Israel is on the brink of disaster — Trump just made things worse

Palestinian demonstrators from Birzeit University during clashes with Israeli forces in Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, Mar 20, 2019. (photo: Abbas Momani / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)
Israeli voters may be about to rush headlong into quicksand that they don’t even realize exists.

By Michael Koplow | The New York Times | Mar 22, 2019

[Annexing the West Bank] would cost billions of dollars annually, would create virtually indefensible borders . . . provide ammunition to the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and destroy Israel’s foreign relations with a host of countries. . . .
Israel would then have to grant citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinians living there, giving itself the choice of no longer functioning as a Jewish state, or destroy its democracy by denying the Palestinians political equality. If anything can truly threaten Israel, the region’s pre-eminent military and economic powerhouse, it is that.

On April 9, Israelis will go to the polls to choose their next government. The campaign has largely been a referendum on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should remain Israel’s leader in light of his expected indictment in three corruption cases for bribery and breach of trust. With those scandals front and center, policy disagreements have largely been ignored, leaving Israeli voters at risk of unwittingly bringing an avoidable disaster on themselves by annexing territory in the West Bank.

President Trump just raised that risk.

Continue reading “Israel is on the brink of disaster — Trump just made things worse”

Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Apr 5, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral
Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free Admission
Event Details

This is Home is an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in America and struggling to find their footing. Displaced from their homes and separated from loved ones, they are given eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee to become self-sufficient. As they learn to adapt to challenges, including the newly imposed travel ban, their strength and resilience are tested. It is a universal story, highlighted by humor and heartbreak, about what it’s like to start over, no matter the obstacles.

After surviving the traumas of war, the families arrive in Baltimore, Maryland and are met with a new set of trials. They attend cultural orientation classes and job training sessions where they must “learn America” — everything from how to take public transportation to negotiating new gender roles — all in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile political environment. Their goals are completely relatable: find a job, pay the bills, and make a better life for the next generation. Continue reading “Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)”

Breaking down the Combating BDS Act of 2019 and challenges to state Anti-BDS laws

Sen. Marco Rubio. (photo: AFP)
In the absence of further movement in Congress, the next action on state anti-BDS laws will be in the circuit courts.

By Nathaniel Sobel | Lawfare | Mar 19, 2019

The Court agrees that the commercial actions (or non-actions) of one person . . . to show support for a political position, may not be deserving of First Amendment protections . . . . However, when a statute requires a company, in exchange for a government contract, to promise to refrain from engaging in certain actions that are taken in response to larger calls to action that the state opposes . . . such a regulation squarely raises First Amendment concerns.
— US District Judge Diane J. Humetewa, US District Court of Arizona

On Feb 5, the Senate passed a package of Middle East policy bills, including the Combating BDS Act of 2019. The act, which would affect laws on the books in 26 states that prevent state and local governments from doing business with entities that boycott Israel, has reignited debate over whether lawmakers’ efforts to stymie the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel violate the First Amendment. This post examines the bill passed by the Senate and tracks ongoing litigation against state anti-BDS laws in federal courts.

On the first day of the 116th Congress, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., James Risch, R-Idaho, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced S.1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, a package of four Middle East policy bills that died in the last Congress. Three of the act’s four sections were relatively uncontroversial: One codified a 2016 agreement guaranteeing Israel $38 billion in security assistance over 10 years, another reauthorized defense cooperation with Jordan through 2020, and the third added sanctions on the Syrian regime and those that do business with it.

The fourth section, entitled the Combating BDS Act, was more controversial. According to a press release from Sen. Rubio, it would “empower state and local governments in the United States to counter the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement’s discriminatory economic warfare against the Jewish state.” Senate foreign relations committee Chairman Risch added that the bill “is vital to . . . end discrimination against Israel.”

