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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

An Obama Post-Presidency and Israel

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

In recent months, there’s been a lot of speculation about whether President Obama would use his last months in office to take a parting shot at Israel. In his final seven weeks, there is still a chance that he will allow a dangerously anti-Israel resolution to go up for a vote at the United Nations Security Council without a U.S. veto. But even if he is constrained by either common sense or a commendable desire not to tie the hands of his successor with an act that can’t be undone, supporters of the Jewish state should not assume that Obama’s attitude toward Israel will be something they can safely ignore once he leaves the White House.

A reminder of just how much damage an ex-president can do comes today in the form of an op-ed by Jimmy Carter published in the New York Times. In it, Carter urges Obama to do just what Israel’s friends fear: allow the Security Council to recognize Palestinian independence with the borders of the territories Israel seized in 1967 without first compelling them to make peace with Israel. That would be a reversal of decades of U.S. policy and do incalculable harm to Israel while not advancing the cause of peace. Despite sharing an antipathy for Israel’s government, Carter and Obama are not close. If Obama does stab Israel in the back at the UN with a measure that will brand Israel as an outlaw state, it likely won’t be due to Carter’s influence. Yet the resurfacing of the 92-year-old Georgian at this crucial moment should alert the pro-Israel community to the possibility that Obama may use his post-presidency in a manner that will follow Carter’s pattern on the Middle East, but with the ability to create far more havoc than his predecessor.

Ever since he left the White House, Jimmy Carter has used the prestige of his former office to promote some anodyne causes like Habitat for Humanity. But he is almost as well known for his other post-presidential obsession: hammering Israel every chance he gets. Carter’s barely-concealed animus for Israel during his term in office was no secret, but it was overshadowed by Anwar Sadat’s courage in forging a peace with Israel for which the former president got more credit than he deserved.

Since then, Carter has stooped to false comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa and become a reliable apologist for anything the Palestinians do no matter how awful while never failing to attack Israel any chance he gets.

Carter left office as a defeated president and was labeled a failure. His presidency is chiefly remembered now, if it is remembered at all, as a prelude to the Ronald Reagan’s successful two terms, in which he presided over a robust recovery from Carter’s “malaise” and the defeat of the Soviet Union. Good works restored his reputation to some degree, but Carter’s standing at home and abroad has never been sufficient to lend the kind of weight to his attacks on the Jewish state that would have had an impact on American opinion or that of an international community already prejudiced against Israel.

That won’t be true of ex-president Obama.

Leaving office will not diminish Obama’s historic status as our first African-American president. History’s verdict on Obama’s major initiatives—ObamaCare and the Iran nuclear deal—may be that both were flops. But he exits the White House with sky-high approval ratings. Those numbers may grow in the next four years due to constant comparison with the mercurial Twitter-addicted Donald Trump.

That will place him in a unique position to influence a Democratic Party that has a growing faction that is unfriendly to Israel (as evidenced by the rise of Representative Keith Ellison as a likely next chair of the Democratic National Committee) and to sway international forums where his prestige will eclipse that of Carter or any other living president or world leader. Should Donald Trump keep his promises to stand by Israel, Jerusalem will not have to worry as much about its sole superpower ally as it has in the last eight years. But if Obama chooses to use the coming years of relative leisure to pursue his vendetta against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to push for pressure on Israel or even to isolate it in the same manner as Carter, he could be almost as much of a problem for the Jewish state out of office as he was in it.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Obama Plans to Rule America Outside the White House

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

{Originally Published in FrontPageMag}

Barack Obama has two faces. After Trump’s victory and Hillary’s defeat, the public Obama has been gracious and diplomatic. His lectures to Trump, directly and indirectly, are couched in praise. He echoed the feeling of millions on both sides when he said, “We are now all rooting for his success”.

That’s a lie. Or rather a disguise.

Obama and his aides had, in one insider narrative, decided to don the “mask of decorum”. The contempt for Trump still seeps through the mask. And the mask hides Obama’s next big move.

President Obama is over. He knows that. There are still some things that he can do before he leaves office, but everything except the most destructive, can be undone by his successor. The next phase of his campaign will not be fought from the White House. It will be fought against the White House .

The other Obama is emerging in conference calls with his supporters. “One of the challenges that I’ve discovered being president is I’d like to be organizer-in-chief, but it’s hard,” he said in one call.

Obama can no longer be commander-in-chief. Instead he’s plotting to become organizer-in-chief.

The infrastructure for the organization was put into place long before anyone thought that Hillary might lose. Organizing for Action gave him his own organizing hub. If Hillary had won, it would have been a pressure group.  Now that Trump won, it’s an axis to build a personal counterrevolution around.

