Archive | August, 2019

The optics don’t matter on Israel’s ban of Omar and Tlaib

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Jerome M. Marcus

(JNS) Just as its enemies hoped, Israel has been attacked for denying entry to two U.S. congresswomen who, in clear violation of Israeli law, sought to enter the country so they could use it as a backdrop to advocate for the BDS movement. So rabid are these haters that, in the itinerary they submitted to the State of Israel, they said they wanted to come to visit “Palestine,” wherever that is. The State of Israel has no power to authorize people to enter the imaginary country of Palestine, regardless of where its imaginary borders might be.

Indeed, Israel first agreed to allow Omar and Tlaib entry. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained in his statement announcing the revocation of this permission, Israel changed its mind only when their planned itinerary made clear “that their intent is to hurt Israel” and promote “unrest against it.”

No country has any obligation to let admit people who come only to attack. Yet Israel has been denounced for this decision.

The answer is that the attacks come from different flanks. The actual Israel-haters are delighted to attack Israel for not letting the women in, just as they would have been delighted to attack Israel for letting them in and then bemoaning the oppression of the Palestinians that the women came to promote.

Another front, though, has been Israel’s “reasonable” friends, who worry that by barring its door to these enemies Israel allowed itself to be made to look bad. Let’s hold that accusation up to the light.

Several years ago, a “flotilla” set sail to Gaza from Turkey, including several boats filled with celebrity Israel-haters and one filled with actual terrorists. They claimed they were coming to deliver humanitarian supplies to the oppressed Arabs in Gaza, which is under a blockade that even the United Nations says is legal because the Hamas government in Gaza has declared war on Israel (and, just for good measure, on all Jews throughout the world). In fact, though, as was obvious to anyone who was paying attention, these people wanted to do nothing other than stage a publicity stunt, manufacture victims of Israeli self-defense, declare victory and go home.

Israel stopped most of the boats without incident, but the one with the trained terrorists on it put up a fight. Israel landed some of its most highly trained special ops soldiers on the deck of this ship, armed with sidearms and paint guns—yes, you heard that right, paint guns. So enormously brave and skilled were these Jewish heroes that they ultimately subdued the terrorists on deck, who came at them with metal rods, tried to kidnap one and bloodied several before they were defeated.

The world’s response? The same foolish nonsense we hear now about Omar and Tlaib. Israel’s avowed enemies claimed to be shocked at Israel’s bad behavior, saying they used violence to stop a humanitarian campaign! And all its tepid friends could do in response was to wring their hands and moan that the incident made Israel look bad.

This response came then, as it often does now, from people who clearly care about Israel, accurately evaluate Israel’s enemies most of the time and who should know better than to be cowed by publicity stunts. The only point of the exercise—of the Mavi Marmara “humanitarian” flotilla, like the “learning exercise” of Tlaib and Omar, was to make Israel look bad. For a reporter or analyst to say that Israel failed because it looked bad by barring its door to these enemies is an entirely self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, it isn’t even a prophecy; it’s just a self-referential announcement about the views of the announcer. Israel, these people are saying, looks bad because I have announced in print that Israel looks bad.

This is nonsense. What Israel did was simply to deny entry to enemies—something that every reasonable country does every day. The United States denies visas all the time to people it deems a threat. In fact, according to a General Accounting Office report from 2018, in the United States, under President Barack Obama, the non-immigrant visa refusal rate rose from about “14 percent in fiscal year 2012 to about 22 percent in fiscal year 2016, and remained about the same in fiscal year 2017; averaging about 18 percent over the time period,” according to the report. “The total number of NIVs issued peaked in fiscal year 2015 at about 10.89 million, before falling in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to 10.38 million and 9.68 million, respectively.”

Looking bad is in the eye of the beholder. Lookers who are analysts (and even those who are just thoughtful) should feel no obligation to bemoan Israel’s “looking bad” for anything unless it really is bad. If it’s not, then the objective analyst should always say exactly that.

On Friday morning, it was announced that Israel had granted Tlaib’s request to enter the country so that she could visit her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the disputed territories. “It may be my last chance to see her,” Tlaib tearily told the media before Israel acquiesced. Israel insisted only that Tlaib agree that while she was on this humanitarian visit, she not promote a boycott of the Jewish state. Tlaib’s response? After saying “yes,” she ultimately said “no.” She thus proclaims her real truth: Visiting her aged grandmother was less important than promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

If anyone had any doubt about the intended purpose of this “visit” by Omar and Tlaib, this capitulation by Tlaib removes it. They weren’t coming to learn and see, and they weren’t coming to promote peace. They weren’t even coming to visit family. Instead, as Tlaib makes absolutely clear, they were coming only for one reason: to hurt Israel. If they couldn’t do that, they weren’t coming at all, even to visit aged family members whom they will probably never see again.

Israel absolutely should not fall victim to such stunts. And neither should its friends.

Jerome M. Marcus is a lawyer and a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

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Israel’s decision to bar Omar and Tlaib comes from a position of strength

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Alex Traiman

(JNS) Israel set off a firestorm this week in announcing that U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) would not receive entry visas for their self-stated visit to “Palestine.”

Just two weeks earlier, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer—a trusted adviser with a direct line to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—had stated that “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.”

