewish state and South Africa’s Apartheid regime.

Students attending the AFSC’s Summer Training Institute, which is also sponsored by the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace, will participate in “anti-oppression analysis workshops,” “non-violent direct action planning,” and “strategy sessions with BDS movement leaders,” according to the AFSC website.

The program runs from July 28 to Aug. 1 and promises “fun in a summer camp-like environment!” The cost of room and board is subsidized by the AFSC and the JVP, according to the website.

An AFSC official said the number of attendees for this year is not yet finalized and said the 2013 program will focus on “call[ing] attention to what is happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories while supporting a just and lasting peace that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Pro-Israel groups have vehemently opposed the BDS movement, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center released a report that said the campaign was driven by anti-Jewish sentiment in March.

“It doesn’t help a single Palestinian. It doesn’t improve the quality of life for Palestinians. It is simply anti-Israel,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Abraham Cooper told the Washington Free Beacon. “Unfortunately, the community of the people associated with this particular church have embraced [the BDS campaign] completely, so much so that they are using up whatever moral capital they have to do training for an immoral, hypocritical, and anti-Semitic undertaking.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center report said the BDS program meets Natan Sharansky’s “three D’s” test for anti-Semitism: It follows “double-standards” by criticizing Israel while overlooking human rights abuses across the Arab world; “demonizes” Israel by comparing its actions to those of Apartheid regimes; and attempts to “delegitimize” the Jewish state by targeting its existence.

Cooper said students attend these events “thinking their actions are doing the equivalent of the folks that [participated in] the Montgomery Bus Boycott, or following the route of Martin Luther King Jr.-complete and utter nonsense.”

“What a shame, for young people, who are highly motivated that want to do something good in the world,” he added.

The AFSC’s Michael Merryman-Lotze, who helped organize the summer program, objected to the argument that the BDS campaign is anti-Semitic.

“We see nothing inherently anti-Semitic in the use of these proven nonviolent tactics nor in the BDS movement as a whole,” said Merryman-Lotze. “Are BDS opponents next going to argue that these same tactics were anti-White in the Jim Crow south and apartheid era South Africa?”

Merryman-Lotze also disputed claims from critics that the campaign has been ineffective.

“Why, if BDS is ineffective and largely a failure, have the Israeli government and groups like the ADL, the Wiesenthal Center, and AIPAC invested millions of dollars in developing campaigns to counter minimally funded grassroots BDS activism?” said Merryman-Lotze. “If our efforts are ineffective, why write a story about our planned training program? The answer is that BDS is effective and successful.”

While the BDS campaign has gained traction on college campuses and won support from some high-profile names such as Elvis Costello and Stephen Hawking, it has failed to have an impact on the Israeli economy or influence policy.

Israel’s tech industry in particular continues to boom, with Google purchasing Israeli company Waze for $1 billion on Tuesday.

“Culturally-just this week-two enormous, international sporting events were held in Israel,” one D.C. Jewish organization official told the Free Beacon. “Economically, the world’s largest tech companies are rushing to invest there. Politically, Israel stands out more than ever as the only stable Western ally left in the entire Middle East.”

The BDS movement’s failure to meet its objectives suggests that efforts to fund and support the campaign are aimed at opposing the Jewish state rather than achieving any legitimate policy goal, according to pro-Israel advocates.

According to the D.C. Jewish organization official.

“You’ve really got to ask yourself where boycott advocates keep getting the energy, given that efforts to economically and culturally isolate Israel have been an utter failure. Let’s pretend that boycotters succeed in getting everyone to stop buying Israeli hummus, which is something they actually think is important. If they keep that up for a few thousand years, it will almost offset this week’s billion-dollar acquisition of Waze by Google. No company in its right mind is ever going to boycott a country that’s been nicknamed ‘Start-Up Nation.'”

Discussion on Voter ID Laws in Pennsylvania

A panel discussion about voter ID laws in Pennsylvania took place at the Liberties Bar and Restaurant, in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties area. The discussion was sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of the Jewish labor Committee (JLC) in collaboration with the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

Referring to the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision suspending provisions of the voter ID law, Hornstein said, “We’re going to pivot the energy from making sure everyone has the proper ID, which is of course what the right-wing wanted us to be focused on, to actually getting out the vote.