In his post-election conference call with his OFA troops, Obama told them, “I’m giving you like a week and a half to get over it”. Then it would be time to “move forward not only to protect what we’ve accomplished, but also to see this as an opportunity”. What opportunity could there be in Trump’s win?

Obama is now the only major national figure still standing among the Democrats. After Hillary’s defeat, he’s worked hard to attribute the loss to her shortcomings, not his policies and decisions.  That’s not just to soothe his ego. If he’s going to dictate the future of his party, he can’t afford to be blamed for its latest disaster. And Obama is still determined to dictate the future of the party and the country.

In conventional politics, Obama is done. There’s no way back into the White House. And Hillary’s fate won’t leave much enthusiasm for nominating the uncharismatic spouse of a charismatic ex-president.

But Obama is not a conventional politician. He’s an organizer and a campaigner at the vanguard of a radical movement that seeks to control traditional institutions, but doesn’t feel bound by them. Unlike Bill Clinton, his plans don’t begin and end with the White House. As an organizer, Obama is equipped to build bases of power outside traditional institutions. And that is exactly what he is doing.

The demoralization of the Democrats is, as Obama put it, an opportunity. Social chaos is a time for the left to overthrow and undermine traditional institutions. Fear, anger and despair are radicalizing. The left has always operated by throwing bombs and then profiting from the fallout. That’s Obama’s agenda. Having wrecked the country and the Democrats, he sees that not as a setback, but as an opportunity.

“The network that you represent, you’re perfectly poised to do that,” Obama told his OFAers.  “In other words, now is the time for some organizing.”

While the leftist rioters in the streets are garnering the most attention, the real threat comes from the network of staffers dubbed Obama Anonymous which are beginning to organize and coordinate. OFA is Obama’s equivalent of the Clinton Foundation. The Clintons built Clintonworld around staffers, but its goal was harvesting money. Obama Inc. is being built around organizing and activism. Like Clintonworld, it will be a network encompassing a variety of political and non-profit institutions. Unlike them, it will be much less focused on directing money to its bosses in preparation for an election. Instead it will function like a traditional leftist movement, merging influence operations with crowdsourced mobilization.

OFA will be far more dangerous in the wild than the Clinton Foundation ever was. The Clintons hoped to ride back to power on a giant wave of money. Obama is taking a much more radical course.

The staffers exiting government are being wired into Obama Inc. whether or not they take jobs directly working for him. The OFA alumni are building networks across organizations while taking their marching orders from him. They expect Obama to lead them back from the wilderness and into the halls of power.

 He’s told them so.

“I’m going to be constrained in what I do with all of you until I am again a private citizen.  But that’s not so far off,” he assured them. “I’m still fired up and I’m still ready to go.” His next comments promised that radical political change could and would take place.

Obama isn’t going to retire. He’s not going to spend years puttering around with a presidential library. He’s not even going to set up a Clintonesque slush fund and try to make his wife president. Instead he wants to force radical change from outside the White House by using the network he’s built.

While the public Obama wraps up business at the White House, concludes yet another world tour, alternating between praising Trump and offering him condescending advice, the other Obama is preparing to deploy a network that will dominate the Dems and set the agenda on the left.

If Obama succeeds, then he will get another shot at picking his White House successor. But beyond that, he’s been handed the keys to an organizing machine that will allow him to set even more of the agenda for his party than ever before. And he has a cause that is sending the party reeling back into his arms.

Obama believes that he can rule America from outside the White House. And he might be right.

Political norms and old rules have been falling faster than leaves in an autumn wind. If Obama sets out to move the center of power outside the White House and into an organization that will control national politics through the left, it would be dangerous to assume that he can’t and won’t succeed.

The Democrats didn’t respond to their defeat, one of a sequence, by trying to move to the center. Instead there is every sign that they are moving further to the left. Keith Ellison, a radical leftist with an anti-Semitic past, is tipped to head the DNC. Schumer still has the Senate, but Elizabeth Warren may have it before too long. Combine that with Obama as the president-in-exile and the Dems will be more radical and extremist than they were even when Obama was sitting in the White House.

The Democrats are ceasing to be a national party. Instead they are becoming a nationalizing party. They are losing their presence in much of the country, from state legislature to state legislature, and becoming the party of major cities and the national government. Their agenda is to move power from local areas to central ones, from the villages and the suburbs to the cities, from states to D.C. and from locally elected legislators in D.C. to the satellite bureaucracies of the Federal government.