And it was just days ago that 72 representatives from both parties toured Israel on delegations specifically designed for freshman members of Congress. Yet Tlaib and Omar refused to attend, joining calls to #skipthetrip, which was organized on behalf of the representatives by the American Israeli Education Foundation (AIEF), a division of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Instead, Tlaib and Omar scheduled a different trip sponsored by Miftah, an organization that promotes boycotts and delegitimization of Israel. The itinerary did not include any coordination with Israel’s foreign ministry or formal requests to meet any Israeli officials.

When Israeli government officials learned of the itinerary, they announced that the two anti-Israel representatives would not receive entry visas for a trip, in accordance with a 2017 law that permits the country to ban promoters of boycotts from entering the country, which was clearly scheduled specifically for the purpose of strengthening their anti-Israel narrative.

Opponents of the decision, including other members of Congress and members of the American Jewish communal establishment, came out in full force to deride the Israeli government’s enforcement of its law.

Many said the decision was a sign of weakness on the part of Israel’s democracy, while others said the decision would hurt Israel’s image abroad.

Additionally, opponents of the decision have said that it would do irreparable harm to the U.S.-Israel relationship.  In a statement, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations noted that in a phone call on the reversal with Dermer, “Concerns were expressed by numerous leaders about the implications of the decision and how it is perceived, while acknowledging the extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and actions of the congresswomen.”

Yet U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman countered those claims, implying that the enforcement of its law would not harm relations, stating that “the United States supports and respects the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry to the Tlaib/Omar Delegation.” He went on to state that “the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is not free speech. Rather, it is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish state.”

Just hours before Israel made the announcement to bar the two congresswomen, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”

In making the decision, Israel sent a strong message to Omar and Tlaib, and other BDS supporters: If you promote boycotts of Israel, then Israel boycotts you. If you delegitimize Israel as a sovereign entity and make anti-Semitic claims, then Israel does not give legitimacy to your positions, even (and especially) as members of the government of a close ally like the United States.

Whether one agrees with Israel’s decision or not, it was made from a position of strength, not weakness. Israel’s democracy has proven time and again that it can withstand any criticism, whether from grassroots activists to nation-state leaders.

The special relationship between Israel and the United States is based on shared values and mutual respect. For those members of Congress who continue to express those shared values and show respect towards the Jewish nation as a power and a positive force, they will always be invited and welcomed with open arms.

Unfortunately, progressive members of the Democratic Party are introducing a new set of political values and seemingly working to deride the Israeli government. This stark distancing from Israel, which has embedded itself within the party long before Omar and Tlaib were elected, threatens the U.S. relationship with Israel much more than the government’s reaction to a provocative itinerary meant to further delegitimize the Jewish state.

And whether the decision was the correct move—either from the point of Israel’s complicated public relations or from the purview of maintaining Israel’s long-term bond with the Democratic Party—it is well within its sovereign right as a strong and free nation to decide either to let the two enter or to #skiptheirtrip.

Alex Traiman is managing director and Jerusalem Bureau Chief of Jewish News Syndicate.



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Israel should have ignored Trump’s pressure on Omar and Tlaib

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

By Jonathan S. Tobin

(JNS) Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama, President Donald Trump doesn’t think more “daylight” between the United States and Israel is needed, and he has had Israel’s back on all the major issues regarding the peace process and threats like Iran.

But ironically, this is a moment when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have not only sought to establish a little distance between his government and the White House, but also ignored the advice coming from the Twitter account of @realDonaldTrump.

Trump’s Thursday-morning tweet, in which he said “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to enter the country, apparently helped push Netanyahu to decide to prevent the pair from carrying out their planned trip, which was originally slated to start on Sunday.

While this may play well with some Israelis and also serves Trump’s political interests, it is a terrible mistake that will only hurt Israel and help its enemies.

Trump is right when he says that Omar and Tlaib hate Israel. They’re both guilty of anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish nation and its American supporters, in which they’ve claimed that Jews are buying congressional support and are guilty of dual loyalty to both countries. They’re supporters of a BDS movement that is drenched in anti-Semitism and seeks to eliminate the one Jewish state on the planet.

Their goal is to conduct a circus-like tour of Palestinian sites in which a gaggle of international journalists will help them smear Israel as an oppressor. The problems of the Palestinians would have been depicted as solely the fault of Israel, while the oppression, violence, corruption and intransigence of both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip would have been ignored.

But keeping them out of the country will help the congresswomen’s cause and other Israel-haters far more than Israel.

By going back on his government’s initial promise to allow the two to visit Israel, made last month by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, Netanyahu is hurting his country’s image as a free and open democracy that is not afraid of scrutiny. While that is an important consideration, the real damage goes far deeper than mere bad optics.

Their denied entry will give opponents of laws that ban compliance with BDS boycotts the ability to say that Israel and its friends are seeking to bar free speech.

More importantly, by allowing Omar and Tlaib to pose as martyrs, Israel will engender sympathy for them among their fellow Democrats, aiding rather than hindering their effort to ensure that the party is further alienated from Israel.

At the bottom of this controversy is a foolish law passed by the Knesset in 2017 to ban entry into the country of foreigners who support boycotts of Israel. The point of the legislation was to hinder non-government organizations that seek to promote the false image of Israel as an “apartheid” state. But while this inconvenienced these activists, its main impact was to provide fodder for their propaganda efforts. Their activities inside Israel did little or no actual harm to the state. Yet their exclusion made the region’s only democracy seem like just another petty tyranny. The law allowed Israelis to vent their anger at opponents, but helped their foes more than it hurt them.