More after the jump.
“The Jewish Labor Committee,” added Hornstein, “is really about building bridges between the Labor community and the Jewish community. Back in my grandmother’s day, Jews and Labor were synonymous. Nowadays, except for teachers and some classifications of work, Jews are now highly represented in the Labor movement, except on staffs. We feel it’s important, because the Jewish community is generally a progressive community, and generally in tune with what the Labor movement does, if they knew what was going on.”

Hornstein introduced the panel: Laura Wentz, Executive Vice-President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and member of IATSE Local 8; Elizabeth McElroy, Secretary-Treasurer of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO; State Senator Daylin Leach; and Anne Gemmell, Political Director of Fight for Philly.

Fighting the voter ID bills was, as Dalyin Leach put it, “in the last few months my full-time job…One of my most recent experiences was debating (House Republican Leader) Mike Turzai on Fox News.” Leach described Turzai as “just out of it, reading notes and talking to people off camera during the debate.”

Judge Robert Simpson, added Leach, “was not considering the constitutionality of voter ID, as was often misrepresented in the press. Judge Simpson was considering the preliminary injunction, (and) to grant a preliminary injunction, you are not required to find that a law in unconstitutional, all you have to find is that there is a reasonable likelihood (that there is) a strong case that it’s unconstitutional.” The State Supreme Court said, added Leach, that “in order for this law to survive for the 2012 election, the judge had (to hold) another hearing and find, as a factual matter, that everyone in Pennsylvania who wanted an ID could feasibly get an ID.”

Pointing out that many of the 71 offices of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) were only open one day a week, Leach said, “If you take the total number of PennDOT hours, and the total number of people that need these IDs, every PennDOT office would essentially have to give out a thousand IDs a day. If a thousand people showed up to a PennDOT office, 970 of them would be sent home.”

Of the claim that the voter ID bills were designed to eliminate voter fraud, Leach said, “Any remedy you craft has to be in response to an actual problem. In-person voter fraud is not an actual problem, in that it never happens…People tend not to commit extremely high-risk, no-reward crimes-that’s just human nature.” Leach also raised the danger of “fistfights as polls, as people who voted for fifty years showed up at the polls show up and the person who’s been signing them in for fifty years told them they couldn’t vote- that’s going to get very ugly. There’s going to be people challenging every single ID at certain polls, and that will create long lines and (they will) hope that people go away without voting.”

Ann Gemmell pointed out the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where “they sit around and create model legislation, and as soon as they get total control of a state house and senate, they start flying this legislation in, and it happened in Pennsylvania.’ Gemmell said that progressive have been “spending a lot of time and energy that could be spent on talking about Kathy Kane (running for Pennsylvania Attorney General) and registering voters.”

Liz McElroy reminded people that “Before 2006, no state had a law in their books for photo ID every time somebody voted. Today, now, at least thirty (states) do. That’s not an accident, if you think about what happened in those intervening six years in this country.” There are many people, said McElroy, “who think, what’s the big deal about voter ID? You need a (driver’s) license to but cigarettes, you need a license to buy beer, all these things you need ID to do. It’s not necessarily crazy right-wing people who are saying this, it’s our friends, neighbors, and union members.

“It’s a big deal because,” said McElroy, “it’s not my right to get on an airplane, (but) it’s my right to go into the voting booth and vote, so they’re very different things. It’s not my right to buy cigarettes or beer, but it’s my right to walk into a voting booth.” In the years from 2006, she added, “We’ve seen a relentless attack on workers, on teachers, on public employees- I’m not just talking union workers, (but on) all workers.” Companies, she said, want to “completely cut workers’ benefits and pay, and exploit them. You’ve got to work more hours for less money, (or) we’ll ship your job to China. That conversation has been around for a long time…The same people who are coming after us as workers, or as women (attacking) our reproductive rights, or as Gays and Lesbians, whatever category, they’re the same people who are going after our voting rights. It’s all tied together, and it’s really one of those issues that, truly, we’re all in it together.”  

Rabbi Ira Stone Describes AIPAC Conference

— by Rabbi Ira Stone

I begin with a belated beracha: “Shehechiyanu v’kimanu lazman hazeh,” giving thanks to God that I lived long enough to attend an AIPAC Policy Conference.

When in the long history of the Jewish people has it been possible for 13,000 Jews to gather together in peace, for our own purposes and to exercise our natural right as citizens to present our concerns to the representatives of our government?  2,000 years of Jewish lives would call this a miracle.  It is the miracle of America and we should not take it for granted.