Obama sees Hillary’s defeat as an opportunity to burn the Dem’s last bridges with the larger country and its “bitter clingers”, to double down on nationalizing power and to define the political narrative around the agendas of urban elites. The left crippled the Democrats. Now it wants to utterly consume them.

Barack Obama is still being vague and coy about his plans. He informs reporters that he will attack Trump when it comes to “core questions about our values and ideals”. But the “faithful” are getting much clearer signals. “You’re going to see me early next year, and we’re going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff to do.”

The election was a catastrophic disaster for the Democrats, but it opened all sorts of doors for Obama.

Hillary’s defeat removes the Clintons, his only real internal rivals, off the stage. Trump’s triumph in working class areas cuts more ties with the traditional Dem base and transforms it into a party of left-wing urban elites and their radical agendas. And the popular figures on the left, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Keith Ellison, lack his national stature, speaking skills and organization.

Obama will move to consolidate the left. And then the Democrats. He will function as a president-in-exile heading up the opposition to Trump. When it comes to verbally challenging Trump, Obama will be more likely to be interviewed and heard than Ellison or Schumer. And his people will coordinate responses across the left from street level organizing to think tanks and policy moves.

Some of it is ego.

Obama believes that he can find the key to beating Trump in the traditional tactics of the left. But most is ideology and power. Obama is not done transforming America. And America isn’t done with him yet.

Daniel Greenfield

Report: Obama Talked Hillary into Conceding

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

President Barack Obama called Hillary Clinton on election night and talked her into conceding to Republican candidate Donald Trump, The Hill reported this weekend. Citing Clinton campaign sources, Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen, authors of an upcoming book on the campaign from Crown Publishing, have told The Hill that Obama advised his former Secretary of State, “You need to concede.”

Obama made his move at 1:30 AM, according to the new book, after the AP had called the race for Trump. A while later, close to dawn, Clinton called Trump to concede her defeat.

According to The Hill, a fight has ensued between the Obama and Clinton camps over the wisdom of the concession so early in the process, and of trying to force a recount of three Rust Belt states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Several Clinton campaign sources are now saying the Democratic candidate would not have called Trump had Obama not pushed her to do it, because the numbers were very close. “If anybody knew what actually happened that night, no one would have conceded,” one source said.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee does not want to be officially affiliated with Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s effort to recount the votes, because they are afraid of being perceived in a negative light as sore losers and as calling the elections rigged – something they criticized Trump for after the third debate. But the Democrats are nonetheless hopeful that Stein would succeed in proving an error in tabulating, if not worse, an outright hacking of the vote.

Stein filed her request for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, hoping to be able to enforce a similar move in Michigan and Pennsylvania as well. Wisconsin registered just under 3 million votes, and the deadline to complete a recount is Dec. 13. Stein’s campaign needs to raise about $7 million for the effort, and so far its online crowdsourcing has picked up more than $6 million as of Saturday night.

President-elect Trump has tweeted furiously in response to the recount effort, stating, among other things, “Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in. Nothing will change.” He also called the Green Party’s effort a “scam” to “fill up their coffers.”


INTO THE FRAY: Obama Unplugged: What To Do?

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Obama’s final months in power are a unique opportunity to correct the record, and, more important, score an achievement that his successors could scarcely undo. (Nathan Thrall, “Obama & Palestine: The Last Chance,” New York Review of Books, September 10, 2016)

Israel’s most urgent diplomatic mission today is to develop and implement a strategy that will outflank President Barack Obama in his final eight weeks in power. (Caroline Glick, “Checkmating Obama”, October 27, 2016)

The US elections are over. The die is cast. The American people—more deeply divided than ever before—have made their choice. As the virtual monopoly that the US electoral process had over the media begins to wane, other issues begin to dominate the discourse.

For Israel, the issue that, arguably, is the most pressing, is how to forestall any vindictive initiative from the Obama administration in the eight week “interregnum”, until his successor is inaugurated.

Ominous interregnum uncertainty

True, the probability of such an initiative may have receded considerably following the trouncing of Obama’s Democratic Party, which may be too preoccupied with introspective soul-searching and internecine finger-pointing to open up a new confrontational front.

However, any complacency on this matter would be foolhardy. Indeed, far-from-implausible counter-arguments can be conceived of, that make the case that the stinging defeat might even stir the rancor of the outgoing administration towards Israel, increasing the probability of some inimical measure being undertaken against it.

Thus, in a recent New York Post article (November 14, 2016), Seth Mandel warns that Hillary’s loss may well accelerate “the Democrats’ turn against Israel” with the front-runner for the next Democratic National Committee chairman being Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, “a fiery critic of Israel”.

