“[U.S.] President [Donald] Trump has shown courage in recognizing the realities of the modern Middle East in a way that other world leaders do not,” said American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen in a statement. “The Iranian government is a threat to the region and to global security at large, and an undeniable source of terrorist violence against civilians. We cannot afford to stay in denial about Iran.”
By Jack Rosen
The Democratic Party recently ruptured itself over comments made by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that many viewed as anti-Semitic. While Democrats are fractured in a fierce back-and-forth, Republicans have been unified in condemning both Omar and those who defended her.
In particular, President Trump has sharply criticized Democrats for their lukewarm handling of the controversy, highlighting a significant wedge between Jewish Democrats and the rest of their party. So far, it’s working — top Democrats are falling into the same trap that Trump and other vocal Republicans anticipated, and this wedge will grow more pronounced the longer the Democratic leadership fails to address it.
This was not Omar’s first time making comments like this, nor was she the only new member of Congress to be accused of such foul rhetoric. But Omar’s most recent claims toward AIPAC, Israel and Jewish “dual loyalty” sparked heated reactions from many quarters and notably, debate within Democratic circles.
Indeed, despite being few in number, a cadre of so-called progressives came overwhelmingly to Omar’s aid, and, bewilderingly, forced the Democratic House leadership to water down Congress’ condemnation of anti-Semitism. And while several key Democrats have criticized Omar vocally, party leadership did not follow their example. So, when Trump claims the issue has divided Democrats, he is not grasping at straws.
Trump has been vocal about Omar for some time. Earlier this month, when she became embroiled in controversy over her tweet, referenceing AIPAC, that insinuated that memebers of Congress who defend Israel are motivated by money (evoking age-old tropes about Jewish monetary power in the process), Trump was quick to call for both her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and her full resignation.
Then, in the wake of the watered-down Resolution 183 last week, Trump told reporters that the Democrats have become an “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” party. Since then, he has further stoked the flames by tweeting about Jexodus, a new conservative Jewish movement calling on Jewish Americans to leave the Democratic Party, citing anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.
Trump’s ability to label his enemies is formidable. His aggressive name-calling tactics have a proven capability to stick and endure, and many nicknames — for instance, “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco,” and “Rocket Man” – survive in our cultural lexicon even after Trump has stopped spreading them.
Trump’s accusations against the Democratic Party may stick in the same way if Democrats are not quick to disavow and disprove them. Jewish Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat, but one tactic Trump has mastered is planting seeds of doubt. Whereas most politicians would hesitate to be so blunt about what is happening to Democrats, Trump has no such qualms. The seed is now out in the open to be planted.
Unfortunately, his statements are not completely unfounded. Although I do not believe that most Democrats are anti-Jewish or anti-Israel, the Democratic Party has enabled its members who do espouse anti-Semitic ideas or rhetoric and looking the other way when they play to anti-Semitic tropes, as we saw in the deliberations over Resolution 183. And when fringe far-left progressives laid on the pressure, seasoned Democratic leaders allowed an important resolution on anti-Semitism to be diluted into a general resolution against hate.
Without a doubt, Jews are being held to a double standard by the Democrats of tomorrow. The Democrats would never allow one of their own congressmen to make a statement that openly invokes offensive stereotypes about any other minority group, yet when Omar makes several in a row about Jewish people, Democratic leadership excuses and enables her.
While some Democrats have sufficiently defended Israel in light of her comments, they were exceptions, running against the grain of the party overall. This is even more upsetting given that many senior Democrats are pro-Israel. Why are they now silent? In past years, Democrats have come out swinging at the phrase “All Lives Matter.” Yet, that is exactly the message Democrats gave Jews with Resolution 183.
Most of all, Democrats need to show Jews on both sides of the aisle that they are listening. Israel is increasingly perceived as a right-wing issue, but it didn’t used to be that way. Democrats, including progressives, should be working to understand why so many Jewish liberals are pro-Israel. With anti-Semitism on the rise in the U.S. and abroad, Jewish Americans are searching for allies, and the Democrats are not filling that role.
None of this is to say that Democrats are the only enablers of anti-Semitism in Congress. The president and others in the Republican Party are also guilty of problematic statements, double standards and silence when they should speak out. But to use the shortcomings of one side to excuse the shortcomings of the other is harmful to us all. When both parties point out each other’s enabling of anti-Semitism, it doesn’t inspire Jews to join their side — it makes Jews feel that neither party is their home anymore.
