Acting Attorney General Orders Justice Dept. Not to Defend Refugee Ban

Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general, during a news conference in June. (photo: Pete Marovich / Getty Images)

Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates ordered the Justice Department on Monday not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration in court.

By Matt Apuzzo, Eric Lichtblau and Michael D. Shear / The New York Times
January 30, 2017

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, ordered the Justice Department on Monday not to defend President Trump’s executive order on immigration in court.

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

The decision is largely symbolic — Mr. Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, is likely to be confirmed soon — but it highlights the deep divide at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the government over Mr. Trump’s order.

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Trudeau Says Canada Will Take Refugees Banned by U.S.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (photo: Chris Bolin / Reuters)

By Rob Gillies / Associated Press
January 28, 2017

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
— Justin Trudeau on Twitter

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a message for refugees rejected by U.S. President Donald Trump: Canada will take you.

He also intends to talk to Trump about the success of Canada’s refugee policy.

Trudeau reacted to Trump’s ban of Muslims from certain countries by tweeting Saturday: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

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Border Agents Defy Courts on Trump Travel Ban

(photo: Bryan R. Smith / AFP)

Congressman Don Beyer says, “We have a constitutional crisis” over refusal to release travellers from Muslim-majority countries after judge grants temporary stay.

By Edward Helmore and Alan Yuhas / The Guardian
January 30, 2017

“We continue to face border patrol’s noncompliance and chaos at airports around the country,” said Marielena Hincapie, director of the National Immigration Law Center. Officials, she said, were “Kafkaesque” in their confused responses, adding that Trump’s order “has already caused irrevocable harm, it has already caused chaos.”

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents defied the orders of federal judges regarding Donald Trump’s travel bans on Sunday, according to members of Congress and attorneys who rallied protests around the country in support of detained refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

On Sunday afternoon, four Democratic members of the House of Representatives arrived at Dulles airport in Virginia on word that people had been detained and denied access to lawyers.

“We have a constitutional crisis today,” representative Don Beyer wrote on Twitter. “Four members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.”

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A Clarifying Moment in American History

(photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

There should be nothing surprising about what Donald Trump has done in his first week — but he has underestimated the resilience of Americans and their institutions.

By Eliot A. Cohen / The Atlantic
January 29, 2017

Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly — in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness.

I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

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Palestine in the Age of Trump

(photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty)

With the advent in Washington of an Administration with radical new priorities regarding Israel, and a disdain for Palestinian rights, Palestine is facing a daunting reality.

By Rashid Khalidi / The New Yorker
January 19, 2017

It is abundantly clear that the United States, in the age of Trump, and Israel, in the age of Netanyahu, will do nothing to change this picture. In this context, the Palestinians face stark choices. They can either submit to the dictates of the U.S. and Israel or they can fundamentally and urgently redefine their national movement, their objectives, and their modes of resistance to oppression.

With the advent in Washington of an Administration with radical new priorities regarding Israel, and a disdain for Palestinian rights, Palestine is facing a daunting reality. In recent years, ascendant political currents in America and Israel had already begun to merge. We have now reached the point where envoys from one country to the other could almost switch places: the Israeli Ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, who grew up in Florida, could just as easily be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, while Donald Trump’s Ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, who has intimate ties to the Israeli settler movement, would make a fine Ambassador in Washington for the pro-settler government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Whereas America’s solicitous concern for Israel and its disregard for the Palestinians were once cloaked behind evenhandedness, under Trump we are set to see a more complete convergence between America’s political leadership and the most chauvinistic, religious, and right-wing government in Israel’s history. It will be this Israeli government and its new American soul mates who will call the tune in Palestine for at least the next several years.

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Trump Renews Vow for Jerusalem Embassy, a Gift of Uncertain Value

The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, where all other countries have their embassies. (photo: Jack Guez / Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

No other government has its embassy in Jerusalem.

By Ian Fisher and Isabel Kershner / the New York Times
January 19, 2017

“Why would a president-elect decide to begin his presidency by playing with the blood of Palestinians and Israelis? Why? For whose sake? . . . This will destroy us as Palestinian moderates. This will bring extremism to the region.”
— Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator

It started, as it has in American presidential races for decades, as a campaign line, one that weary Israelis and Palestinians hear but rarely take seriously: Donald J. Trump promised to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

But by Thursday, the eve of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, those decades of promises seemed very real — with reverberations far beyond stone and cement.

Mr. Trump himself made perhaps his strongest statement on the issue on Thursday, telling a conservative Israeli news outlet, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

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Dear Trump Administration: Don’t Mess With Jerusalem

Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend an election campaign rally, Jerusalem, Oct 26, 2016. (photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could ignite a spark that would set the entire region aflame. It’s just not worth it.

By James J. Zogby / +972 Magazine
January 17, 2017

[The author is the president of the Arab American Institute.]