Continue reading “Breaking down the Combating BDS Act of 2019 and challenges to state Anti-BDS laws”

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are here to stay

2019-03-21 rashida-tlaib-ilhan-omar-1540501983
Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. (photo: @rashidatlaib / Twitter.com)
The Zionist charge that anti-Semitism is on the rise on the left in the United States diverts from the real anti-Semitism that is on the rise, by the Trump-inspired white supremacists.

By Barry Sheppard | Green Left Weekly | Mar 21, 2019

‘Every single time we say something about foreign policy, regardless of what we say, our advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get labeled and nobody gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine.
‘Why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?
‘Now that you have two Muslims who are saying, ‘Here is a group of people that we want to make sure they have the dignity that you want everybody else to have,’ we get called names, and we get to be labeled as hateful?
’We know what hate looks like. We experience it every single day. . . .’
— Rep. Ilhan Omar

Two young Muslim women were elected to the United States House of Representatives in the 2018 election. Ilhan Omar is Black, and a refugee from war-devastated Somalia. Rahida Tlaib is of Palestinian descent, and has family living under Israeli oppression.

Both are outspoken supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which was initiated by the Palestinian grassroots to protest Israel’s oppression.

As supporters of BDS, they have been under attack from the Israeli lobby in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which falsely claims BDS is anti-Semitic. Following Israel’s public stance, AIPAC claims that anti-Zionism, any assertion that Israel is an apartheid state, any noting of Zionism’s historic relations with real anti-Semitic forces, advocating a single democratic secular state that guarantees equal rights to Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and any major criticism of Israel — and much more along these lines — is anti-Semitism.

Continue reading “Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are here to stay”

Beware the Mideast’s falling pillars

People marched on a highway near Amman, Jordan, to draw attention to unemployment issues. (photo: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
Changes beyond the control of the region’s leaders are spurring a new Middle East.

By Thomas Friedman | The New York Times | Mar 19, 2019

Jordan’s King Abdullah recently told a group of US military visitors that what keeps him up at night is just one thing — and it’s not ISIS or Al Qaeda. It’s the fact that 300,000 Jordanians are unemployed and 87 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 39, prime working years.

For the last half-century the politics of the Middle East has been shaped by five key pillars, but all five are now crumbling. A new Middle East is aborning — but not necessarily the flourishing one that people imagined in the 1990s.

This one is being shaped more by Twitter memes than by US diplomats, more by unemployment than by terrorism, more by upheavals on the streets than by leaders in palaces, more by women than by men. Can’t say where it will all settle out, but for now, beware falling pillars.

Continue reading “Beware the Mideast’s falling pillars”

Why the media fails to cover Palestine with accuracy and empathy

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City on February 22, 2019 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters] A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City on February 22, 2019. (photo: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)

A powerful Israeli lobby, reporting fatigue and the fear of being accused of anti–Semitism harms coverage, say experts.

By Alasdair | Al Jazeera | Mar 17, 2019

Everyone is terrified of putting a foot wrong and being accused of being anti-Semitic that they daren’t even ask the necessary questions.
— Sarah Helm, journalist

Often dubbed an open-air prison on account of Israel’s and Egypt’s ongoing air, land and sea blockade of the coastal enclave, Gaza is, according to Amnesty International and several other rights groups, on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

In February, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, highlighted the crisis, saying that the near two million Palestinians of the besieged strip “remain mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to adequate health, education, water and electricity”.

But the mainstream media does not always succeed in telling Palestine’s contemporary story with accuracy and empathy.

On Thursday, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, experts discussed the media’s role in covering one of the most pressing and divisive issues in international politics.

Continue reading “Why the media fails to cover Palestine with accuracy and empathy”

Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Apr 5, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral
Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free Admission
Event Details

This is Home is an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in America and struggling to find their footing. Displaced from their homes and separated from loved ones, they are given eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee to become self-sufficient. As they learn to adapt to challenges, including the newly imposed travel ban, their strength and resilience are tested. It is a universal story, highlighted by humor and heartbreak, about what it’s like to start over, no matter the obstacles.