Accordingly, no matter how optimistic some pro-Israel elements might be as to the new spirit the Trump administration might infuse into US Mid-East policy, they would do well to heed the warning of one political analyst that this “may well have little impact on activity that could happen in the next two months until Obama leaves office.”

The growing potential for anti-Israeli sentiment in the Democratic Party could well comprise a tail-wind for carrying out the veiled threats emanating from the administration. Thus, two days after the elections, at a November 10 press-briefing, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, underscored that “we view [the establishment of a Palestinian state] as the only means to a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…So it’s going to remain this Administration’s pursuit until the very final moments”. In response to a question he added, ominously: “…but I can’t rule out that there may be a new initiative before the end of this administration.”

Bracing for a “Lame-Duck Surprise”

In the weeks before the election, speculation was rife as to some kind of adversarial move by the Obama administration before it leaves office.

Thus, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece entitled Israel Surprise?: Fears grow of a final days presidential ambush at the U.N. ( Oct. 31, 2016). Two weeks earlier, Dan Arbell, senior fellow, at the Brookings Institute posted his assessment, Does Obama really have a November surprise planned for Israel and the Palestinians? , (October 17, 2016), in which he predicted: “…Obama will not leave the White House without addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue, one final time, as president”.

Likewise, Rafael Medoff posted an article in Algemeiner (November 7, 2016) headlined Israel, Jewish Groups Fear an Obama ‘December Surprise’ at the UN, detailing various proposals, reportedly under consideration by the outgoing administration (from unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state to punitive action against the “settlements” and their US supporters); and warning of the long-lasting detrimental impact they are likely to have on Israel and on any prospect for reducing Palestinian intransigence.

This largely reflects the concern expressed earlier by Gregg Roman , director of the Middle East Forum in Obama’s November surprise (The Hill, September 26, 2016): “Some say the surprise will be a speech laying down parameters for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute or some type of formal censure of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but the scenario generating most discussion is a decision to support, or perhaps not to veto a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.”

Warning against any post-election complacency, Jonathan Schanzer, vice-president of the Washington based think -tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, cautioned that Trump’s victory over Clinton could, in fact, make Obama feel “less encumbered” about launching an end-of-term lame-duck Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic initiative.

Some proposed remedies

However, while the media abounded with ominous warnings as to possible hostile diplomatic initiatives from the White House, few, if any, of those sounding the alarm offered any formula of how to confront, contend and counter such moves.

One notable exception was Caroline Glick, who in a column Checkmating Obama, posted just prior to the elections (October 27, 2016) predicted: “Open season on Israel at the Security Council will commence November 9. The Palestinians are planning appropriately. Israel needs to plan, too. Israel’s most urgent diplomatic mission today is to develop and implement a strategy that will outflank President Barack Obama in his final eight weeks in power…Obama has waited eight years to exact his revenge on Israel for not supporting his hostile, strategically irrational policies… he has no interest in letting bygones be bygones.”

Glick, however, did not restrict herself to cautioning as to the prospective dangers looming on Israel’s political horizon. She also attempted to set out a recipe for dealing with them.

While her proactive problem-solving approach is in itself admirable, sadly the remedies she prescribes are highly unlikely to be effective.

If I understand her proposal correctly, these measures involve trying to enlist countries allegedly friendly to Israel (New Zealand and Uruguay are mentioned) to draft and submit a “balanced” resolution to the UN Security Council to stymy the passage of any one-sided anti-Israel resolution that Obama might refrain from vetoing, while trying to enlist Russia to support the former, and veto the latter—by “offer[ing] Putin to lobby Congress to cancel US sanctions against Russia over Russia’s annexation of Crimea”

Too little, too late, too tenuous…

I do not wish to dwell in great detail on the glaring defects in these proposals, or on their low probability of success, which Glick herself acknowledges, admitting “There are many more ways for Israel to fail than succeed”.

Suffice it to say that as a response to an inimical initiative by Obama, they are far too little; far too late; and far too tenuous.

Thus, while Glick is correct in her overall approach of demonstrating that “attacking Israel is no longer cost free” and that “We are not powerless in the grip of circumstances. We have cards to play”, the measures she is proposing are hardly commensurate with the threat they are meant to counter. Moreover, there is probably not enough time to gear for their implementation, while their success is heavily dependent on the good will and reliability of others. Instead, Israel needs to fashion a response which it can implement on its own, without requiring the collaboration of others, on its own timetable and which will be strong enough to effectively forestall the threat it was designed to deal with.

Such a response is entirely within Israel’s reach. All it requires is sufficient political will to carry it out.