Trump’s targeted nicknames have the potential to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Democrats: We have seen the kernel of anti-Semitism within your party. You must nip it in the bud and come out as an ally for Jewish Americans — before it is too late. Don’t make liberal Jews ask whether you really consider them your own. Don’t let Trump be right about you.
Jack Rosen is the president of the American Jewish Congress. Follow Rosen on Twitter at @JackRosenNYC.
This should come as no surprise. Hamas, lest we forget, is classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State, and its terrorist status was recently reiterated by the EU.
By Jack Rosen
Last week, the wealthy Gulf state of Qatar announced that it was putting a halt to its financing of the terrorist group Hamas, which has a tenuous hold on the Gaza Strip. Instead, it will redirect those funds to humanitarian projects in the coastal enclave, in accordance with the United Nations, and with the approval of Israel.
Doha’s envoy to Gaza, Muhammad Al Emadi, also announced that after April, Qatar will no longer finance the Gaza Strip’s monthly electricity bill, because of Hamas’s foot-dragging on several large, needed projects, including a long-delayed high-voltage power line from Israel that could double Gaza’s supply of electrical power. While Qatar has long played a controversial and highly-criticized role in Gaza, its new tough approach to Hamas – which has badly mismanaged Gaza while inflaming conflict between Palestinians and Israelis – represents a rupture that could irreparably damage the terrorist group’s credibility on the street, which until now has been the source of its power.
Qatar’s funding has been significant and has greatly helped Hamas holding on to power. Between 2012 and 2018, Qatar provided Hamas with over $1.1 billion. Haaretz estimates that about 44% of the money provided by Qatar during this period was invested in infrastructure, while approximately 40% was used for education and healthcare.
In its effort to reconstruct Gaza, Qatar had hoped its commitment to more than 110 projects and its construction of 4,800 apartments, roads and hospitals would lead to a more stable Gaza Strip and an improved quality of life for the Palestinians who live there. However, as is evidenced by the rising tensions along the Israel-Gaza border, Hamas has stuck to its terrorist roots and failed to effectively govern and implement the many projects and opportunities presented by both Israel and Qatar.
The escalating conflict stems in large part from Hamas’s refusal to honor the commitments made in November. Violations include nighttime demonstrations on the border and the launching of incendiary balloons, which are now also carrying bombs.
This should come as no surprise. Hamas, lest we forget, is classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State, and its terrorist status was recently reiterated by the European Union.
QATAR, EGYPT, Israel and UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov are all scrambling to stabilize the situation in Gaza before March 30. This date, which is known by Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs as Land Day, will also mark the one-year anniversary of the weekly Hamas-led protests on the Israel-Gaza border, and comes shortly before the April 9 Israeli elections.
However, so long as Hamas remains in control of Gaza, sustainable development and peace that depend on projects – including those proposed and financed by Qatar – will be impossible to achieve. So with an eye on the long game, Qatar took action.
The timing of Qatar’s break with Hamas is propitious for another reason. Even within Gaza, Hamas is not popular because of its refusal and inability to provide for the Palestinians who live there. According to one recent poll, only 35% of Gazans now support Hamas. Qatar’s move can thus deepen the public split with the group, further isolate it in Palestinian politics, and bring about the end of whatever legitimacy it once held. The message is, what Palestinians in Gaza want and need – jobs and improvements in quality of life – can in fact be provided without the help of Hamas, which has predicated its authority solely on confrontation.
Indeed, Qatar has now pledged that it will redirect hundreds of millions of dollars more through United Nations aid groups such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. With Israeli approval, Qatar has already given $50 million to UNRWA, and this redirection of funds for development and humanitarian underscores that the interests of the Palestinian people are better served through accountable, legitimate international agencies than through the Hamas policy of terror and confrontation.
Hamas does not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel. It has managed to isolate itself from Qatar – one of its strongest remaining supporters – and more importantly, from the Palestinian people themselves. By pulling its purse strings, Qatar is sending a message to Hamas’s leadership that the group has betrayed the trust of the Palestinian people and has been an obstacle to their progress. This notion strikes at the heart of the group’s claims to legitimacy. Adrift and with a sagging political base, a discredited Hamas may at last be bound for the rubbish heap of history.
The writer is president of the American Jewish Congress.
The American Jewish Congress came down hard on J Street’s initiative, saying it is “effectively reducing the entirety of Israel to its role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“It would be one thing if J Street was simply offering an independent free trip to Israel with the mission of exploring perspectives on the conflict,” AJCongress president Jack Rosen told JNS. “But what they are doing is presenting it as a more moral alternative to Birthright.”