Law or no law, under normal circumstances, no Israeli government would think of enforcing a ban on a member of Congress, no matter how much they may be disliked or unwelcome. The reason why the unthinkable became Israeli policy is rooted in the politics of both countries.

Netanyahu may think this decision will help him rally more right-wing Israeli voters to the Likud prior to next month’s elections, where he is fighting for his political life.

The more important calculation is that it is in Trump’s interests for Netanyahu to ban Omar and Tlaib.

Much as was the case with his previous shots at the pair and the other members of the “Squad,” like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Trump wants these radicals to become the face of the Democratic Party. His attacks on them helped turned them into martyrs and the darlings of both the party’s left-wing activist base, the liberal media and late-night television comedy shows.

Though their views are out of sync with more moderate Democrats, like the 41 members of the House who just visited Israel this past week to express their solidarity, Trump’s broadsides make it harder for others in their party to censure or hold them accountable for their anti-Semitism.

Moderate Democrats are trying, albeit not always successfully, to hold the line against radicals whose animus for Israel is fueled by intersectional theories that are fashionable on the far-left and with minority communities. But Trump wants them to fail and to further the alarming chasm between many Democrats and supporters of Israel that was widened by the misguided policies of Obama. The further to the left the Democrats drift, the easier Trump thinks it will be for him to be re-elected.

Trump may be the most pro-Israel U.S. president to date, and many friends of Israel view with alarm the possibility that a Democrat with far less sympathy for the Jewish state will replace him in the Oval Office in 2021. But given the fact that good relations with the United States is a long-term priority that transcends the political calculations of both Trump and Netanyahu, it’s not in Israel’s interests to do anything that will make the break with Democrats worse.

That is exactly what Netanyahu has done by banning Omar and Tlaib.

And by announcing his decision only an hour after Trump’s tweet, Netanyahu is allowing detractors to portray him as a lap dog of an American president, which is something that will make it harder for him or a successor to say “no” to the White House the next time it becomes necessary.

Even those who rightly regard Omar and Tlaib with anger and contempt should understand that this decision is a self-inflicted wound that will do Israel far more damage in terms of its interests and its image than any short-lived visit would have done.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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Banning Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will turn young American Jews against Israel

Banning Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will turn young American Jews against Israel

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib had no plans to visit Israel while in the area. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

By Samuel Heilman

JERUSALEM (JTA) — During the past few days in Israel, a debate has broken out about the proposed visit of U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to the Palestinian territories. Both Democrats, Muslims and vocal critics of Israel, the congresswomen apparently were planning a not uncommon fact-finding trip to the region while Congress is on recess — before Israel made the decision to ban them. 
Omar and Tlaib had been planning to visit Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem, as well as Israeli-annexed eastern Jerusalem, including a visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque. Tlaib had been planning to stay on to visit relatives in her parents’ former home. In the last few hours, the flip-flopping Netanyahu government has said it will allow Talib to visit her relatives in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds as she pledged to abide by any restrictions and not to promote boycotts against Israel, but the Michigan lawmaker decided that she will not be going “under these oppressive conditions.”
https://twitter.com/RashidaTlaib/status/1162346455593619457
What made this proposed visit significant was that the congresswomen had no plans to visit Israel during their time in the area, and that they hold clearly expressed concerns about the occupation and the conditions of Palestinians living under Israeli control. 
Originally it seemed that Israel would follow precedent and allow the elected officials of its most important ally to visit. But seemingly under pressure from President Trump, the Netanyahu government decided to stop their planned visit.
But there are many in Israel, where I am now, who believe strongly that prohibiting these members of Congress from coming would be a bad mistake. As the former Israeli consul general in New York Alon Pinkas put it, “These are congresswomen of the majority party, which most American Jews vote for.” Many of the Israelis who agree with Pinkas and think this ban is a bad idea are not likely to vote for Netanyahu or his political allies in the Israeli elections due in a few weeks. And those in America who agree are probably not likely to vote for Trump.
The fact that the Netanyahu government has acceded to the president’s “advice” is a reflection of the fact that it long ago put itself firmly in sympathy with the Republican Party and Trump administration, both of whom have singled out these two Democrats as public enemies of Israel, with Trump, in a widely criticized statement, having infamously suggested the American-born Tlaib and the U.S. citizen Omar “go back to where they came from.”
Trump has also singled out these two women in his campaign against the Democrats in the race for the White House and control of Congress in the 2020 elections. It is obvious that he is trying to use Israel to punish his political enemies, and Netanyahu is no less interested in showing that his political enemies are aligned with the enemies of the state.
Of course, siding with Trump, as well as making any efforts to limit the members of Congress from meeting with Palestinians, or from visiting the mosque on the Temple Mount, plays right into the hands of those who want to point out how the Israeli occupation has been baneful and unfair. 
After all, when Eid-el-Adha fell this year on the same day as Tisha b’Av, Israeli authorities permitted approximately 1,700 Jewish visitors onto the mountain on which sits the Al-Aqsa mosque. How does it look if Israel allowed Jews on the mountain for their holy day but now limits visits from Muslim members of Congress?
To restrict these two Democrats will only serve to alienate many young American Democratic voters, as well as the progressive wing of the American electorate — and in the long run harden their opposition to Israel. It will feed the argument that Israel treats Palestinians poorly and unfairly, and that it is no better than the Arabs who for years limited access to Jews who wanted to visit their holy sites when they were under Muslim rule. And it will allow the world to paint Israel as far from being the open society it claims to be. 
Indeed, Omar lost no time in pointing out that “The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.” 
In fact, the Israeli government would have been far better off, as many Israelis have been saying, had it done all it could to enable these two prominent Muslim congresswomen to see what and who they want. More than that, the government could have extended an invitation to them to meet with whomever they want among Israelis as well.  
It might have offered them a “deluxe” visit, taken them to Mount Herzl and its military cemetery, Yad Vashem and Neve Shalom, the joint Arab and Israeli village. There is much they would have benefited from seeing that would give the world another side of the story. But instead, Israel has given the lawmakers and their voters the ammunition that shows the world the most negative side of the country and confirms all the accusations leveled against it. Now even moderate Democrats who generally support Israel will have to take a stance against the Israeli ban, which is so wrapped up in the political agenda of Trump Republicans. A major supporter of Israel, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, called the Israeli decision “outrageous.”
It is also worth remembering that there is nothing sinister about Muslims wanting to be at their holy places, about a Palestinian American whose parents were born in Palestine wanting to visit that place from which her family immigrated and where her grandmother still lives. Returning as a newly seated U.S. congresswoman (and not just an American relative) to the village that is understandably so proud of her is part of the long-held American tradition of elected officials going back to the places of their ethnic origins. As an ally of the United States, Israel understands this well.
Who knows if the visit of the two, if allowed to go on with minimal control from Israel, could not have served as an opening for peace? It is worthwhile to remember that one makes peace not with one’s friends but with one’s adversaries. That is how swords are turned into plowshares.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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Israel was right to ban Reps. Tlaib and Omar, but Trump was wrong to pressure us to do so

