Thursday, April 15, 2021

What is it with J Street and anti-Semites?

 What is it with J Street and anti-Semites?

One would think that J Street, an avowed pro-Israel organization would distance itself from anti-Semites. Yet, it just can't seem to stay away.

I don’t pretend to know what goes on inside the heads of Jews so committed to bullying Israel that they will honor and even defend individuals who have made anti-Semitic remarks, as long as those individuals further the cause of undermining Israel.


This is my latest column from JNS.ORG.

Why does J Street keep honoring and defending individuals who have made anti-Semitic remarks?

 The latest is former President Jimmy Carter, who will receive an award from J Street at its upcoming convention on April 18. I’m not saying that Carter’s numerous attacks on Israel—as ugly and unfair as they were—constituted anti-Semitism. Not even his accusation that Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs is worse than the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people were massacred.

No, I am referring to what Professor Deborah Lipstadt wrote in her essay, “Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem,” in The Washington Post, on Jan. 20, 2007. She wrote that in his responses to criticism of his anti-Israel book, Carter “has relied on anti-Semitic stereotypes in defense.”

 Lipstadt continued: “Carter has repeatedly fallen back—possibly unconsciously—on traditional anti-Semitic canards. … Carter reflexively fell back on this kind of innuendo about Jewish control of the media and government. Even if unconscious, such stereotyping from a man of his stature is noteworthy. When David Duke spouts it, I yawn. When Jimmy Carter does, I shudder.”

 Lipstadt was referring to the media appearances by Carter in 2006 in which he repeatedly suggested that all criticism of his book emanated from attempts by Jews to control the media and silence him. On “Larry King Live” on Nov. 26, 2006, Carter claimed that he had “witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts.” On “Meet the Press” on Dec. 3, 2006, Carter specifically singled out what he called “the Jewish lobby” as “part” of the alleged conspiracy to silence him.

 Before Carter, J Street’s favorite ex-politician was James Baker.

 The former Secretary of State was the keynote speaker at J Street’s 2015 convention. At first, it must have seemed odd that the overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic members of J Street would be honoring and applauding a lifelong conservative Republican. But apparently, Baker’s views on abortion and taxes were forgiven and forgotten in J Street’s enthusiasm for Baker’s harsh anti-Israel policies.

 Evidently, J Street was not bothered by the fact that Baker’s hostility to Israel sometimes crossed over into hostility to Jews.

 There was, of course, Baker’s infamous 1992 outburst, “F*** the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway.” (The quotation came from unimpeachable sources. It was first revealed by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who later said his source was then-Secretary of Housing Jack Kemp, who heard Baker say it firsthand.)

 But that wasn’t all. Baker was also reliably reported to have said: “Jews remember the Holocaust, but they forget insults as soon as they smell cash.” (The source was David Bar-Ilan, then one of the editors of The Jerusalem Post, quoted in Ma’ariv March 5, 1992.)

 And according to The Los Angeles Times (March 7, 1992), Baker also referred to pro-Israel members of Congress as “the little Knesset.”

 We need to add Linda Sarsour to the list of prominent individuals whose anti-Semitism has not deterred J Street from embracing them.

 Sarsour’s hostile statements about Israel and Zionism have been as vicious as they come. She actively promotes the anti-Semitic BDS movement. She tweeted (in 2012): “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.” She told The Nation that “There can’t be … room [in the feminist movement] for people who support the State of Israel.” She calls for the replacement of Israel with a “State of Palestine.” Sarsour shared a stage with Rasmea Odeh, the convicted murderer of two Hebrew University students, and declared that she was “honored to be on this stage with Rasmea.”

 Does this record constitute anti-Semitism? ADL national director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has said that Sarsour’s BDS advocacy “encourages and spreads anti-Semitism.” Greenblatt’s predecessor, Abraham Foxman, has called Sarsour “bigoted.”

 Yet J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami signed a 2017 letter declaring that criticism of Sarsour is “dangerous, disingenuous and counterproductive,” charging that she has been “falsely maligned, harassed and smeared.” The letter’s only caveat was this tepid sentence: “We may not agree with Sarsour on all matters.”

 Ben-Ami “doesn’t agree” with anti-Semitism? Can anyone imagine him saying merely that he “doesn’t agree” with white supremacist David Duke or Holocaust-denier David Irving?