Palestine may have dropped off the radar for a time, but it remains “the open wound in the heart, that never heals.” Violating Jerusalem and unrest in occupied Palestinian lands would rip the scab off that wound reminding Arabs of their vulnerability and their inability to control their history in the face of betrayal by the West. Ignore this passion and there will be consequences.

In just a matter of days, President-elect Donald Trump will have to decide on whether or not to make good on his promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As we approach Inauguration Day, liberal and conservative commentators alike have offered a number of ideas as to how he can proceed. Ranging from “too cute by half” to just plain dumb, they should all be rejected. More to the point, all of the proposals I have seen focus exclusively on Israeli concerns, ignoring or giving short shrift to Palestinian and broader Arab or Muslim concerns and sensitivities.

On the one side, there are proposals from hardliners who advise Trump to just go ahead and make the move. They argue that in fulfilling his campaign promise he will appease his base and gain international respect for being a strong and decisive leader. They dismiss Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim opinions, relying on the false assumptions that there is diminished concern across the Arab world for the Palestinian issue or making the racist case that Arabs respect strength and will ultimately become reconciled to a U.S. move.

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An Israel-Palestine peace conference — without Israel or Palestine

Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” in Paris, Jan 15, 2017. (photo: AFP)

The futile talkfest in Paris aimed its message at America, not the Middle East.

The Economist
January 17, 2017

The Paris meeting felt less like a diplomatic summit than a farewell concert thrown by an aging rock band. . . . Diplomats promised to meet again in Paris later this year. It may be difficult to justify the trip.

It was, even by the dispiriting standards of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, a futile concept: a peace conference without either of the warring parties. On January 15th diplomats from more than 70 countries flew to Paris for a summit against which Israeli officials had inveighing for weeks. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, called it “rigged” and his defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, compared it to the Dreyfus trial. So the French government, keen to avoid the embarrassment of having Israel refuse to attend, did not invite either side. It was “like a wedding without a bride and groom,” quipped Naftali Bennett, Israel’s right-wing education minister.

After a full day of debate, the diplomats issued a two-page declaration that urged both sides to “commit to the two-state solution . . . [and to] take urgent steps in order to reverse the current negative trends on the ground.” If that sounds familiar, it should. Parts of it were copied verbatim from the closing statement of the previous Paris peace conference, held in June.

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Dear Donald Trump: A letter from Palestine

Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron, Issa Amro. (photo: courtesy of Issa Amro)

The U.S. must start treating Palestinians as equals to Israelis.

By Issa Amro / Al Jazeera
January 17, 2017

“It was reading the works of giants such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and your own civil rights pioneer, Martin Luther King, Jr., that convinced me to spend my life using nonviolent methods of resistance to forge a path forward for myself and my people. I owe a great deal of my fortitude and strategy to King and thinkers like him.”

My name is Issa Amro. I am a 36-year-old Palestinian human rights defender from the city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where I work with an organization called Youth Against Settlements.

While we live thousands of kilometers apart and have never met, my fate is more closely linked to the office you will hold, and the choices a U.S. president makes, than many might think. The United States’ military, economic and diplomatic support has allowed Israel to continue its occupation of Palestinian lands, upholding their racist, apartheid regime.

I have not spent my youth thinking about my career or travelling the world, the Israeli chokehold on our society limits my opportunities on both those fronts. Instead, I have been engaged in near-daily confrontations with hostile settlers and an occupying army, both of whom want me, my family and my friends to leave our land and never return.

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Arson Damages Bellevue Mosque

Firefighters work to control blaze at Islamic Center of Eastside, Jan 14, 2017. (photo: Bellevue Fire Department)

[Editor’s note: Please consider helping our brothers and sisters in their hour of need. You may contribute to the repair and restoration of their mosque HERE.]

37-year-old man arrested; building extensively damaged.

By Isolde Raftery / KUOW
January 14, 2017

“I hope our community comes together to help rebuild — not only the structure, but the idea of safety for all of the Muslims in the area. Particularly with this being the third attack on the two mosques that I have been attending since I was born, I am at a loss for words on the sheer senselessness of some human beings. Now is the time for all of us collectively to come together and denounce hatred once and for all.”
— Osman Salahuddin via Facebook

A fire burned down most of a mosque in Bellevue early on Saturday morning, just one day after a man was charged with a hate crime for threatening members of that mosque in October. There were no injuries.

The first was first reported at 2:49 a.m. at the Islamic Center of Eastside (Bellevue Masjid), according to the Bellevue Fire Department. Firefighters arrived to 40-foot flames engulfing the building.

Authorities found a 37-year-old man behind the mosque and arrested him. They said they believe he is the only suspect.

The fire department said “thorough salvage operations were conducted to preserve holy books and electronic equipment.”

Muhamed Bakr told Q13 Fox: “We just heard from a couple of the parents: ‘What would happen if our children were there and this happened in the morning? Is it safe anymore?’”

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