“The message they are sending is that visiting Israel is wrong unless you are there to hear it portrayed as an oppressor, and that Israel can only be celebrated in the same breath as it is condemned,” he explained. “No other country is talked about this way so broadly. This kind of thinking essentially ignores everything about Israel other than the conflict.”
Rosen also said that “this kind of thinking facilitates anti-Israel bias around the world.”
The American Jewish Congress applauded the decision of the United States to finally recognize the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory. “This is a necessary and long-overdue action, and we fully support President Trump in this important step,” said its president Jack Rosen.
“For all intents and purposes, this territory has been part of Israel since 1967,” he continued. “During the Six-Day War, Israel took control of the Golan Heights from Syria as a necessary self-defense measure to ensure the country’s survival. In the 52 years between then and now, the Golan has functioned as a fully-integrated part of Israel. And it is not only Israel that treats the Golan as Israeli, but also Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and every other geopolitical actor in the region. When Iranian forces in Syria flew a drone into the Golan last year, they were fully aware that this was Israel. Syrians wounded due to the Syrian Civil War flee to the Syrian border with the Golan Heights to receive lifesaving medical care from the IDF.
“The security needs which mandated that Israel take the Golan Heights in 1967 are no less pertinent today,” Rosen added. “Syria used the Golan’s strategic geography in two separate offensive wars against Israel in the past. Today, Iran and Hezbollah, both of which have vowed Israel’s destruction, use Syrian territory as a front for violence against the State of Israel. Israel has never waged an offensive war and its actions in the Golan Heights have represented pure self-defense. By recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the U.S. is helping to secure the ability of its closest regional ally to defend itself. We hope that other members of the international community will follow President Trump’s example.”
By Jack Rosen
With the 116th Congress, the American progressive movement is finally getting its day in the sun. Although Democratic Party leadership continues to uphold traditional Democratic policies, political news in 2019 has put progressives in the spotlight, and they are seen by many as the party’s inevitable future. The progressive far left is also permeated by a distinct anti-Israel bent that is only now entering mainstream U.S. politics.
But while the movement’s rising stars have had moments where they were celebrated, they have also been the center of controversy. In particular, freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) has come under fire for a series of anti-Semitic statements. These comments presented the Democrats’ far-left progressive wing with a unique opportunity to draw their moral boundaries and show Jewish Americans that, while some among them are outspoken critics of Israel, they are committed to holding the line against anti-Semitism. This could have been a shining moment for far-left progressives.
They missed it.
Far-left criticism of Israel is no stranger to controversy. Like many subjects pertaining primarily to a single religious, ethnic or racial minority, Israel warrants careful and nuanced discussion. As a result, in articles and conversations regarding Israel, it has become almost a tired line to clarify that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism.
And in many cases, this is valid; as a sovereign state and a democracy, Israel deserves to be analyzed by the media and others, and criticized when it does wrong. By the same standard, when Israel is held to a different standard than other countries on the world stage, that criticism deserves to be scrutinized as well. The same should be expected when Americans discuss any country whose majority population is a minority in the U.S.
In other words, progressives should expect that their criticisms are examined in turn. Then, in turn, they have every right to respond and defend their claims if they feel they are unfairly classified as anti-Semitic.
Enter Ilhan Omar. We are two months into Omar’s term in the House, and yet she has been at the center of controversy over three different anti-Semitic statements.
The first was a 2012 tweet accusing Israel of “hypnotizing the world.” She defended the tweet in a CNN interview in January 2019, but quickly apologized. The second, a tweet posted in early February, stated that Congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins.” Then, in the same month, she made a comment that support for Israel constituted “allegiance to a foreign country.”
Certainly, all three statements are offensive and false in the context of Israel. Yet the reason for the backlash had nothing to do with Israel. What all three statements have in common is they all reference classical anti-Semitic tropes that have been used to justify persecution and violence against Jews for hundreds of years.
Respectively, these tropes are: 1) Jews control the world with mystical powers, 2) Jews control world governments by way of their wealth and 3) Jews cannot be fully loyal to their home countries because they have a “dual loyalty” to global Jewry. All of these tropes long predate the modern State of Israel, and appear in such places as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious anti-Semitic document every published, as well as the charter of the terrorist organization Hamas.
There is no way around it: Omar made statements that were blatantly anti-Semitic and greatly offensive to Jewish Americans. Regardless of whether she honestly misspoke — though that gets less believable with each new offense — her wording and implications have caused pain and outrage.
Given that American progressivism is heavily oriented around social justice and the defense and empowerment of minority groups, Omar’s comments should have yielded outrage from her colleagues.
