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.”

Congressmen Affirm Israel’s Right to Self-Defense

— by Sari Weintraub

Jewish Democratic members of Congress today addressed the rocket attacks on Israel, affirming their support for Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) tweeted:

“Israel has right & responsibility to defend itself from Hamas attacks. Must be no doubt such terrorism will never be tolerated.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) tweeted:

“Terrorists have fired 250 rockets at Israelis civilians in 24 hours. Heading to House floor to stand for Israel’s right to defend herself.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted:

“I strongly condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israel. This is not the route to peace & security for anyone.”

He also released a statement:

I condemn in the strongest terms the current aggression by Hamas against the civilian population in southern Israel.  These attacks are entirely without justification and amount to murderous provocations by a terrorist regime which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and which refuses to work toward a peaceful coexistence for both sides.  Israel has every right to defend its borders, to repel such attacks, and to target those responsible.  I applaud President Obama for his leadership and strong condemnation of these attacks.  And I am gratified to see that the Iron Dome missile defense system has worked so well to prevent further bloodshed and destruction in Israel.

In his statement on the floor of the House, Rep. Deutch said,

Imagine 250 rockets raining down in one day on your community… We would expect our government to act to protect our citizens. Israel is acting to protect her citizens; Israel has the right to protect her citizens from terrorist attacks… The United States mourns the loss of life at the hands of Hamas terrorists. We will not waver in our support of Israel’s right to defend herself against these and other attacks… At this challenging time for our great ally, the United States stands with Israel.

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) tweeted:

“With our deepest concern and strongest support, the U.S. stands firm with our ally Israel.”

She released a statement as well:

With our deepest concern and strongest support, the United States stands firm with our ally Israel, currently under fire from an onslaught of Hamas rockets.  I reject Hamas’s relentless violence, and commend President Obama’s unwavering commitment to our ally, including his fundamental support for the Iron Dome missile defense system. As the days unfold, we remain united in our support of Israel’s sovereign right to self-defense and ever hopeful for a return to calm and peace. My thoughts and prayers remain with the people of Israel in these uncertain times.

Desperate Lies From So-Called “Emergency Committee for Israel”

— Sari Weintraub

Earlier this week, the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) released a robocall featuring a “debate” that never occurred between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In reality, it was a mash-up of speeches and phrases from different times during the last three years.

ECI’s robocall was quickly debunked by JTA’s Ron Kampeas, and then it received “Four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post — in addition to a scathing review from Tablet.

We at NJDC thought that it would be fun to follow ECI’s absurd lead and create our own recording featuring ECI Board member Bill Kristol, but using an extended excerpt from a recent speech noting how he really feels about the President’s policies. Click here or on the audio player below to listen. Note: unlike ECI, we’re not subjecting unsuspecting Jewish households to this recording while they’re trying to eat dinner. And unlike ECI’s recording, Kristol said these things during the same speech. Go figure.    

Details after the jump
This week, The Washington Post fact-checked a robocall message sponsored by the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel and rated it “Four Pinocchios” for its blatantly misleading messaging. The content of the call is portrayed as a “debate” between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, using snippets of dialogue from several different speeches over the last three years. The result was a call which the Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler called “one of the most ridiculous attacks” of this campaign:

In sum, the Emergency Committee has twisted the meaning of Obama’s and Netanyahu’s words. An Obama statement condemning Iran’s government is rendered into weak-kneed ‘respect’ for Iran, while a Netanyahu expression of U.S.-Israel solidarity on Iran is turned into a point of disagreement…

There is no excuse for such an Orwellian descent into falsehoods and misrepresentation.

Ron Kampeas at JTA first noted the deceiving robocall, saying that “the deceptions in this one are a little stunning,” and Tablet’s Adam Chandler agreed, calling ECI’s latest attempt to smear the President on Israel “sad” (emphasis added):

The first deception came when with the robocall’s ID, which led callers to think they were being personally phoned by ECI Founder Bill Kristol — the veritable dream scenario for maybe 14% of American Jews. But when callers actually answered there were treated to recordings of a fake ‘debate’ that never actually took place between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, using spliced quotes and half-uttered sentences…

The desired effect is to create hysteria among voters who may not exactly know what’s going on and mislead them into thinking that President Obama’s positions are not what nearly four years of his policy have reflected. The result is kind of sad.