Israel was right to ban Reps. Tlaib and Omar, but Trump was wrong to pressure us to do so

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 25: (AFP OUT) US President Donald J. Trump (R) and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shake hands in the Oval Office of the White House March 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump signed an order recognizing Golan Heights as Israeli territory.Netanyahu is cutting short his visit to Washington due to a rocket attack in central Israel that had injured seven people. (Photo by Michael Reynolds – Pool/Getty Images)

By Laura Ben-David

TEKO’A, WEST BANK (JTA) — When Israel announced that it would be banning lawmakers Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Israel, it caused a huge debate to erupt in the Jewish community for all sorts of reasons. 
Supporters of the ban argue that if someone denies your right to exist — as Tlaib and Omar do through their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel — then why would you let them into your house? Those who oppose the ban say that it is undemocratic or simply wrong to ban elected officials of our number one ally. 
So what is the right course of action for Israel to take? Social media has been teeming with concerns and possibilities, with Israelis and American Jews sharing their opinions as if they were going to be taken into account. 
Some of the details of the planned trip are disturbing at best: The fact that lawmakers were planning a trip to “Palestine” and didn’t even mention visiting “Israel”; the fact that Tlaib and Omar are BDS supporters and, in essence, deny Israel’s right to exist; the reality that they were going to be avoiding all of the usual meetings, visits and simple diplomatic pleasantries that an elected official would typically take part in.
Those who suggested Tlaib and Omar should come, but under some sort of controlled circumstances that included showing them what Israel is really about, quickly realized that this wasn’t going to happen once they read through the list of destinations.
Their planned visit to the Temple Mount could have sparked violence, bringing back alarming memories of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon‘s ill-advised visit to the Temple Mount in 2000 and the “spontaneous” eruption of rioting that tipped off the Second Intifada. 
What good can come from allowing them in? We know there is no debating Tlaib and Omar. Their views have been set in stone for a long time, and we’re unlikely to change them. But what about their supporters? Even more so, would the trip show a new side of the conflict to those watching on the sidelines who are not quite sure what to think?
Until recently, I felt strongly that Israel should permit Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to enter the country and see Israel for what it is. I wish we actually had a chance of giving them a balanced experience. 
But they clearly have an agenda, and frankly, the whole trip is just a public relations stunt. In fact, it is a PR stunt whether or not they get into Israel — being barred from their trip just makes them appear like righteous victims to their fans.
If we can’t win no matter what we do, why give them this opportunity which we know they will be using to harm us? 
I’ll admit that it was personally very satisfying to see the news that they were banned.  After all, Israel has a law that allows it to bar BDS activists from entering.
But this isn’t about me. Was it the best thing for Israel? In truth, there was something I’d missed: Politics at the highest level. 
President Trump had very strong opinions about the two Representatives’ proposed visit, and made them known on Twitter, of course: 
https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1162000480681287683
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!” he wrote on Thursday.
https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1162040855328436225
“Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!” he wrote a few hours later.
For me, this changed everything. 
Under normal conditions, if the leader of an allied nation told an ally to ban certain members of his own government for being known subversives, that would be something valid to consider.
Indeed, there are extremists on the far right and the far left in Israel’s political arena who most Israelis would be happy to tell the U.S. to ban — and a few are indeed barred from entering the country. 
But unfortunately, there’s nothing normal about the state of America’s relationship with its Tweeter-in-Chief. 
Trump did two things which changed my personal view completely: He supposedly pressured Netanyahu to bar Tlaib and Omar, though Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, denies this. 
And Trump made the whole visit a partisan issue. Whatever legitimate weight we may have had on the side of barring them has been crushed under the terrible damage and toxic effects of Trump’s verbal onslaught.
Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee came out against the move:
https://twitter.com/AIPAC/status/1162039422847803394
“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” AIPAC said in a statement.
Yes, Reps. Omar and Tlaib should be able to visit and experience Israel firsthand. But would they have? There was no pretense. They were going to visit “Palestine.”
There was certainly no winning here. We truly were stuck between a rock and a hard place. But rather than allow ourselves to be turned into a political football, perhaps we would have stood to lose less by just gritting our teeth and letting them in. 
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar should be allowed to visit the Palestinian territories, but only if they visit Israel first