 So, what’s going on here? What is it with J Street and anti-Semites? I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t pretend to know what goes on inside the heads of Jews who are so committed to bullying Israel that they will honor and even defend individuals who have made anti-Semitic remarks, as long as those individuals further the cause of undermining Israel. All I can say is that the decision by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and other umbrella groups to reject J Street’s applications for membership has been proven right time and again.

 (Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”)


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Anthony Blinken called the wrong guy

 Anthony Blinken called the wrong guy

By Stephen M. Flatow
 
  
Sec. Anthony Blinken
In a phone call with a Middle East leader last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Palestinian Arabs are entitled to “freedom, security, prosperity and democracy.” Can’t disagree with a word of that. Every human being deserves those things.
 
The problem is that Mr. Blinken called the wrong guy.
 
The Secretary of State made his remarks about the Palestinians in a conversation with the foreign minister of Israel, Gabi Ashkenazi.
 
But Israel doesn’t rule over the Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Authority does. Blinken should have called the P.A.’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riad Al-Malki. According to the P.A.’s website, the phone number at his Ramallah office is 972-02-2943140. 
 

Since 1995, the P.A. has governed the 40 percent of Judea and Samaria where 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs reside. Their lack of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy” is due to the policies of their government, the P.A.—not Israel.
 

Freedom? It’s the P.A. and not Israel that crushes Palestinian strikers and arrests dissidents, including members of its own Legislative Council. It’s the P.A. that tortures its critics, intimidates unions, and treats women as second-class citizens. It’s the P.A. that has a “Cyber Crime Law” mandating prison sentences and fines for anyone who establishes a website that could “undermine the safety of the state.”
 

Security? It’s the P.A. that shelters terrorists and gives them plum government jobs and allows terrorist groups to maintain vast networks of arms depots and safe houses. A society filled with terror gangs that freely brandish their weapons, terrorize their rivals and invite reprisals from Israel by murdering Israelis is not a secure society—thanks to the P.A.
 

Prosperity? The P.A. government is deeply steeped in corruption. Nepotism, graft and bribery are rampant. To make matters worse, it pours huge amounts of money into salaries and rewards for terrorists—a whopping $153 million last year alone. Average Palestinians can never expect prosperity when their government has vastly different priorities.
 

Democracy? P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas is now in the 14th year of his four-year term, and the last time that elections were held for the P.A.’s legislative body, the Palestinian Legislative Council, was in 2005. Why is Blinken complaining to Israel’s foreign minister about Palestinians not enjoying democracy? Why not speak to Palestinian leaders about why they are denying their citizens democracy?
 

Abbas has tentatively set May 22 as the date for a new election to the legislative council and July 31 for an election to his own position. Whether or not those elections will actually be held remains to be seen. He has set dates and then canceled them before.

Even if the elections are held, however, one wonders what kind of “democracy” will result. Terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) will be competing. In fact, the PFLP’s list of candidates is headed by Ahmad Sa’adat, who is presently serving a life sentence for murdering an Israeli cabinet minister.
 

The main challenger to Abbas is a convicted mass murderer—Marwan Barghouti, who is in jail for the murders of five Israelis. Of course, Abbas himself is responsible for many more murders than that during his decades as the deputy head of the PLO and Fatah under Yasser Arafat, and then as Arafat’s successor.
 

The last two times that the United States supported allowing terrorists to compete in Arab elections in the name of “democracy,” Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was then suspended by Abbas; took power in Gaza; and the Muslim Brotherhood was elected in Egypt. Maybe the lesson is that these societies need to ban terrorists from running as part of the sweeping reforms necessary to move them away from centuries of violence, extremism and totalitarianism.
 

To encourage those reforms, the Biden administration needs to start by speaking to the right people. Which means our secretary of state needs to be calling the P.A. to talk about its lack of democracy, not reflexively assume that Israel is somehow to blame for how the P.A. governs its people.
 

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for
Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

This column originally appeared on JNS.ORG.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Biden’s “Nine-Miles-Wide Plan” - all carrots, no stick

Biden’s “Nine-Miles-Wide Plan”

What should American Jews do? Turn to all our tried-and-true methods of lobbying and protest. And do it now—while there is still time.

