I am ever mindful of the blessings that are ours, and would never, ever suggest that hope be abandoned. Jews survive on hope, on faith in a better tomorrow.
And yet, it is exceedingly important not to be naïve, not to insist on a positive perspective – because that feels more comfortable – when the realities suggest something quite different. The news I share today is enormously important. It is not just that there is much going on that is ugly and frightening: there is a pervasive sense that the world has become unhinged.
For American Jews right now there is a particular imperative to confront the realities: Anti-Semitism is on the rise, big-time, in the US and the current state of affairs is likely a harbinger of even worse to come.
Elina Kaplan, who sees the problem writ large, is leading an extensive fight against the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), slated to be voted on the by California State Board of Education on March 17. This curriculum, says Kaplan, is “the greatest threat facing American Jews today.”
The curriculum is particularly dangerous because California has the largest school system in the country: any program it adopts would be exported to other school systems. This is in addition to the millions of California students who would be influenced by it.
Its inevitable effect would be increased anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism across the US.
The California Legislative Jewish Caucus published a letter charging that the curriculum “effectively erases the American Jewish experience” and “denigrates Jews.”
Written in response to a California law passed in 2016 mandating creation of an ethnic studies program and unsatisfactorily revised twice, it is slated to be voted on the by the California State Board of Education on March 17.
The curriculum, informed by radical critical race theory, has a great deal more wrong with it than its position on Jews, but here I focus specifically on this concern.
“Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of AMCHA Initiative, which fights campus anti-Semitism, points out that all 13 founding members of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) are BDS activists. CESA, the national home base for critical studies, passed a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions in 2014, and the group’s past four biennial meetings included multiple sessions demonizing Israel. ‘There are a couple thousand academic boycotters of Israel in the country,’ she said, ‘and the largest percentage of them come from ethnic studies. Anti-Zionism is built into the theory and the discipline of ethnic studies, which demonizes Israel as an apartheid settler-colonialist Nazi state.’” (Emphasis added)
But anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism coming from the radical elements of American society are not the only problem to contend with. As Caroline Glick recently wrote, the Biden administration is “shaping up to be the most hostile U.S. administration ever.”
This is not something she would say lightly, nor is it something we can afford to ignore.
Glick is basing her comment on Biden’s choice of individuals who exhibit anti-Israel/anti-Semitic attitudes to fill key positions in his administration. There have been several problematic appointments, but when she made the above statement she was focused on Palestinian American Maher Bitar, who has been selected by Biden to serve as the senior director for Intelligence at the National Security Council.
“The position is one of the most powerful posts in the US intelligence community…As one former senior national security council member explained, ‘The senior director for intelligence controls the information everyone sees. And by controlling information, he controls the conversation.’”
As a student at Georgetown University, Bitar was a leader of the anti-Semitic Students for Justice in Palestine, which is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. He organized a BDS campaign on campus, and, according to Daniel Greenfield, “chaired a panel at a BDS conference where participants discussed how to indoctrinate Christians to believe that Israel has no right to exist.”
When doing his Master’s degree, he wrote his thesis on the “Nakba,” which means “catastrophe” in Arabic and refers to Israel’s founding. Subsequently he worked for UNRWA, which promotes terrorism and, by virtue of its policies, seeks to prevent resolution of the Palestinian Arab conflict with Israel.
During the Obama presidency, Bitar served on the National Security Council as the Israeli-Palestinian officer. He was also deputy to Samantha Power, who, as UN ambassador, played a key role in the passage of the blatantly anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
Glick focuses on Israeli choices with regard to how to deal with the Biden administration – either via direct confrontation when Israel’s interests are threatened or via appeasement of Bitar and his colleagues “to maintain the appearance of business as usual,” even though this would be to “risk its national interests.” I have written about this, and the great need for a strong right wing government with backbone to stand against Biden when necessary. This will be a running theme going forward.
But I also wish to emphasize how important it is for American Jews to face the current situation and speak out as necessary.
Hady Amr, who was born in Beirut and grew up in Saudi Arabia, has now been chosen by Biden as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs.
He once described himself as having been inspired by the Palestinian Arab intifada, and has accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.” At one point, he warned Americans, “we too shouldn’t be shocked when our military assistance to Israel and our security council vetoes that keep on protecting Israel come back to haunt us.”
Amr, who has advocated for a deal with Hamas, has close ties with Qatar, which is a supporter of Hamas.
Says Daniel Greenfield, Biden’s appointment of Amr is a statement about “the Biden administration’s hostile relationship to the Jewish State.”
And then there is Robert Malley: He played a key role in crafting the Iran deal for Obama and has now been named “Special Envoy to Iran” by Biden.
Says Sarah Stern, president of Emet: “Malley has a long record of serving on the National Security Council and an equally long record of overt hostility towards Israel.” (Emphasis added)
In 2000, when the Camp David talks between Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat fell apart…”Both President Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross wrote books about what happened at Camp David, putting the responsibility for the failure of these talks squarely on the shoulders of Yasser Arafat. Yet, Robert Malley was the one analyst who pinned the responsibility for that failure totally on Israel.
“He has continuously counselled Israel to negotiate with Hamas, and he, himself, has frequently met with Hamas officials…He firmly believes that there is no terrorist or leader of a rogue regime that cannot be charmed by him just by engaging in dialogue.”
Jonathan Tobin, writing in JNS shortly before Malley was appointed, stated that bringing him on board would encourage Iran.