After surviving the traumas of war, the families arrive in Baltimore, Maryland and are met with a new set of trials. They attend cultural orientation classes and job training sessions where they must “learn America” — everything from how to take public transportation to negotiating new gender roles — all in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile political environment. Their goals are completely relatable: find a job, pay the bills, and make a better life for the next generation. Continue reading “Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)”

Israel using DNA test to screen for ‘Jewishness’ before marriage permitted

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with selected Chief Rabbis at the Prime Minister’s office in Tel Aviv. (photo: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)
The current discrimination against Israeli Jews from former Soviet states comes at a time when Israel’s discrimination against both African Jews and its Arab citizens is becoming more well-known internationally.

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | Mar 13, 2019

With the apartheid-style discrimination against Arabs out in the open, it is hardly surprising that the ideology of a state for the ‘Jewish race’ has resulted in discrimination against certain groups within Israeli Jewry. Such is the nature of ethnic-supremacy movements, which invariably seek to push demographics toward an ideal.

Israel’s Chief Rabbi, David Lau, has openly admitted to the use of DNA tests to determine a person’s “Jewish ancestry” before allowing them to marry in Israel and be granted Jewish status. The practice, as so far revealed, has only been used on Jews from states that once comprised the Soviet Union, leading to accusations of discrimination and racism from prominent Israeli politicians, including former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The practice was first made public in a report from religious service NGO ITIM that was published last week. The report detailed the accounts of around 20 Jewish couples who had been asked to undergo the procedure to determine whether one or both spouses were “genetically Jewish,” which is a condition of Jewish marriage registration that only the Chief Rabbinate can grant, given its control over Jewish religious rites in the country. Those who do not obtain the Rabbinate’s approval are unable to marry, as the Rabbinate, which is a part of Israel’s government, has exclusive control over religious marriages and only religious marriages are recognized by the state of Israel. . . .

Continue reading “Israel using DNA test to screen for ‘Jewishness’ before marriage permitted”

UN Human Rights Council set to condemn ‘occupation’ of Golan

U.N. Human Rights Council set to condemn ‘occupation’ of Golan
A man stands at Mount Bental, an observation post on the Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, on January 21. (photo credit: Reuters)
As UNHRC considers condemning Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, Netanyahu pushes the US for recognition of annexation.

By Tovah Lazaroff  | The Jerusalem Post | Mar 14, 2019

The US wants to exonerate Israel from its indisputable human rights violations, while deliberately attempting to depict the racist policies and attitudes of the Israeli government as benign, despite the fact that they deny the Palestinian people’s humanity, nationality and narrative.
—PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi

The United Nations Human Rights Council is set to condemn Israel’s “occupation” of the Golan Heights next week in Geneva as it wraps up its month-long 40th session.

The resolution was submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It recalled UN Security Council Resolution 497 from 1981, which rejected Israel’s annexation of the Golan.

Israel’s decision “to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect,” and the 1981 resolution “demanded that Israel rescind forthwith its decision,” the new resolution states.

It is one of five anti-Israel resolutions the UNHRC is set to debate on Monday and will vote on toward the end of the week.

The council annually condemns Israel’s annexation of the Golan, which it captured from Syria in 1967 during the Six Day War.
Continue reading “UN Human Rights Council set to condemn ‘occupation’ of Golan”

Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is “not a state of all its citizens”

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Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting Israel was the ‘nation state only of the Jewish people’. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AP
The prime minister has been accused of demonizing Israeli Arabs in lead-up to April’s election.

By Agence France-Presse | The Guardian | Mar 10, 2019

‘Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people — and only it.’
— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel is “not a state of all its citizens,” in a reference to the country’s Arab population.

In comments on Instagram, the prime minister went on to say all citizens, including Arabs, had equal rights, but he referred to a deeply controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

“As you wrote, there is no problem with the Arab citizens of Israel. They have equal rights like all of us and the Likud government has invested more in the Arab sector than any other government,” he said of his rightwing party.

Continue reading “Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is “not a state of all its citizens””