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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Iran Sanctions’

J Street’s Phony Liberalism

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Today, April 30, the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations meets to decide whether J Street should become a member of this exclusive Club. A positive decision will do nothing either for Israel or for the liberal progressive values J Street purports to promote.

Over the years, J Street has branded itself as the voice of progressive liberal supporters of Israel. But examination of the evidence suggests its record is anything but progressive and liberal.

There is a tradition of Jewish participation and leadership in matters of social justice around the world –in keeping with the norms of Pikuah Nefesh, and some would say, Tikun Olam. In keeping with this tradition, it would therefore seem appropriate to ask what J Street’s positions and activities have been on the core values of life, respect for life and human dignity as they apply to today’s worst horror stories?

These core values of life, respect for human life and dignity are embedded in international law, human rights and universal justice world wide. There is a responsibility to prevent such injustices and protect those subject to such threats to live and human dignity.

Yet, genocide, genocidal massacres, mass rapes, genocidal terror, and other assaults on life and human dignity are very much part of the current landscape.

I am referring to the horrendous acts of genocide and mass rapes in the Congo and the Central African Republic over the past years, (5 million dead) and Darfur (400,000 dead?), and North Korea (1,000,000 or more from forced starvation and more), the continued repression of Tibetans by China, the rampages of Muslim terrorists against Christians in Nigeria, the discrimination, persecution and threats against Copts in Egypt and other Christian groups in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, and the Bahai in Iran and of course, the mass butchery in Syria (150,000 dead and 2.5 million refugees).

J Street has been loudly silent on Iran’s suppression of human rights, its some 100,000 executions of its own citizens, its support for genocidal terror, its race to achieve nuclear capacity and its incitement to genocide—its use of stonings to kill women for so-called sexual crimes, and fact that Iran has the highest per capita rate of executions in the world, with more than 140 since Rouhami came to power.

Its silence on Iranian incitement to genocide against Jews and Israel makes it a complicit bystander to this crime against humanity as specified by the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Yet J Street has consistently opposed stronger sanctions against Iran.

I am unable to find any sign of a leadership role for J Street– or even as a straggler–in the fight against the persecution of women throughout much of the Islamic world, (female genital mutilation, stonings, bigamy, forced child marriages, execution for so called sexual crimes).

Were J Street truly a progressive voice for a peace based on the most basic of human rights, its leadership would be in the forefront of addressing these issues.

Let me suggest: J Street is not about building bridges, but driving wedges–between Israel and the world, between Israel and the American Jewish Community, between Jews within the American Jewish Community and between Israel and the surrounding Arab world.

J Street appears to have no interest in promoting peace based on respect for life, live and let live and human dignity and freedom–in the Middle East or anywhere else. It is an organization with many naive members— led by cynical and opportunistic operatives who see no problem with taking positions which undermine and destabilize Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.

Were J Street truly a progressive voice for peace, its leadership would be in the forefront of addressing the real issues of concern for liberals and progressives. So far the record shows it is a bystander.

J Street Seeking a Seat at the Conference

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In a move that will surprise nobody, for its effort to become a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has the backing of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The JCPA has long been clamoring to include J Street as part of its “big tent” approach to Jewish communal life. And no wonder, the two organizations are closely aligned on most issues, domestic and foreign.

What should also come as no surprise to anyone, those American pro-Israel organizations which see their major focus as global security, including Jewish communities worldwide generally and the Jewish state in particular, such as the Zionist Organization of America, are opposed to ushering in yet another organization into the 50 strong member group which they see as engaging in moral equivalency between Israel and her Arab neighbors.

The issue comes to a vote April 30. And members on both sides of the vote are busily lobbying people to make their voices heard by those who will be voting.

The Conference of Presidents includes most of the major Jewish organizations with which most people are familiar, but there are others who are members that would probably surprise most people.

For example, everyone expects such groups as the ZOA and the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League to be members, the same goes for the offices of the major branches of Judaism. But what Workman’s Circle (a blend of “workers’ rights” mit a bissel Yiddish?) Not to mention the Jewish Labor Committee(“The Jewish voice in the labor movement, and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community.”)  Then there’s the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society which is still very much involved in the needs of immigrants, but not too many of whom are Hebrews.

Other organizations such as CAMERA (which deals with media bias against Israel) and Hadassah and Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Federations and the National Council of Young Israel all also have seats at the Conference of Presidents.

Early word was that the J Street leadership came in for heavy grilling by members, especially with respect to their support for and frequent partnering with organizations which advocate for various forms of economic and legal warfare against Israel, known as the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) movement.

An article in the Forward earlier this month revealed that J Street failed to garner the approval of a critical committee which would have smoothed the way to membership. That article explained that in order for J Street to gain admission there would have to be a 75 percent quorum present, and a two thirds vote.

