The American Jewish Committee (AJC) made headlines by unveiling its latest project, the Congressional Black-Jewish Caucus. It sounds like a terrific idea, and certainly AJC is claiming to have done a lot to lay the groundwork for it. These two communities—which overlap a lot more than many people realize—have a long and complicated history, marked by periods of great mutual support but also of mistrust and hostility. A caucus in Congress to help inform policy that would be beneficial to both communities should be welcome.
But this is one of those eras where mistrust abounds, aggravated recently by the focus of the Jewish community on Black thought leaders who are sympathetic to the Palestinian side of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Accusations of disproportionate hostility toward Israel, accompanied by both indirect and direct accusations of anti-Semitism have tenderized already fraught community relations, where too many Jews and Black people feel that the other bears them ill will. These tensions are particularly hard on Black Jews and other Jews of Color, members of both communities who must contend with this friction in the most personal way.
All of this should make the caucus even more welcome. But the inclusion of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) in the new Black-Jewish Congressional Caucus inevitably raises significant questions about its intent. Read more at LobeLog
Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander ignited a controversy by stating her support for Palestinian rights. In her piece, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” Alexander used the act of confronting her own silence on this issue to encourage others to break theirs. She made the case that “criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic,” while also affirming that
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, and many of us are still mourning what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history… We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.
That statement was not nearly enough for the “pro-Israel” community in the United States. The Israeli-American former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, called Alexander’s column a “strategic threat.” The American Jewish Committee had the audacity to accuse Alexander—a prominent African-American civil rights lawyer and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness—of “appropriating” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Numerous other voices, conservative and liberal, defended Israel from Alexander’s “attacks.”
Alexander became the latest in a growing list—including Angela Davis, Rashida Tlaib, Marc Lamont Hill, Ilhan Omar, and Linda Sarsour—targeted by Israel advocates in the United States. All of them are people of color, and all have faced new or renewed attacks over their defense of Palestinian rights since the since the horrific shooting incident at a Pittsburgh synagogue carried out by a white, anti-immigrant fanatic in late October. Read more at LobeLog
Netanyahu and Orban, brothers in anti-Semitism
The private Israeli intelligence firm, Black Cube, is back in the headlines. This time, ex-employees have spilled the beans on a program to throw shade on non-governmental organizations in Hungary to help ensure the electoral victory of nationalist president Viktor Orban.
Black Cube has been hit with several controversies in recent months. Back in November 2017, it was revealed that disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein engaged Black Cube to dig up dirt on his accusers and potential accusers. In an embarrassing turn for Israel, it turned out that former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had introduced Weinstein to Black Cube’s leadership.
In May, journalist Ronan Farrow reported that Black Cube had been hired to dig up dirt on two officials—Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl—in Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. Agents of the firm used phony identities to contact the officials’ spouses to try to find information they could, presumably, use to discredit Rhodes and Kahl and thereby cast a shadow on the entire effort with Iran. Read more at LobeLog
There’s a lot of debate going around about whether US President Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. The debate is one which Trump has done all he can to spark and sustain. It is also one that asks entirely the wrong question.
It doesn’t matter if Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. But two things about this issue matter very much. How does his presidency affect anti-Semitism in the United States? And why are so many Orthodox and right wing Jews so willing to ignore the troubling words and actions from Trump and his administration? Read more at The Times of Israel
As the joint press conference by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rolled on, it became clear that their prepared remarks were going to contain very little of substance. Trump looked stiff and uncomfortable as he read prepared remarks—so much so that he seemed visibly relieved when he added a few ad lib words of his own. Netanyahu spoke with great care, knowing that his real audience was back in Israel and that the coalition partners to his right needed to be placated.
But in the question and answer period, things got more interesting.
First, we had the clearest indication yet that the United States will support Netanyahu in stepping back from the two-state solution. Trump stated that he would support “the one that both parties like.” Netanyahu stated unambiguously that his red line is security control over all the territory to the Jordan River. That precludes any possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state. Continue reading
The owner of Brooklyn Commons, Melissa Ennen, has finally responded to the controversy around the appearance of 9/11 Truther and anti-Semite Christopher Bollyn. Unfortunately, her response is to defend his appearance at her venue. Here is her statement, in full: Continue reading
Brooklyn Commons is continuing to resist calls from a very wide swath of the New York City progressive community to cancel the talk to be held at their site this week by the notorious anti-Semite and right-wing conspiracy theorist, Christopher Bollyn. Continue reading