Responding to unilateralism with unilateralism

I have been advocating this kind of response for over half-a-decade, ever since the Palestinians raised the possibility of making a unilateral bid for independence at the UN in September 2011 – see Come September (August 18, 2011), where, much like Glick’s call in her recent article, I urged that “Israel must credibly convey that support for unilateral Palestinian statehood will not be a cost-free decision for whoever acts to effect it – or fails to act to foil it”. I have advanced it repeatedly in subsequent columns –see Israel’s only option (December 25, 2014).

Accordingly, should any measures, not mutually agreed upon, be instituted in international forums to advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel should announce that, since consensual resolution of conflict has proved unattainable, it will seek other alternatives – now unavoidably unilateral.

Next, the Israeli leadership must muster the intellectual integrity not only to identify the Palestinians for what they really are – and what they themselves declare they are: an implacable enemy. It must also to undertake a policy that reflects this underlying and undeniable truth—now made even more starkly obvious by the recent Palestinian sponsored UNESCO resolution, denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

Clearly, as an implacable enemy, Israel has no moral obligation or practical interest in sustaining their economy or social order.

Independence implies…independence

Consequently, should Israel be confronted with an un-vetoed resolution to promote Palestinian statehood, it must convey in unequivocally clear terms to the Palestinians – and to their supporters – that if it is independence they demand, then independent they will have to be.

As a result, Israel will cease, forthwith, to provide all services and merchandise that it provides them today. In other words, no water, electricity, fuel, postal services, communications, port facilities, tax collection or remittances will be supplied by Israel any longer.

After all, what possible claim could be invoked to coerce one sovereign entity to provide for another allegedly sovereign entity – and an overtly adversarial one at that?

Indeed, when Israel declared its independence, no Arab country rushed to help it develop and evolve. Quite the opposite: The Arab world imposed embargoes and boycotts on it – and on anyone with the temerity to conduct commerce with it.

These proposed measures will vividly expose the farcical futility of the Palestinians’ endeavor for statehood, who almost two decades after the Oslo accords, and massive investment, have not produced anything but an untenable, divided entity, crippled by corruption and cronyism, with a dysfunctional polity, an illegitimate president, an unelected prime minister, and a feeble economy that, with its minuscule private sector and bloated public one, is unsustainable without the largesse of its alleged “oppressor.”

Nothing could do more to lay bare the absurdity of the Palestinians’ total dependence on the very body from which they seek independence.

Interregnum silver lining?

It is still too early to judge whether fears as to some spiteful anti-Israeli initiative at the UN or elsewhere by the outgoing president will be borne out, or whether his party’s sweeping defeat across the board will have left him chastened enough for him to choose to forego any further adversarial engagement until his successor takes office.

While Israel must be alive to the dangers any such initiative may entail, and be prepared to weather them, it might also present an opportunity for Israel to reiterate that should any one wish to impose on it the establishment of yet another homophobic, misogynistic Muslim-majority tyranny, that in all likelihood would become a forward base for radical Islamist terror, they will have to shoulder the costs to sustain it themselves.

That just might have a chilling effect on their enthusiasm for the whole idea of Palestinian statehood.

Dr. Martin Sherman

Campus Warrior Tells High School Seniors About College Anti-Semitism

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Last Wednesday, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative which combats campus anti-Semitism in America, spoke with 25 Brighton High School students in Rochester, NY. Later, in the evening, she spoke to an audience of 150 concerned parents, educators and community members. Both events were organized by Roc4Israel.

In early November, the Rochester Campus Times reported confrontations between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students at an event organized by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) after the screening of “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States.”

Noah Spivak, president of the Jewish Student Union at the high school, told JNi.media via an email from an AMCHA activist: “Soon we will each be applying for colleges and we are very concerned by the recent rise in anti-Semitic behavior on campuses across the country. Thanks to today’s meeting with Tammi, many of us feel better prepared for what we might encounter.”

Rabbi Shaya Kilimnick of Congregation Beth Sholom in Rochester, also told JNi.media via the same email: “Recently our campuses have become the battleground for anti-Semitic and anti Israel activities, mostly  by pro-Palestinian protests orchestrated by experienced hate groups — under the blind eye of University administrators. This has left our Jewish students vulnerable and exposed to  hatred and under attack.”

“Last evening, Tammi Rossman Benjamin of AMCHA provided us with leadership and offered us a selection of opportunities to engage in, so that we can be able to approach this challenge successfully. We encourage all who are concerned for our Jewish children to become involved.”