Tobin cited well-informed journalist Eli Lake, who had written a column arguing that “picking Malley would mean that Biden’s ‘first foreign-policy blunder could be on Iran.’ Lake’s argument was that Malley, who has been a foreign-policy player for a quarter-century with a long record of appeasing America’s enemies, is exactly the wrong person for such a job. Or at least he would be if the goal of the Biden team was not to simply turn the clock back to January 2017…
“Lake argues that appointing Malley as Biden’s go-to man on Iran would send a signal to the Islamist regime that, as was the case under Obama, they would be dealing with diplomats who are prepared to give them whatever they want.”
And so, here we are, my friends, and this is not a pretty picture.
There are those who see the Biden administration as putting forth hopeful signs, and point to people such as Secretary of State Blinken, who are believed to be reasonable and moderate. They accept statements from the administration about caution that will be exercised with regard to Iran.
I most vigorously disagree with this hopeful perspective: I refer to the evidence above. Individuals who are anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, and soft on Iran would not have been put in key positions if this were the case.
If you listen carefully, you can hear chortling. This is not just from Iran, and from Hamas, it is from Barack Obama. Oh, how he is chortling now, as he sees – undoubtedly has engineered – the inclusion in the Biden administration of key figures from his administration, who will carry forward his anti-Israel, pro-Iran policies.
Meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill we see a bunch of vengeful Democrats more interested in going through with the impeachment trial of President Trump than with focusing on matters of national concern. The current situation exposes them for what they are – petty and spiteful.
For them, the original goal of this trial was to secure a finding of guilty in order to prevent Trump from ever running for president again. That was a dubious proposition in any event because it was questionable as to whether there was a legal basis for trying someone for impeachment when he is no longer in office.
But now it is clear that there will not be a sufficient number of Republican senators to secure a finding of guilty. The math doesn’t work: Two-thirds of the Senate is required for such a finding. Half the Senate is Republican, and of these 50, 35 have stated they don’t believe this would be a constitutional action.
But on they go, anyway. Turning their backs on very genuine concerns that this undermines the Constitution. Ignoring the fact that Trump is protected by the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment. Making light of the very clear evidence that the violence at the Capitol had been planned in advance and was not incited by the president.
Hey! It doesn’t matter. Get Trump. Make him look bad.
Do Americans recognize how shameful and deeply worrisome this is? How many see that the great republic of the United States is at risk now?
Yet Joe Biden – who sits in the White House and is titular head of the party – is silent on this. At his inauguration he spoke about how his soul is seeking the unity of America. I was inclined to gag. But people bought it. I heard about how moving this was, and what a nice, kind man Biden seems to be. In their dreams, for it was a well-crafted lie.
Had he meant it, he would be working overtime now to bring people together and get the Democrats in the Capitol to back off from their spitefulness.
He is probably enjoying every second of it, as, most certainly, is Obama.
Turning to Israel: Tonight at midnight the party lists for running in the March 23 election must be finalized. In my next posting I will be examining this in some detail.
What I will mention here is that so far negotiations between Bezalel Smotrich of Ihud Leumi (National Union) and Hagit Moshe of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) have not been successful, in spite of declarations that they intended to run together. Smotrich (at right below), recognizing the need to join with another party to form a technical national religious bloc that can pass the threshold in the election, has signed with Itamar Ben-Gvir of Otzma Yehudit (which means Jewish Strength).
Four mandates are required to pass the threshold; a poll taken after this announcement gives the bloc five seats. Whether Bayit Yehudi – which faces a real risk of not passing the threshold if it runs alone – will join by this evening remains to be seen. There are rumors that Netanyahu is involved behind the scenes in an effort to manipulate the situation so that mandates he needs for his coalition will not be lost.
The agreement between the two parties is a “technical” bloc because it is for purposes of the election. Once in the Knesset, they may break apart.
In closing I want to mention an important and most encouraging statement from Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi just over a week ago.
In a live-streamed speech he delivered at the Institute for National Security Studies, Lt. Gen. Kochavi said:
“With the changing of the administration in the United States, the Iranians have said they want to return to the previous agreement. I want to state my position, the position that I give to all my colleagues when I meet them around the world: Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even to an agreement that is similar but with a few improvements is a bad thing and it is not the right thing to do.”
He particularly expressed concern about the sunset clause:
“If the 2015 nuclear deal were carried out, Iran would be able to get itself a weapon because the agreement did not include limits to prevent this when [the agreement] ended. As of today, Iran has increased the amount of enriched material beyond what was permitted. It enriched it to levels beyond what was permitted. It developed and manufactured centrifuges that will allow it to rush ahead and produce a weapon at a much faster rate, within months, maybe even weeks.”
Right on!! This was most unusual: a chief of staff publicly lecturing another country on its policy. It signals the seriousness with which Israel regards the situation with Iran.
And he had words of warning for Iran, as well:
“Iran can decide that it wants to advance to a bomb, either covertly or in a provocative way. In light of this basic analysis, I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year.
“The government will of course be the one to decide if they should be used. But these plans must be on the table, in existence and trained for.”
This answers the question as to whether Israel will be willing to directly confront the US where our interests are concerned, at least with regard to Iran. And it puts Iran on notice that Israel has no intention of providing a free ride. What is understood now is that we stand alone.
May we stand strong, as well, on other issues of vital concern to us!
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.