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar should be allowed to visit the Palestinian territories, but only if they visit Israel first

Posted on 16 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., were recently banned from entering the state of Israel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By Thane Rosenbaaum

NEW YORK (JTA) — If ever there were two people who had no business setting foot on Israeli soil, they are Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Today, Israel announced that these two Muslim-American elected officials, avowed supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, would be banned from entering. 
Under Israeli law, the country may deny entry to any visitor who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control.” 
Tlaib and Omar likely planned to use Israel as a prop in their ongoing escapades in anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist propaganda, and of course the ban should apply to them: They traffic in anti-Semitic tropes, distort crucial facts of Middle East history, desecrate Holocaust memory and, most hypocritically, by demonizing and delegitimizing the one free country in the Middle East, they show themselves to be utterly lacking in personal integrity and moral responsibility.  
Given that they are the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, perhaps instead of landing in Israel and misapplying words like “human rights,” “colonialists,” “racists,” “apartheid” and the “confiscation of Arab lands,” they should be visiting with the assorted and sordid dictators, monarchs and theocrats who lead neighboring Arab and Muslim countries, repressive societies that adhere strictly to Sharia Law and allow for the lashing, dismembering and beheading of women, the torching of homosexuals, the murdering of apostates and the jailing of jurists and journalists. 
Instead, Tlaib and Omar wish to direct the cameras of CNN, BBC and MSNBC so they can be filmed browbeating Israel — the only democratic, liberal society anywhere in the region encompassing the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Northern Africa, about its comparative human rights record. 
It’s all so intellectually dishonest and morally vulgar. 
And yet, that’s precisely why Israel should let Omar and Tlaib in — despite the anti-BDS law.
Let them come. Israel, after all, is an open society, and it has nothing to fear from two politicians out for a hateful joy ride. They can even bring the cameras. Treat these two legislators like legitimate heads of state, even though they represent the fringe of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Except on one condition. Before they parade around Ramallah, they should first be required to make a pluralistic pilgrimage, a series of necessary pit stops that should be obligatory for all bad-mouthing, ill-intentioned, defamatory and cynical visitors to Israel.
Go ahead, trash the Jewish state on its own soil. But first you must meet with Arab members of Knesset, who are elected Muslim legislators just like them — except that these Arab citizens of Israel make speeches on the floor of the Knesset that would be deemed treasonous if spoken on Capitol Hill. Next, visit the opinion writers of Haaretz, who lambast Israel in ways that would make both Tlaib and Omar, and anyone on any American newspaper, blush.  
Go see the Druze who proudly serve in the IDF, and Arab-Israelis who have served on Israel’s Supreme Court, and Yityish Titi Aynaw, the Ethiopian Miss Israel, and the Palestinians who once worked for SodaStream in the West Bank, where Arabs sat together with Jews in the lunchroom and had higher salaries and better healthcare than most Palestinians. 
At night, they need to attend a concert in Tel Aviv, like the one that Jennifer Lopez gave recently, and see women who dress however they wish, alongside gay men dressed more garishly than J-Lo, the same men who march in Pride parades and never for a moment think that they might someday hang from a crane. 
Jews and Arabs sitting beside each other riding public transportation. Pink washing? I don’t think so.  
On what planet does any of this constitute apartheid?
Only then, when they are fatigued from all that Israeli freedom, exposed to the only place in the Middle East where it is safe to be a Christian, and where Arab citizens enjoy rights like no other in that part of the world, after being fed with shakshuka and dizzy from far too many grapevine dances, can Tlaib and Omar proclaim the many ways that Israel falls short from being a perfect democracy.
They should be treated like any other member of Congress who visits Israel. That means they must see Israel — all of it.  Not just the West Bank.  And when they do, they will return to the United States with a clearer understanding as to why democratic Israel must remain a staunch ally and a valued friend.
Welcome to Israel, ladies of the American Congress. Have a safe journey home. Thank you for letting the world see what you saw on your visit to Israel.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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AIPAC and other Jewish groups join Democratic lawmakers in criticizing Israel’s decision to ban Tlaib and Omar

AIPAC and other Jewish groups join Democratic lawmakers in criticizing Israel’s decision to ban Tlaib and Omar

Posted on 15 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Laura E. Adkins for JTA/Getty ImagesIsraeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, said Reps. Rashida Tlaib, center, and Ilhan Omar, right, provided an itinerary that “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”

By Josefin Dolsten

This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Israel’s decision on Thursday to ban Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country has quickly prompted a wave of impassioned responses from across the Jewish community.

Pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC, and prominent Democratic lawmakers are already objecting to the move.

AIPAC’s statement, along with others from establishment Jewish groups, criticized Omar and Tlaib’s support for the movement to boycott Israel. But like others who have their differences with the two House reps, AIPAC said that Israel should nonetheless allow sitting members of the United States Congress to enter the country and see it for themselves.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” the organization tweeted, referring to the boycott Israel movement. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Israel announced on Thursday that the Muslim congresswomen, both Democrats, would not be allowed to visit ahead of a planned trip this Sunday. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, had previously said Israel would not bar any members of Congress.

But Israel’s decision came shortly after President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that Israel “would show great weakness” if it let in the two congresswomen.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the decision on Tlaib and Omar, saying he received their itinerary a few days ago and that it “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.” The itinerary said the destination was listed as Palestine and included no visit with any Israeli officials, he said.

Tlaib, D-Mich, and Omar, D-Minn., are supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Under Israeli law, BDS supporters can be prevented from entering the country. They have also at times invoked what critics call anti-Semitic tropes in criticizing the Jewish state.

Here are reactions from other Jewish groups, the United States Embassy in Israel and prominent lawmakers. JTA has asked several Republican lawmakers for comment, including Reps. Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

THOSE WHO LIKE THE DECISION

The Republican Jewish Coalition threw its support behind Israel’s decision, noting that the country recently welcomed a congressional delegation of 70 lawmakers from both parties. The RJC said Netanyahu welcoming that delegation shows that this decision “has nothing to do with American partisan politics.”

The right-wing Zionist Organization of America praised the ban in a statement from its president, Morton Klein, and chairman, Mark Levenson. The pair said that the congresswomen “should not be given the opportunity to further delegitimize and harm all of us.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman wrote on Twitter that he supports the decision, saying that the lawmakers’ trip itinerary showed the visit “is nothing more than an effort to fuel the BDS engine.”

THOSE WHO DISLIKE THE DECISION

AIPAC (See above.)

The Simon Wiesenthal Center‘s associate dean and director of global social action slammed Tlaib and Omar., calling them ” unapologetic anti-Semites.” But Rabbi Abraham Cooper also added in a statement that “the first instinct of Israeli officials to let them into the country was [the] right one.”

The American Jewish Committee‘s CEO, David Harris, wrote on Twitter that “Israel faced a tough choice,” but that it “should’ve taken the high road & let these Members of Congress in, no matter how vile their views.”

The Anti-Defamation League likewise said that “while we absolutely disagree with the pro-BDS positions of Reps. [Omar and Tlaib], keeping them out is counterproductive.”

The executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer, said in a statement that banning lawmakers ” is counterproductive and plays into President Trump’s goal of politicizing support for Israel.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the move “is a sign of weakness, not strength” that “will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America.”

In a statement, the co-chair and CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, said Israel’s decision was “both wrong and unwise.”

The liberal Israel policy group J Street decried the decision in a statement, saying Trump’s tweet urging Israel to ban the members “illustrates that this decision is motivated purely by politics and ideology.”

Dan Shapiro, who served as ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, criticized Israel’s about-face and wrote on Twitter that there would be “zero harm in letting them come learn, see (even if they had an agenda). Reversal harms Israel’s standing in US, boosts BDS.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called on Netanyahu to reverse the decision. He tweeted that barring Tlaib and Omar “is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy.”

On Twitter, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called banning the congresswomen “a shameful, unprecedented move” and urged the Jewish state to allow Tlaib and Omar to enter.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat and Speaker of the House, said in a statement that “Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a tweet the decision “undermines the ability for our two allied countries to have the frank, open and, at times, difficult discussions that we must have in order to ensure Israel remains a secure and democratic nation.”

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said she was “saddened” by the decision and urged Israel to reconsider in a tweet.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said he was “extremely disappointed” by the move.

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Israel confirms it is banning Tlaib and Omar from entering country

Israel confirms it is banning Tlaib and Omar from entering country

Posted on 15 August 2019 by Sharon Wisch-Ray

Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., right, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., attend a rally with Democrats in the Capitol to introduce the “Equality Act,” which will amend existing civil rights legislation to bar discrimination based on gender identification and sexual orientation on Wednesday, March 13. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA) — Israel’s deputy foreign minister confirmed that Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will not be allowed to enter the country.
“We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle this is a very justified decision,” Tzipi Hotovely told Israel’s public broadcaster Kan.


The statement came shortly after a Washington Post report claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was weighing banning the two Muslim congresswomen, both supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Under Israeli law, BDS supporters can be prevented from entering the country.
Tlaib, D-Mich., and Omar, D-Minn., are outspoken critics of Israel and both at times have been criticized for relying on anti-Semitic tropes in their criticism. They were scheduled to visit the Jewish state on Sunday.
Shortly after the Post report, President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that Israel “would show great weakness” if it let in the two congresswomen.
Israel’s envoy to Washington, Ron Dermer, said last month that the country would not deny entry to any member of Congress.
The president has repeatedly attacked Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, and Omar, who was born in Somalia, at times invoking rhetoric widely described as racist.