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin summarized her message, saying: There’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad news is that as a result of BDS and other anti-Zionist activity, Jewish students are experiencing alarming and unprecedented levels of anti-Semitism on campuses across the country.  The good news is that the Jewish community and its allies are uniting at last to do something about it, and you can help.”

Following is a portion of Tammi Rossman-Benjamin’s talk, generously transcribed for JNi.media.

●  ●  ●

As you might imagine, anti-Zionist sentiment and activity have had extremely negative consequences for many Jewish college and university students. The injection of the anti-Zionist movement, and particularly BDS, onto campus in the past decade has fueled a significant resurgence and increase in anti-Semitism.  The lines between appropriate political discourse on Israeli policy and discrimination toward Jewish students have become blurred. Jewish students report that anti-Zionist activists single out, harass, intimidate, and even assault them, regardless of their personal feelings on Israel. And far too often, anti-Zionist expression is laced with centuries-old classic anti-Semitic stereotypes. The anti-Zionist activists target not only pro-Israel students, but anyone presumed to support Israel, first and foremost Jewish students, regardless of their actual personal feelings on Israel. As a result, Jewish students engaging in Jewish activity having nothing to do with Israel — wearing their Jewish sorority or fraternity letters, displaying Star of David necklaces, walking to Hillel for Sabbath dinner – report fearing for their safety and well- being. In addition, because of their support, or even just presumed support, for Israel, Jewish students report being rejected from progressive social justice activities such as pro-choice rallies, anti-rape demonstrations, Black Lives Matter events and racial justice conferences.In addition to ostracizing and alienating Jewish students from certain areas of campus life, anti- Zionist students repeatedly attempt to shutdown events organized by Jewish students and suppress their free speech about Israel and other topics. Sadly, Jewish students are being targeted, discriminated against and ostracized, and their civil rights are being egregiously violated.
That’s the view from 30,000 feet.  Now let’s get down to what I hope will be helpful specifics.

Anti-Israel student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, whose very mission includes the promotion of BDS, are found on hundreds of U.S. campuses. (I know that at University of Rochester, the group Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, has spearheaded considerable anti-Zionist activity on campus, most recently the screening of an the film “Occupation of the American Mind,” a film which not only demonizes and delegitimizes the Jewish state, its whole premise is based on the classic anti-Semitic tropes popularized in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” of Jewish wealth, power and mendacity being used to control the government and media). SJP and similar groups, besides promoting BDS on their Facebook pages and other social media, on the large “apartheid walls” they build, in op-eds they publish in student newspapers and at events they host quite regularly, groups like SJP are responsible for organizing campaigns to get their own schools to boycott Israeli products like Sabra humus, to terminate their school’s academic exchange programs with Israel, and, most frequently, to have their student governments vote on resolutions demanding that the university divest from any of its financial holdings in businesses which do business with Israel. More than 90 anti-Israel divestment resolutions have found their way to about 50 U.S. campuses across the country.  About half of all resolutions have passed, but this number is, frankly, irrelevant, because any school whose student government or student body even considers such a resolution is racked with divisiveness, hostility, and animosity for weeks on end. And whether a resolution ultimately passes or not, the anti-Israel forces have used these campaigns as opportunities to inject enormous amounts of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiment onto campus.

And it’s not just student groups like SJP, whose members are devoted to anti-Israel activity, that are involved in these efforts.  In this age of “intersectionality,” where the grievance of one group is opportunistically linked to the grievance of other groups, SJP has deliberately forged alliances with many other minority student groups on campus, who frequently add their groups’ names to the sponsorship of BDS-promoting events and the endorsement of anti-Israel divestment resolutions. For example, SJP has made common cause with Black Lives Matter, and students from both groups frequently co-host rallies and events linking Blacks and Palestinians and promoting BDS. Last year at the University of Rochester a talk by Reverend Graylan Hagler entitled “Connecting the dots: From Ferguson to Palestine,” which demonized and delegitimized Israel and promoted BDS, was sponsored by several student groups, including an Arab group, an Indian group, a Muslim group, the Black Students’ Union, and a multi-ethnic fraternity.

In addition to that, thousands of faculty on hundreds of campuses have also publicly endorsed BDS efforts, especially the boycott of Israeli universities and scholars, as well as the divestment resolutions of students on their own campus. Some faculty boycotters bring their anti-Israel animus and activism into their classrooms, and it is not unusual for academic departments to sponsor virulently anti-Israel talks and symposia, some of them even including calls for the boycott of Israel.  For example, earlier this year at Vassar College, a talk by women and gender studies professor Jasbir Puar, in which she falsely accused Israel of maiming and murdering Palestinians and harvesting their organs, and she actively encouraged her audience to endorse the BDS movement, was sponsored and funded by 6 academic departments, including Women’s Studies, English, International Studies, Political Science, Africana Studies, and Jewish Studies.  Indeed, since 2015 we have documented more than 60 departmentally sponsored events like this, on campuses across the country.