According to the mission statement of the Conference of Presidents, at least one of the two primary issues on which the Conference focuses should signal a serious battle regarding the admission of J Street, the other one, only slightly less so: “The Conference is at the forefront mobilizing support to halt Iran’s nuclear program and to counter the global campaign to delegitimize Israel and the Jewish people.”

J Street was an early and consistent opponent of sanctions against Iran and when it ultimately was flanked to the right by the U.S. administration, it only slowly and very begrudgingly accepted the need for sanctions. J Street was once again a major cheerleader against enacting legislation that would provide for the immediate resumption of sanctions should Iran fail to comply with the obligations the U.S. understood it to have undertaken in the agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1.

There also continues to be a matter of say one thing, do another, with respect to the BDS movement. Although J Street consistently publicly claims to oppose the use of BDS, the J Street U members have been amongst the biggest cheerleaders of divestment resolutions on U.S. campuses (with Cornell University being a notable exception.)

AIPAC Conference Opens with Appeal for Bipartisanship

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC opened its annual conference with an appeal for bipartisanship.

“Bipartisanship is essential,” Michael Kassen, the board chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Sunday in his opening statement to the conference, which drew a record 14,000 activists.

“We must affirm bipartisanship in our own ranks if we want support for Israel to be championed by Democrats and Republicans alike, he said. “AIPAC’s political diversity is critical to our continued success.”

The conference opening Sunday follows a period of tension between the lobby and the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress over AIPAC’s backing for new Iran sanctions, which Obama opposes as a detriment to nuclear talks now underway between Iran and the major powers.

AIPAC last month retreated from pressing for an immediate Senate vote on the sanctions, not wanting to undercut its influence with Democrats. The group is still backing the sanctions bill but is not pressing for a vote until the measure has enough endorsers to bust a promised Obama veto.

A number of conservatives and Republicans have since urged the group to resume its pressure for a Senate vote, even if it would land AIPAC in a partisan battle. Advocates of renewing pressure for a sanctions vote say the stakes with Iran are too high to consider Democratic sensibilities.

Kassen’s remarks seemed directly aimed at those who would advocate for an immediate vote.

In addition to seeking additional endorsers for the sanctions bill, AIPAC delegates who will meet Tuesday with lawmakers will press for the passage of an enhanced U.S.-Israel security relationship bill. AIPAC activists backed the same bill at the last conference a year ago, but it has only made limited headway.

The delegates also will seek signatories on a bipartisan Senate letter to Obama outlining the “core principles” that must come out of the talks with Iran. Chief among them is preventing Iran from “having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.” A similar letter may also come out of the U.S. House of Representatives in time for the Tuesday lobbying blitz.

The “path” wording allows for a degree of flexibility between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outspoken advocacy for ending Iran’s uranium enrichment capability and the Obama administration’s warnings that Iran likely will have some limited civilian enrichment capability.

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, told delegates they would encounter a degree of resistance to their Iran-related advocacy on Capitol Hill.

“When you’re up on the Hill, no matter what reception you receive, no matter how forcefully your member of Congress may express reservations,” he said, “be gracious and be respectful and make clear that the conversation cannot end here, that you will come back.”

AIPAC to Congress: Iran Must Dismantle Nuclear Program

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee urged Congress to outline terms for a final nuclear accord with Iran that would include dismantling its nuclear program.

“We urge Congress to outline for Iran the acceptable terms of a final accord,” said an Op-Ed in the New York Times on Saturday signed by AIPAC President Michael Kassen and Lee Rosenberg, the chairman of its board.

“This must include, at a minimum, the dismantling of its nuclear program, so that Iran has neither a uranium nor a plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon,” it said.

This was part of the message, the writers said, that thousands of AIPAC activists would take to Capitol Hill next week during the annual AIPAC policy conference.

Obama administration officials have said that a total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program is an unrealistic expectation of the talks now underway between Iran and the major powers aimed at finding a formula to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In Jerusalem to brief Israeli leaders after the latest round of Iran talks, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said she would not count out an Iranian enrichment capacity as an end result.

“The objective here is to ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is exclusively peaceful,” she told Israeli reporters on Saturday.

“Whether, in fact, Iran will have a domestic enrichment program is part of the negotiations,” Sherman said. “In the Joint Plan of Action, it was envisioned that it was possible, that Iran might have a small, discreet enrichment program.”

The Joint Plan of Action is the interim sanctions-for-nuclear rollback deal that allowed the current talks to take place. The talks, launched last month, are for six months, but may be renewed for another six months.