By Stephen M. Flatow

The Biden administration reportedly intends to demand that Israel return to the nine-miles-wide pre-1967 armistice lines. Should we be surprised? How dangerous would that be? And what should American Jews do about it?

According to numerous media reports, an outline of the Biden plan has been prepared by Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. Amr worked on the same issues during the Obama administration. So, it’s hardly surprising that the plan he has drafted reflects the same positions that were taken when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden was vice president.

The central theme of Biden’s Israeli-Palestinian policy in the short term, according to the Amr memo, will be a series of rewards to be given to the Palestinian Authority, even though the P.A. has done absolutely nothing to merit any of them.

Despite the P.A.’s financial support for terrorists, harboring of fugitive terrorists, constant anti-Jewish incitement and unrelenting anti-American propaganda, the Biden administration intends to “reset the U.S. relationship with the Palestinian people and leadership” by:

·       Sending the P.A. at least $15 million monthly ($180 million annually) as “humanitarian assistance,” starting in “late March or early April.”

·       Soon expanding that P.A. aid package to include “a full range of economic, security and humanitarian assistance,” including funds for the corrupt, pro-terrorist UNRWA agency. By “security” aid, Amr undoubtedly means the pro-terrorist, de facto army that the P.A. calls its “security services.”

·       Resuming diplomatic contacts with P.A. officials by reopening the PLO embassy in Washington, D.C., and using the old (but still functioning) American consulate in Jerusalem as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.

·       Inviting the United Nations and the Quartet, both of which are militantly pro-Palestinian, to “engage” in the diplomatic process.

·       Resuming “country of origin labeling,” which means declaring that goods made in much of Jerusalem, as well as Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, will be forced to carry “Made in Palestine” labels since the Biden administration has decided that all those areas belong to the Palestinian Arabs.

In return, the Biden administration intends to make two laughably inadequate “demands” of the P.A. First, it will seek “to obtain a Palestinian commitment” to stop paying terrorists, which will probably be as genuine and durable as all the previous P.A. commitments to stop aiding terrorists.

Second, Biden will “emphasize to the P.A.” the need for “reductions of arrests of bloggers and dissidents.” What a joke! The P.A. won’t even be expected to stop arresting dissidents; it just has to arrest a few less.

What’s most important, however, is the end goal of the Biden plan. Amr’s draft says that all of the above steps are “a means to advance the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution … based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.”

In plain English, that means a sovereign “State of Palestine” in all, or nearly all, of Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip (and part of Jerusalem). The “land swaps” phrase can be disregarded. It’s nonsense; obviously, if Israel and the P.A. ever wanted to “swap land”—which they don’t—they don’t need a plan by U.S. President Joe Biden to do it.

The plan is, put simply, the “Nine-Miles Wide Plan.” It has to be. Because any Palestinian state has to include the third-largest P.A. city, Tulkarm, and the fifth-largest P.A. city, Qalqilya. The P.A. is not going to make those cities part of Israel. So, they will be part of “Palestine.” Tulkarm and Qalqilya are nine miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Israel won’t even be as wide as Washington, D.C.—or the Bronx, N.Y.

One terrifying anecdote from 1967 tells you all you need to know about the dangers of Biden’s “Nine-Miles Wide Plan.” On the eve of the Six-Day War, as hostilities seemed increasingly likely, numerous Israeli mothers residing along the coast kept their children home from school. Why? Because they knew that the country could be sliced in two by a Jordanian tank column in a matter of minutes, and they didn’t want their children to be trapped on the other side. Imagine living with that kind of fear.

What should American Jews do? Turn to all our tried-and-true methods of lobbying and protest. Write letters. Make phone calls. Urge Jewish organizations to speak out. Do it now—while there is still time. Let the Biden administration see that we will not accept its deadly plan.

 Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

This column first appeared on JNS.ORG.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Searching for new ways to fund a terrorist regime

 Searching for new ways to fund a terrorist regime.

By Stephen M. Flatow

The United States doesn’t finance schools in Iran or North Korea. So why should it pay for those under the Palestinian Authority, which not only sponsors terrorists but spreads some of the most vicious anti-American propaganda in the world?

(March 15, 2021 / JNS)

Question: How do you get the American government to finance a terrorist regime when U.S. law prevents it from doing so?

 Answer: Twist the meaning of words, claim that the law doesn’t say what it obviously says and pretend the regime doesn’t sponsor terror. In other words, play the usual games.