Given the sheer number of students and faculty who have positioned themselves squarely against Israel, even to the point of opposing its very right to exist, it’s no wonder that many Jewish students who identify with the Jewish state feel like the whole campus community is united not only against Israel, but against them.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. In a recent study that our organization carried out, looking at the prevalence of anti-Semitic activity and the factors that affect it on more than 100 US campuses with the largest Jewish students populations, we found that on close to half the campuses we investigated, students are threatened because of their Jewish identity, sometimes regardless of their personal feelings on Israel. They are assaulted, harassed and intimidated, their places of residence defaced with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti, their participation in campus activities shunned, the events they organize disrupted and shut down, and more.

If you are a member of a Jewish or pro-Israel organization — perhaps Roc4Israel or a synagogue-affiliated group — or if you would consider forming an organization, perhaps an alumni group concerned about anti-Jewish hostility at your alma mater, please consider spearheading or participating in a campaign, say, to get the president of the University of Rochester or of your alma mater, to follow in the footsteps of the UC Regents.  We can help!   AMCHA will work with your group to develop a plan, provide you with our research on anti-Semitic activity at your school, advise you as you carry out your plan, and help you network with other groups across the country.

Together, we can make a real difference.


On Eve of Trump Presidency, Obama Administration Still Views BDS Militancy as ‘Free Speech’

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

An exchange on Tuesday between State Dept. Press Office Director Elizabeth Trudeau and a reporter during her daily press briefing, served as a reminder of the vast difference between the ways Obama and Trump officials view sovereignty and a state’s right to defend itself against political enemies from afar.

On Monday, the Knesset plenum passed in a preliminary reading by a vote of 42 to 15 with 7 abstaining an amendment to the Entry into Israel Act banning entry non-Israelis who are members of organizations that promote boycotting the State of Israel.

A reporter, who mentioned that even former Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni called the bill “McCarthyism,” asked Trudeau to comment on the legislation, and the State Dept. senior official said: “We’re aware of the various reactions to the proposed bill to bar pro-BDS activists from entering Israel. We understand. I’d also note that the legislation requires several more steps before becoming law (a committee debate and two more Knesset plenum votes).”

Trudeau continued: “The United States’ strong opposition to boycott and sanctions of the state of Israel is well-known. However, as a general principle, we value freedom of expression even in cases where we do not agree with the views espoused.”

Of course, the US as well as several American states do not view the BDS movement’s activities in the realm of freedom of expression, but rather as driving a hostile attack on the vital interests of a friendly country. Only this past Monday, Reps. Pete Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) introduced a bipartisan bill imposing criminal penalties on US companies complying with the BDS movement, including the boycott of communities in Judea and Samaria.

There’s no doubt that a broad consensus of American politicians would strongly disagree with Trudeau when she states, as she did Tuesday: “While every country has a right to control its borders, we certainly support the freedom of expression even when we don’t agree with the policy.”

Not really. The US happens to be one of the toughest countries to get into if one is associated with a large number of groups and organizations or is on record as authoring material that is repugnant to the American public — as it well should be. Why should the US, or Israel, or any country for that matter, play gracious host to individuals who wish to see it dead?

Oh, how we’re looking forward to the first State Dept. press briefing in late January, 2017…

David Israel

Beware the Revenge of Obama

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Rejection leads to projection. In his final days, Obama will act to unilaterally move the markers where he still can, including a drive towards Palestinian statehood. Israel should make it clear, both as a threat and as a policy principle to be put into action, that unilateral action (against Israel) will beget unilateral Israeli action in response. If Obama moves the markers, Israel will move the markers…

For some time, it has been our assessment that President Barack Hussein Obama was likely to move dangerously on Israeli-Palestinian issues during his 72-day lame duck period between the November presidential election and the January 2017 inauguration of his successor.

The ruckus he could cause in this danger zone even earned a name: The December Surprise.

After being resoundingly repudiated this week, Obama became an even more dangerous politician.

Obama was trashed and trounced by the American public, on ideological grounds – which indubitably makes him bitter and determined to get his way; out for revenge in his dying days.

Consider: The election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States is the ultimate slap down of Obama. It is a searing personal defeat. After all, Obama made it clear that this election was a referendum on his “legacy.”

He explicitly warned voters that unless Hillary Clinton was elected president, “everything” that he stood for and every policy he worked for would be washed down the drain. Obama literally said that the “fate of the nation” hangs in the balance.