The AIPAC Op-Ed notably did not embrace any specific legislation and noted that while the lobby still backed new sanctions that had been proposed in the Senate, it also backed delaying a vote for now.

President Obama had threatened to veto new sanctions legislation, saying it could scuttle the talks.

The Op-Ed urged Congress to assert its foreign policy prerogative, even over the opposition of the president, and press the case for a tougher line with Iran during the talks, including enhanced sanctions.

“Historically, presidents have resisted congressional involvement that would affect or constrain their diplomatic efforts,” the Op-Ed said. “At this moment, we must not allow Iran to dictate the appropriate role of Congress.”

Part of the message activists will deliver to Congress would be that lawmakers should assert a more robust oversight of the Iran-major powers talks, it said.

LA City Council Approves Local Iran Sanctions

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The Los Angeles City Council approved a law that bars people investing in Iran’s energy sector from bidding on or holding contracts with the state of California or its local governments.

Friday’s 13-0 vote makes Los Angeles the first city in California to be in full compliance with the Iran Contracting Act of 2010, according to a statement issued by the council.

The state act was passed by California in the wake of the federal sanctions law, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which authorizes state and local governments to divest their funds from parties involved in Iran’s petroleum, natural gas, or nuclear industries and to bar such parties from state and local government contracts.

City Attorney Mike Feuer told the Los Angeles City News that his office surveyed all city agencies and did not find any that were not complying with the city’s 2010 ban on doing business with firms contracting with Iran.

“Today the City of Los Angeles is sending a strong message to an Iranian regime that has continually flaunted international law in pursuit of a nuclear weapon, while providing peace of mind to every Angeleno that our tax dollars will not support such efforts,” said City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, an author of the state law.

Those testifying Friday in favor of the act included Dave Rand, chair of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, and Sam Yebri, president of 30 Years After, a non-profit organization that promotes the participation and leadership of Iranian American Jews in American political, civic and Jewish life.

AIPAC Lobbying to Address Iran, Peace Process

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

The agenda for thousands of American Israel Public Affairs Committee activists who will meet with lawmakers next month includes Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Israeli-Palestinian talks.

“From March 2-4, more than ten thousand AIPAC activists will be in Washington for our annual policy conference,” according to an email the group sent this week to lawmakers.

The activists’ visit to Capitol Hill is traditionally the final event of the annual conference.

“As the culmination of the conference, the activists will meet with their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss the U.S.-Israel relationship including aid to Israel, Iran’s nuclear quest, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” it said. “The meetings are an excellent opportunity for members to see familiar faces from their districts and states as well as to meet and greet new constituents—all of whom share a deep concern about the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address the conference.

The lobbying comes as tensions continue to simmer between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over U.S. plans to unveil a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which likely includes elements that will rankle Israel’s government, as well as over sanctions-for-nuclear-rollbacks talks between the major world powers and Iran that Netanyahu says are emboldening Iran.

AIPAC expects 14,000 activists this year. Its lobbying on the last day of the conference usually is attached to a legislative initiative, such as a bill, a resolution or a letter.

The email did not name any such initiative, but AIPAC generally does not unveil these until the eve of the conference.

Cantor Compares Obama Iran Policy to Pre-WW2 Isolationism

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, cited the lateness of American actions against the Nazis in critiquing President Obama’s foreign policy.

In a speech Monday to the Virginia Military Institute, Cantor (R-Va.), who is Jewish, described leading a congressional delegation recently to Auschwitz to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nazi death camp’s liberation.

“Standing there as the frigid wind swept through the eerily quiet ruins of the camp, I could not help but regret that American action in World War II came too late to save countless millions of innocent lives,” he said.

“Hitler’s rise and conquest of Europe did not come as a surprise. We must not repeat the same mistake by reducing our preparedness, accepting the notion that we are one of many or ceding global leadership to others.”

Cantor said that “evil and hateful ideologies still exist in the world,” citing as perhaps the most evident Iran’s “determined march” to produce nuclear weapons.

“I can imagine few more destabilizing moments in world history than Iran on the threshold of being a nuclear power,” he said.

Cantor called on the United States to prepare for additional sanctions to counter what he said was the erosion of Iran’s isolation through its participation in international talks aimed at keeping it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“An America that leads is an America that must work to restore the badly eroded international pressure on Tehran,” he said. “We should lay the groundwork now for additional sanctions in the event Iran violates the terms of the interim agreement.”

The Obama administration has said that the removal of a number of sanctions ahead of the talks has not diminished a tough sanctions regime. It has opposed new sanctions while talks are underway, saying that unilateral U.S. sanctions could fracture the international alliance that has nudged Iran to the talks.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/cantor-compares-obama-iran-policy-to-pre-ww2-isolationism/2014/02/18/

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