 Those games are in full swing now in the campaign to put American taxpayers’ dollars into the pockets of the Palestinian Authority.

 Last week, The New York Times published a gigantic feature story about a Palestinian Arab school located in the village of Jaba near Bethlehem that supposedly will be in dire straits unless it starts receiving large amounts of American aid, and fast.

Jaba School, NY Times
The article, by Times correspondent Adam Rasgon, never considers the question of why the P.A. chooses to fund terrorists rather than its own schools. Last year, the P.A. distributed $15 million monthly —monthly!—on salaries for terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel. Just one month of those funds could have built quite a few schools.

Instead, Rasgon’s entire article was based on the premise that America has some kind of obligation to pay for the P.A.’s schools.

 The United States does send humanitarian assistance to various impoverished countries, but not to anti-American, terror-sponsoring regimes. The United States doesn’t finance schools in Iran or North Korea. So why should it pay for schools under the P.A., which not only sponsors terrorists but spreads some of the most vicious anti-American propaganda in the world?

 Moreover, what exactly is being taught in the school that the Times wants American taxpayers to support? P.A. school textbooks are notorious for glorifying terrorism and vilifying Israel and America. Are we supposed to believe that the Jaba school will be the first P.A. school to use a moderate, peace-promoting curriculum?

 One of the main commentators quoted in the Times article was Joel Braunold, who was described as “an expert on U.S. law surrounding foreign aid to the Palestinians.” Braunold made it clear he is troubled that U.S. law, specifically the Taylor Force Act, prohibits sending aid to the P.A. so long as it pays terrorists.

So Braunold plays word games to get around that inconvenient law.

 He asks: “Would funding construction of this school, which is controlled by the Palestinian government, be considered direct support of the Palestinian Authority? It may or may not be. It is up to the Secretary of State to decide.”

 Braunold is obviously hoping that the current Secretary of State, unlike his predecessor, will change the plain meaning of the term “direct support” so that the Taylor Force Act can be discarded, and the U.S. can start sending checks to the P.A.

 Braunold and the Times are not the only ones playing word games in order to get aid to the P.A. Recently, David Makovsky—former right-hand man to ex-Mideast envoy Martin Indyk—has been promoting the idea that the P.A. should dress up its payments-to-terrorists program as “a welfare system” that would pretend to hand out money based on financial need (instead of based on how many Jews the recipient murdered). Makovsky was doing what we call “saying the quiet part out loud”—giving away, in public, what he hopes the P.A. will do in order to perpetrate a farce on American taxpayers.

 One last word about Joel Braunold, the “expert” who was quoted prominently in the article about the school. The Times correspondent, Adam Rasgon, somehow “forgot” to mention that Braunold is the managing director at a left-wing think tank, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, which just happens to advocate U.S. funding for the P.A. (Key activists at the center in years past have included J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami and Sara Ehrman, one of the founders of Americans for Peace Now.)

 I would welcome a serious and robust public discussion about the question of American aid to the P.A. and the Taylor Force Act. What I don’t like are the dishonest tactics being used by some of those who are promoting the Palestinian cause.

 So, please, don’t tell us that the United States has some kind of obligation to finance P.A. schools. Tell us what’s being taught in those schools if you want us to fund them.

 Don’t tell us that the Secretary of State can arbitrarily change the meaning of U.S. law. He cannot.

 Don’t give the P.A. advice on how to pull the wool over the American public’s eyes so that it can get our money. And don’t pretend that an advocate for Palestinian funding is some kind of neutral “expert.”

 Most of all, stop searching for new ways to get American dollars to a terror-sponsoring regime. Instead, try searching for ways to force the P.A. to change its terrorist ways. That would be a real step towards Middle East peace.

 Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The ‘pressure-Israel’ machine kicks into high gear

 

The ‘pressure-Israel’ machine kicks into high gear

By Stephen M. Flatow

For several weeks now, various editors, journalists and pundits have been busily manufacturing a mini-crisis, presumably in order to provoke tension between the American and Israeli governments.

The critics of Israel are so predictable, it’s almost funny.

Over the past two weeks, as if on cue, The New York Times published an op-ed urging steps to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state; the RAND Corporation released a new study pushing for the creation of a Palestinian state; and the news media manufactured a mini-crisis between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to put more pressure on Israel to—you guessed it—agree to the creation of a Palestinian state.