It’s this season for cheap and dirty politics, yes, but this is actually a metaphor for what’s wrong with the conversation happening about Israel in American politics right now. It is a triumph that the issues surrounding Israel’s strength and security enjoy such widespread support among American leaders. But with efforts like these robocalls in mind, the farther away that Americans are from understanding what’s really driving the discourse on crucial issues like Jerusalem and Iran’s nuclear program, the greater the difficulty there will be in forging the necessary bipartisan support required to honestly confront these issues in the future, no matter who wins on Tuesday…

But rather than make substantive points, the ECI seems to prefer to act as if Americans are stupid. It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that provoking this hysteria hurts Israel in the long run.

The Big Yiddish Dance Party!

On November 18 at 7:00 pm, Dan Blacksberg will present “The Big Yiddish Dance Party” at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia. This party aims to bring klezmer music to Philadelphia the way it is meant to be experienced, with live music and dance leading by some of the best and brightest performers active today. In addition to the evening dance party, the day will include two workshops, one led by master dance leader Steve Weintraub exploring different styles of Yiddish dance, the other, led by Dan Blacksberg and clarinetist Michael Winograd, will be on the nuances of klezmer style for advances instrumentalists. The dance party will be a free event, while the workshops will have a suggested donation of $5-10. Dan Blacksberg has partnered with the Rotunda and the Philadelphia Folklore Project for this party.

Please visit their website for more details and sign up on Facebook.  

Iran Economy on “Verge of Collapse”

Facing Domestic Unrest as Sanctions Bite

— Sari Weintraub

Less than a week after the Israeli foreign ministry’s report on the impact of sanctions, the economic situation in Iran has tanked even further, according to many reports; Iran’s economy is on the “verge of collapse” and the state is now faced with domestic unrest.

On Sunday, Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that the Iranian economy is close to collapse, primarily as a result of sanctions. In fact, the value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has dropped as much as 40% against the dollar in the last week, according to Reuters. The decline of the rial, said economists in the Washington Post, is the clearest indication that years of sanctions are taking a significant toll and have “deeply wounded” the Iranian economy.

Further, for the first time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conceded this week that the difficult economic situation his country faces is due to the U.S.-led sanctions, saying that “external elements” have worked to “pressure the people of Iran,” pointing to restrictions on both the oil and banking industries.

The struggling economy has sparked civil unrest, with Iranians taking to the streets in protest. The main bazaar in the capital city of Tehran was closed today, “reportedly in support of demonstrations, as protesters gathered to rally against government policies” in the streets of Iran, according to the Times of Israel. One gathering, outside the central bank in Tehran, was broken up by riot police as protesters were tear-gassed.

The fallout from the plummeting economy shows that U.S. sanctions are having their intended effect, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, who said Tuesday,

The Iranian people are aware of who is responsible for the circumstances that have befallen the Iranian economy as a result of the regime’s intransigence and refusal to abide by its international obligations.

David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, added today,

It is undeniable that the value of the rial is under pressure and will remain under pressure as long as the sanctions remain in place… And just to be clear about this, the sanctions will remain in place and will intensify so long as Iran refuses to engage meaningfully about its nuclear programme.

The past week shows that sanctions against Iran have been biting hard, and there is more to come: the Obama administration authorized another round of restrictions last week.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Says Sanctions Against Iran Effective

— by Sari Weintraub

International sanctions against Iran are having a significant effect, according to the Israeli foreign ministry. In an internal document obtained by Haaretz, the ministry asserts that as a result of the latest round of sanctions, Iran faces serious economic problems and domestic unrest, primarily as a result of restrictions on the Iranian oil industry.

The Obama Administration has been a leader in imposing this damaging sanctions; in a speech before the UN General Assembly today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Under the leadership of President Obama, the international community has passed some of the strongest sanctions to date… it’s had an effect. Oil exports have been curbed and the Iranian economy has been hit hard.”

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration initiated further sanctions against Iran’s national oil company.