Before I share any other highlights from the conference, let me describe one in particular that could equally justify my saying the beracha.  The opportunity to be in the same hall with Shimon Perez was unforgettable.  To stand and applaud a man who stood next to David Ben-Gurion in the founding of the State of Israel, to re-live imaginatively the transformations that he has lived and from Polish refugee, to Kibbutznik, to soldier in the War of Independence, to political leader, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, architect of peace even when it fails, committed to strength for the purpose of achieving peace — I felt like I was given the opportunity to listen to George Washington, but a George Washington whose rabbi grandfather, at the train station when he left Poland for Palestine, whispered in his ear: “Be Jewish.”  He never saw his grandfather again.  His grandfather was locked in his shtetl’s synagogue with the rest of his congregation and the synagogue was burned to the ground.  President Perez made it clear that “being Jewish,” articulating through his love and devotion to Israel those values that define what is means to be Jewish, has been his life’s work and is our life’s work.  Whether via an Israeli national identity or an American national identity, “being Jewish” is the transcendent theme of a Jewish life.

More after the jump.

Susan Rice on Israel

I will return in a moment to other highlights that occurred in the astonishing plenary sessions with 13,000 Jews listening to other historic talks.  However, most of the conference is not spent in plenary sessions, but in the more substantive break-out sessions.  The session I want to highlight this morning was a briefing by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.  We heard the details, and began to internalize the details of the day to day work that the Ambassador and her staff have to do — every single day — to combat the sheer multitude of anti-Israel rhetoric, resolutions and policy initiatives by a large segment of the UN membership and comprehended just how committed the United States is to daily standing by Israel.  But learning the depth of Ambassador Rice’s personal commitment to Israel was not only more moving, but more instructive.  She began her remarks by quoting in impeccable Hebrew, Hinei matov u’manayim shevet achim gam yachad — even pronouncing the chet appropriately.  She then described her first trip to Israel with her father when she was 14 years old.  This African American woman, though not Jewish, climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea and journeyed through Yad Vashem as a teenager, thus putting the lie to the knee-jerk Jewish assumption that we are always alone, that no one else “out there” gets it.  The basic assumption of AIPAC is precisely that there are many Americans that “get it” and with a little more effort by a lot more Jews that number could increase exponentially.  But the most incredible moment came when Ambassador Rice finished her talk.  As those gathered rose to applaud, 400 Rabbis of every denomination spontaneously began singing hinei mah tov u’manayim.  It was a spine-tingling, unforgettable moment.

Considerations about Iran

The primary function of AIPAC and the AIPAC Policy Conference is to work to make clear the shared values and shared vision of the United States and Israel and the strengthening of the alliance between the two countries on this basis and with a clear-eyed recognition of the fact that this alliance is the single most important factor in securing Israel’s survival.  Whatever critique one might ever have brought to these assertions in the past, their truth is obvious in this moment of history in the looming shadow of Iranian insanity.  Much of the focus of the conference was on Iran and the development of a joint U.S/Israeli strategy regarding Iran.  It was this theme that many of the plenary speakers spoke about including, of course, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Certainly just having the opportunity to hear the President and the Prime Minister, despite the security line hassles, has to also be included in any list of highlights.

I believe that it is imperative that we realize how essential the support of the United States for Israel is in whatever is coming in the situation with Iran.  It is assuring this support that AIPAC is all about.  Certainly it is clear that at the moment both the President and the Congress do sincerely support Israel, but that support is likely going to be put to the test.  President Obama is rightly using every non-military option at his disposal to precipitate a change in the policies of the Iranian leadership.  This is the wise thing for a responsible leader to do.  I applaud him, but I’m afraid that the policy will not work.  After all, if Adolph Hitler was willing to sacrifice almost certain victory in Europe by wasting a huge amount of resources to persecute Jews, it should be clear that reason will not be a factor in the Iranian’s policy.  Moreover, Iran has so much to gain in the long run through the acquisition of nuclear weapons — complete hegemony over the Middle East, complete control of the distribution of oil in the world — that the short term suffering that they will need to absorb will be worth it.  