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Coming in hot: 10 new ways the Federation is here for good

Coming in hot: 10 new ways the Federation is here for good

Posted on 14 August 2019 by admin

Photo: JFGD
New Cabinet members with Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Affinities Director Janine Zaltsman Reutter: from left, Jared Eisenberg, Andrew Miller, Zaltsman Reutter and Bobby Gibbs

Fresh Faces at Federation

Submitted Story

Hot on the heels of a busy spring season, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) didn’t slow down over the summer. From its new board chair to its 2020 campaign kick-off to its Connecting | Dallas launch, it is here for you and here for good. Here’s how.
In early June, A.J. Rosmarin was formally installed as board chair. Rosmarin has served in philanthropic roles in the Dallas Jewish community for nearly 40 years and his service extends to Israel, where he is on the board of the Friends of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. His leadership at JFGD began in 2006 when he co-chaired the Annual Campaign. Rosmarin’s leadership helps to guide the Federation as it enters a new era.
Effective Aug. 1, the Federation welcomed Mariam Shpeen Feist as president and CEO. Feist was formerly the Federation’s Senior vice president and Chief Development Officer and is only the second woman to lead the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas in its 108-year history.
“My goal was to find the best person available for the position because Dallas is a great place to live with a strong Federation serving Jews in need locally, Israel and throughout the world,” said Rosmarin. “We are on a great trajectory, and I’m confident Mariam is the right person.”
Feist has more than 33 years’ experience in fundraising. She has held roles at the UJA-Federation of Greater New York, the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network and World ORT. She began her tenure at JFGD in 2012 as chief development officer (CDO) and assumed the role of senior vice president and CDO in 2014.
Part of an elite group within Jewish nonprofits, Feist is also a member of the CEO Onboarding Program at Leading Edge. The Leading Edge program provides CEOs with a supportive peer network at nonprofits in the American Jewish community and beyond. The diverse cohort represents 14 major national and local organizations across the country and includes federations, JCCs, social service agencies, advocacy organizations and denominational leaders.
This month the Federation also announced its new executive director of the Center for Jewish Education (CJE), Rabbi Mordechai Harris, who now serves as the Federation’s primary education representative to the Jewish educational community. He comes to Dallas with his wife, Nisa, and their three daughters. Harris was most recently the director of the Center for Jewish Living and Learning in Memphis, Tennessee.
New ways of connecting
New members to the Dallas Jewish community can reach out to Connecting | Dallas. The Federation recently rolled out Connecting | Dallas to assist and connect Jews to everything Jewish in Dallas. Led by Peta Silansky, this new initiative helps Jews find their place in our vibrant community. Connect today at connecting@jewishdallas.org or 214- 615-5250.
The safety of the Jewish community has long been a priority of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. The Federation’s Community Security Initiative (CSI) is responsible for convening, preparing and equipping Jewish organizations with the information and education needed to be safe and secure through training sessions and programming. CSI continues to launch new programs to help meet this goal. Initiatives planned for the incoming campaign year include Run Hide Fight, Shul Watch/School Watch, Cyber Security and more.
One meaningful way to connect with the community is at the Shabbat table. The Federation is now a host of OneTable. OneTable empowers those who do not yet have a consistent Shabbat dinner practice to find and share the Shabbat experience by connecting together to build one that feels authentic, sustainable and valuable. It is available for young adults, ages 21-39, who do not yet have children. To join or host OneTable Shabbat, visit onetable.org and select “find a dinner” or “become a host.”
Starting in 2020 the Federation will launch another connection opportunity: Honeymoon Israel. Honeymoon Israel is a Jewish organization that provides trips to Israel for couples with at least one Jewish partner. Each trip includes 20 diverse couples from the same city — couples with one Jewish partner, couples where both partners were born Jewish and couples where one partner is converted/Jew by choice.
Soon couples in the Dallas area will be invited to apply for Honeymoon Israel via the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. JFGD is excited about this new adventure and the opportunity to help connect couples with an integral part of Jewish heritage.
Continuing to lead
National Young Leadership Cabinet is the premier leadership and philanthropic program within The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and throughout the Jewish world. Cabinet comprises approximately 300 men and women, ages 30 to 45, from across the United States and Canada who are deeply committed to shaping a bright future for the Jewish people in North America, Israel and around the globe.
National Young Leadership Cabinet is a six-year journey with a variety of destinations, all of them reached by stronger, more vibrant leaders.
In April, three Cabinet members traveled to St. Petersburg and Moscow to learn about the work Federation does overseas (Jonathan Rubenstein reported on this trip in the Aug. 1 issue of the TJP). At the end of July the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Affinities director, Janine Zaltsman Reutter, joined seven Cabinet members for a retreat in Toronto. More than 250 young adults attended the retreat, which is a four-day leadership program with inspiring speakers, learning opportunities and relationship building aligned around shared values and a common, collective purpose.
“The retreat helped me articulate why I care about Federation giving in the context of my overall charitable agenda, and I can proudly say I am now all-in,” said new Cabinet member Bobby Gibbs.
New Cabinet members include Jared Eisenberg, Bobby Gibbs and Andrew Miller. Current members Jonathan Rubenstein, Ophir and Sharron Laizerovich, Alex More, Jay Post, Eric Axel, Sean Dalfen, Ryan Milstein, Jacob Ratner, Seth Weisblatt and Dana Lipp continue in their NYL Cabinet tenure.
Here for you and here for good
In October the Federation will kick off its Annual Campaign. This year’s tagline connotes the Federation’s commitment to the community, the organization’s mission and its longevity. JFGD is “Here for you. Here for good.”
Soon yard signs will be visible at Jewish community landmarks throughout the Dallas area.
—Submitted by
Amy Principe
Digital and marketing manager of the
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas

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Rabbi Robbins debuts ‘Psalm 27’ book

Rabbi Robbins debuts ‘Psalm 27’ book

Posted on 14 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Deb Silverthorn
Since 1991 Rabbi Debra J. Robbins has been leading from the bimah, teaching and helping the families of Temple Emanu-El through lifecycle events. Here, Rabbi Robbins’ joy and smile matches that of the bride during the wedding ceremony of Lindsay Sureck to Scott Chiu.

Dallas-area rabbi hopes readers use her book in daily life

By Deb Silverthorn

Gather. Settle. Bless. Read. Write. Sit. Forgive. Remember. Celebrate. These are the directions, guidelines, reflections and recommendations of Rabbi Debra J. Robbins, in her new book “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27.”
“We are the recipients of these beautiful words and I want people to do more than just read them,” Rabbi Robbins said. “Use them toward the spirited work we’re called on (to do) at this season. This is an invitation to read Psalm 27, traditionally read every day from the beginning of Elul to the end of Sukkot, carefully and meaningfully.”
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, Rabbi Robbins will share an introduction to the practice of her book in celebration of the book’s launch. Books will be available for purchase and Rabbi Robbins will sign copies.
In addition, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, Rabbi Robbins will lead participants in personal reflections on repairing the soul and repairing the world during the High Holidays. She’ll conclude the High Holiday season at the sukkah luncheon at noon on Thursday, Oct. 17, to review the holiday season and consider practices moving forward. All events will be held at Temple Emanu-El, where Rabbi Robbins has served since 1991.
Rabbi Robbins was inspired to write “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27” by her own introspection. With encouragement from others and realizing the process she developed for herself could be meaningful to others, she spent two years transforming her experience beyond the bimah and the classes she’d taught.
“This practice is built on the premise that anyone can do (almost) anything for five minutes,” Rabbi Robbins said. “With ‘Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27,’ we read, write and then sit still and let it settle — each for just five minutes.”
With lessons learned from her participation in the Institute for Rabbinical Jewish Spirituality, Rabbi Robbins recommends finding the depth and possibilities of one phrase within a prayer and connecting to it.
Rabbi Robbins finds joy in seeing her book’s dedication to her parents, Judith and Norman Robbins, of blessed memory, “with gratitude for the gift of life and the blessings of their legacy that continue to unfold,” just above the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication details.
The Newton, Massachusetts native, raised at Temple Israel in Boston, received her undergraduate degree at University of California, Berkeley and was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. There she met her future husband, Larry, and the two are parents of their son, Sam. Their golden retriever, Baskin, rounds out the family.
“My mother was a teacher who inspired me to enjoy writing, learning and teaching and my father was a great source of solace and strength,” said Rabbi Robbins. “I realized, as a rabbi, I could write, read and teach and I absolutely love what I do.”
Rabbi Robbins has served on the boards of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas and Family Gateway and is a founding chair of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas’ Vaad HaMikvah. She is former vice-president for leadership and mentor for the ethics committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and president of Reading Village, helping teens become leaders through literacy in Guatemala. She is also a member of the Women’s Rabbinic Network.
The book’s pride-filled foreword is written by Temple Emanu-El Senior Rabbi David Stern. “She translates the ancient word into the language of human experience and, in doing so, illuminates both.”
Stern says, “(Psalm 27) oscillates between doubt and hope in a way that reflects the truth of our human condition. Psalm 27 knows our pain and our joy.”
Cantor Richard Cohn, at Temple Emanu-El for almost a decade before becoming director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR, wrote a composer’s commentary to accompany the singing practice he created for the book, “Kaveih el Adonai, Wait Hopefully for Adonai.” A link to the composition is included.
“How do we move step-by-step toward a strengthening of the heart that lifts us in hope toward an awareness of the holy?” wrote Cantor Cohn, who sings the composition with Cantor Amanda Kleinman, raised at Congregation Tiferet Israel and Temple Emanu-El, and now Senior Cantor at Westchester Reform Temple in New York. “Repeating the melody again and again can deepen and expand our understanding of the journey.”
“I am grateful to everyone who has been a part of this book and to Temple Emanu-El for affording me the time and space to work on it,” said Rabbi Robbins, reflecting on the psalm’s last phrase. “‘Wait for Adonai — Fill your waiting with hope in Adonai; Let your heart be strong and of good courage and wait hopefully for Adonai.’
“This is a challenging time to repair ourselves and the world, and it takes great courage for us,” Rabbi Robbins said. “I hope this book provides a true opportunity for readers to find that courage.”
To register for the free workshops, open to the public, visit participate.tedallas.org/psalm27workshops. “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27” is available at Temple Emanu-El’s Judaic Treasures, on Amazon and at psalm27ccarpress.org. Cantor Cohn’s “Kaveih el Adonai, Wait Hopefully for Adonai” can be downloaded at psalm27ccarpress.org.

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