Last Friday, the outgoing president told MSNBC that “If you supported me in ‘08, if you supported me in ‘12, if you think that I’ve done a good job, if you believe that Michelle has done a good job — everything that we’ve done over the last eight years will be reversed with a Trump presidency. And everything will be sustained and built on with a Hillary Clinton presidency.”

Well, there isn’t going to be a Hillary Clinton presidency, and it’s not just because she was a flawed candidate. It’s because half of all Americans rejected the notion that Obama has “done a good job,” and they weren’t interested in “sustaining” his policies. They didn’t want another four or eight years of Obama.

They didn’t buy the Democratic message that everything was swell in America, and that all that was needed was a competent Democrat to advance Obama’s superior approach.

They were offended by Obama’s smug assurances of omnipotent everything: That he possessed exceptional insight on every issue, and that he had executed the most-outstanding economic, social and foreign policy. And that Hillary was the repository of this unique wellspring of near-prophetic and superhuman wisdom.

It was time to take Obama dully down. And so they did, those middle-of-the-road Americans. They weren’t swayed by the crooning of Jay-Z, Beyonce and Springsteen alongside Obama (and Hillary), or the endorsements of Hollywood and high academia.

They whipped and whopped Obama. Oh, this must sting.

REJECTION LEADS TO PROJECTION. A man as ideologically arrogant and unrepentant as Obama is sure to double-down on, not back away from, those things that he most believes in and has yet still to achieve.

It is therefore more likely than ever that in his final weeks in office, Obama will unilaterally act to impose his worldview and move the policy markers wherever he still can.

He will sneer at the aides who tell him that his time has passed, and that he shouldn’t rock the boat. He will reject advisors who assert that he should focus merely on protecting his “achievements” like Obamacare and the Iran deal. He will rebuff activists who are concerned about the state of his camp; he doesn’t give a damn about the fortunes of the Democratic Party.

Instead, Obama will strike-out to make a lasting mark, and strike at those he resents most.

And this means seeking to impose Palestinian statehood, and punishing Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Remember that from Day One in office, Obama prioritized the push towards Palestinian statehood. His very first acts were to appoint George Mitchell as Mideast peace negotiator and squeeze Netanyahu over settlements. Even as Mahmoud Abbas slid precipitously from purported peace partner to out-and-out fomenter of violence and hangman of Israel in international fora – Obama hasn’t wavered in his coddling of Abbas or his commitment to the “urgent necessity” of Palestinian statehood.

If anything, Obama has ramped-up his rhetoric over the past year about the need for “justice” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He has repeatedly insisted that Israel’s best interests – about which is an expert and to which he is deeply committed – lie in the rapid establishment of a Palestinian state. Even if it is a runaway state that hasn’t settled its central grievances with Israel.

That’s what Obama was saying in his speech at the funeral on Mt. Herzl for Shimon Peres, when he spoke about Peres’ “moral ‎vision” and passion for “justice”; about the “dehumanizing” and “unfinished business” of peacemaking with Palestinians; and about security that can come only from “true peacemaking,” and by ending ‎Israel’s “slave”-like rule over the Palestinians.‎

I immediately understood Obama’s speech as a warning of “tough love” that can yet be ‎expected of him in the waning days of his presidency, and beyond; of determined action in support of “justice” for the Palestinians (– yes, there is that word again!) that Obama will yet dish out while citing the legacy of Peres as cover.

In other words, the ghost of Peres is a new cudgel to be wielded against Prime Minister Netanyahu and anybody that runs afoul of Obama’s impatient drive towards statehood-now for the Palestinians. I fully expect Obama to hurl forth, no matter how deleterious this may be to real peacemaking or to American positioning in the Mideast.

WHAT CAN ISRAEL DO to counter Obama’s expected foray, probably at the UN Security Council, into the Palestinian morass? Israel should make it clear, both as a threat and as a policy principle to be put into action, that unilateral action (against Israel) will beget unilateral Israeli action in response. If they move the markers, Israel will move the markers.

If the US violates decades of commitments to Israel and acts to prejudge the outcome of direct negotiations between the parties by imposing parameters for a “solution” – say, by recognizing Palestinian statehood, or by articulating border lines, or by criminalizing settlements – Israel should act to shore-up its core interests in Jerusalem and the settlement blocks. That means significant new building in these areas (long overdue!) and even annexation.

Israel’s policy in this regard should be coordinated, if possible, with the incoming Trump administration, but not be dependent on any so-called American green light.

David Weinberg

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/beware-the-revenge-of-obama/2016/11/16/

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