If and when the President’s attempt to use non-military measures to solve the crisis fails, the impact on America will be significant.  Maintaining the support of the President and more importantly Congress when the American public begins to experience the consequence of Iranian intransigence will require constant effort.  All of us will have to become not only lobbyists of Congress, but lobbyists of our neighbors, our co-workers, even our own friends and family.  Second, it is imperative that starting now we help to change the nature of the discourse surrounding these issues.  Israel is not threatening nor refraining from a pre-emptive military action.  Israel is restraining itself at no little risk from a defensive response to an aggressor.  Israel has no border with Iran.  Whatever issues there are between Israel and her neighbors have nothing to do with Iran except that Iran has continually supplied military supplies to those terrorist groups that are on Israel’s borders, Hezbollah and Hamas. It has continually supplied money and material to a world-wide network of terrorists who have carried out attacks against Israel, against Jews in other countries and against the United States.  Coupled with these real and recognized acts of war, Iran has consistently repeated its chief foreign policy goal: the annihilation of the Jewish State.  In the face of these undeniable acts of war, Israel has and continues to show unprecedented restraint.  When Israel determines that its survival will no longer allow such restraint it will act and when it does it will not be launching an attack but finally defending itself from attack.

When, God forbid, this happens, there will be consequences for all of us.  I hope you can tell from my remarks today that this was an almost unprecedented experience.  In the words of so many of the speakers at the conference: “God bless the Jewish people and the State of Israel and God bless the United States of America.”

Ira Stone received his education at Queens College, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained a Rabbi in 1979.

He has served congregations in Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he has been the spiritual leader at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel since 1988. You can read some of his sermons on mussar.

The Case for Intolerance

— by Barry Bub

Though I’ve lived in the USA for almost 40 years, my blunt South African roots sometimes show. Take for example some recent dinner party prattle.

“What do you do?” I asked her.

“I work for an agency that promotes tolerance” she replied.

“Is tolerance really such a good thing?” I blurted. “For example, do you love your husband or do you tolerate him?”

She walked away.

Tolerance has its limits. Nor, for that matter, did I ever receive an answer.

But of course, there is something worse than tolerance, and that’s intolerance. I was reminded of this by the allegation that the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney when a teenager, led lead a group that attacked an effeminate boy brutally cutting off his bleached blond hair. Romney has offered no denial but claims he cannot recall the incident.

More after the jump.
At Shabbat dinner that week the conversation slipped from talk of mitzvoth and joyful embrace of the Sabbath to politics and Mitt Romney.

“Obviously he cannot be held accountable for his actions as an eighteen year old. It was just a prank”, said our neighbor. Heads nodded in agreement. Our friend was not to know that he was dangling bait before a hungry South African mackerel. I bit down hard.

“Think of all the eighteen-year olds sent to war. The ‘old man’ on a WWII bomber flying over Germany might have been all of twenty-two. Plenty of accountability then, no?”

I was just warming up.

“After this so-called teenage prank, some of the perpetrators claimed to have felt great remorse. Romney, with his entire adult life to reflect and repent, instead simply forgot the incident. That is, if you believe his statement — which I don’t. Speaks volumes of his character, no?”

How easily do we tolerate those who relish intolerance.

Since then Romney has gone on to pledge his opposition to same-sex marriage. North Carolina has banned it. Immigration reform is dead. Health care reform awaits the axe in the Supreme Court. Minorities are being disenfranchised in Florida. Women once again stand to have their reproductive rights controlled by men and the Catholic Church. Most of our Jewish friends are in anguish at this state of affairs, but others are content to support the party and candidates that they believe “is good for Israel.”

Somewhere in New Jersey is a young man waiting sentencing for his actions as an eighteen-year old. He crime was that he recorded his roommate kissing another boy and then circulated the tape on the Internet. Disastrously, his actions led the roommate to commit suicide. At time of this writing this now twenty-year old faces a lengthy prison sentence and possible deportation.

My earlier statement needs modification.

How easily do we tolerate those who relish intolerance, hypocrisy and injustice.

But the news is not all negative. President Obama has been ‘outed’, perhaps by Vice President Biden’s expression of frank support for same-sex marriage. His position has evolved, he says. He has moved from tolerance to understanding to support. Now, with no small risk to his re-election he has stood up and expressed his support for same-sex marriage.

Tolerance is sometimes necessary as a holding state but if we are to enjoy freedom as citizens of this country, sooner or later each one of us must make the decision to jump off the fence. On the one hand — to learn, understand and support difference when it is healthy. On the other — to be absolutely intolerant to those that practice and preach intolerance — even if they proclaim their ‘support’ for Israel.

The Bible is clear on this. Justice, justice shall you pursue.