I say “as if on cue” and not “on cue” because there’s no evidence that any of this is the product of some kind of coordination or conspiracy. Rather, it’s just the same old alignment of pundits, partisans and self-appointed experts who champion Palestinian statehood and see the Biden administration as a vehicle to accomplish that goal.

This latest wave of pro-Palestinian pressure began on Feb. 10 with the RAND Corporation’s release of a new study, “Alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

RAND held meetings with 33 “focus groups,” consisting of a grand total of 270 Arabs and Jews in Israel and abroad, and then concluded from those discussions that creating a Palestinian state is “the most politically viable alternative” of the possible “solutions” to the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

Obviously, a bunch of “focus groups” don’t have any magical insight for solving a conflict that has raged for more than a century. But when you wrap a “study” in the prestigious name of a prominent and well-heeled institution such as the RAND Corporation, you get media attention, which in turn influences public opinion and maybe even political leaders. 

Two days after RAND’s announcement, the Times devoted a large portion of its op-ed page to an essay by Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour calling on Israel to facilitate various economic steps that would lay the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state. Their plan includes “dividing sovereignty in Jerusalem,” by the way. 

Bahour is an American-Palestinian Arab businessman who lives in Ramallah, so it’s almost comical when he and his co-author complain about Palestinians wanting to be “free from military occupation,” as they put it. Bahour should look out his window. He won’t see any Israeli soldiers or Israeli military governor; they left in 1995. Bahour has been living under Palestinian military occupation—the Palestinian Authority, not Israeli military occupation—for the past 26 years. 

His co-author, Bernard Avishai, has penned The Tragedy of Zionism. According to CAMERA, Avishai’s writings about Israel are “hate-filled,” “full of malice” and “drip with loathing of Israel.” Of course, his identification line in the Times op-ed did not mention anything about him viewing Israel as a tragedy; Avishai is just “an American-Israeli professor and writer.” 

The same day that the Bahour-Avishai op-ed appeared, the White House, responding to media inquiries, publicly denied that Biden was “snubbing” Netanyahu by not including him among the first phone calls that the newly elected president made during his first month in office. But evidently, that denial meant nothing to The Los Angeles Times, which five days later ran this headline: “Biden’s Snub of Netanyahu Sets the Tone for More Evenhanded U.S.-Israel Relationship.” 

For several weeks now, various editors, journalists and pundits have been busily manufacturing a mini-crisis over the non-snub, presumably in order to provoke tension between the American and Israeli governments. The critics don’t want the new U.S. administration getting too friendly with the Israelis. They want Biden to be pressuring Israel for that Palestinian state. 

One of those quoted in the various news articles about the non-snub was Aaron Miller, a longtime State Department Arabist who worked hard to get several previous administrations to support Palestinian demands. He seems anxious to push Biden down a similar path. 

In an op-ed on CNN.com last week, Miller trotted out an 11-year-old incident to remind everyone of a previous time Biden got mad at Israel—from which Miller no doubt derives encouragement that maybe Biden can be turned against the Israelis again. 

According to Miller, Biden “was deeply embarrassed by Israel’s 2010 announcement of major expansion of housing units in East Jerusalem.” Almost everything in that sentence is inaccurate. It wasn’t “Israel’s announcement”; it was a routine publication, by the office of Jerusalem’s mayor, of an administrative step. It wasn’t a “major expansion of housing units”; it was a routine approval in the bureaucratic process leading to the eventual construction of housing units. And it wasn’t in “East Jerusalem.” It was in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in northern Jerusalem. 

I’ll give Miller the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is simply ignorant of the geography—which, I admit, is pretty surprising for somebody who was one of the U.S. State Department’s Arab-Israeli “experts” for more than two decades. 

But the alternative would be worse. The alternative explanation would be that Miller knows full well it’s not in “East Jerusalem,” yet he deliberately used that term in order to make it seem as if the apartments were built in Arab territory. 

Whether the result of ignorance, self-interest or old-fashioned bias, the self-proclaimed experts are cranking up their pressure-Israel propaganda machine into high gear. Friends of Israel need to respond—and quickly.

 Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

This column and others by the author may be read at jns.org.