The opposite was true. Although the Democratic establishment has been swift in condemning these comments, key far-left progressive figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib have all come to Rep. Omar’s defense.
Omar, meanwhile, has failed to stand by her own apologies. She used the AIPAC controversy for her own fundraising purposes, demonstrating that she did not genuinely believe she was in the wrong. She made comments on dual loyalty after Tlaib was criticized for similar statements, demonstrating that she was not honestly trying to learn about anti-Semitism.
What do we take away from this?
We now know that far-left progressives don’t actually draw the line at “anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic.” Omar has clearly crossed that line, not once but several times, and her allies chose to defend her anyway; if ever the movement had a chance to prove the truth of their words, it was this. Anti-Semitism has found a safe haven within the American progressive movement.
We also know that these politicians’ support of minorities in this country does not extend to Jews. If a U.S. representative talked about any other minority group this way, these outspoken politicians would be the first to criticize. Yet they applaud the invocation of stereotypes and conspiracy theories about the Jewish people. Even Sanders, who is Jewish, personally offered his support to Omar following the AIPAC controversy, saying, “We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters.” What about your Jewish brothers and sisters, senator? Do they not matter as well?
The organization I lead, the American Jewish Congress, has operated for the past 100 years on the principle that in order to create a better America for Jews, we must create a better America for everyone. By failing to treat anti-Semitism with the gravity it merits, far-left progressives showed me they do not share in our vision for this nation.
Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.
American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen noted that the resolution’s passage was “a much-needed step,” adding that the text “is thorough in addressing the history, range and insidious nature of anti-Semitism, as well as Islamophobia and other forms of hatred and racism. For these truths to be acknowledged publicly by Congress is necessary and timely.”
However, he continued, “we are concerned that this action will not be enough to counter the repeated anti-Semitic comments by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and other members of the House of Representatives. When Rep. Omar alleged that AIPAC was buying support for Israel from Congress, a similar resolution was passed. Not only did Rep. Omar proceed to make further problematic statements, but she also went as far as to use that controversy for her own fundraising.”
“Furthermore, the resolution fails to mention Omar by name,” stated Rosen. “Now that her anti-Semitic statements have become a pattern, Congress should have the courage to call her out clearly.”
By Ashley Murray
The day after a gunman killed 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Dani Dayan, the consul general of Israel in New York, rushed to Pittsburgh to offer resources and meet with public officials, including Mayor Bill Peduto.
“He said, ‘I’m going to ask you again to go to Israel,’ and I said, ‘You don’t even have to ask, I will go,’” recalled Mr. Peduto on Monday, fresh off his trip last week to the Israel International Mayors Conference.
On his first day back at work in Pittsburgh, Mr. Peduto spoke about his five days in the Middle Eastern nation, where he honored the Tree of Life victims and learned about the advanced security measures available to government officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
“I can just tell you this, No. 1, the people of Israel are extremely proud of the people of Pittsburgh,” Mr. Peduto said. “The way that we responded to the community at that moment was something that was not experienced in the past with crimes of anti-Semitism, and it was recognized and appreciated.”
The annual conference offered various meetings with high-tech firms and government personnel, as well as a lineup of discussions on surveillance, cyber security and predictive analytics — including a tour of the underground Tel Aviv “Smart City Command Center.”
“We studied everything from drone technology to surveillance to sensor detection to all the different technology that is being utilized in Israel right now,” Mr. Peduto said. “The technology is so far advanced, and available to cities.”
He highlighted predictive sensor systems that could alert officials of somebody putting a foot over a bridge railing or dropping a suspicious package and walking away, and “immediately having a camera turn to [them] and a speaker saying ‘stay there’ and having somebody at the scene within minutes.”
Will the city consider any of these advancements? Mr. Peduto’s not sure because of the price tag, but said he looks forward to discussing the ideas over “a couple cups of coffee” with the city’s new director of performance and innovation, Santiago Garces.
But Mr. Peduto did not spend his entire trip to Israel talking about security and defense.
He delivered prayers from the families of Tree of Life victims to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and visited a memorial to them, which sits next to the 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem.
He said he also went there with a mission to discuss the threat of hate crimes with mayors from around the world. His counterparts included leaders of cities in Romania, Benin, Uruguay, Nepal and other countries.
On Wednesday night, Mr. Peduto participated in a panel discussing hate speech alongside a mayor from an Israeli city.
He said he went to the conference in part to further “a global understanding that hate speech leads to hate crime, and no matter what religion you are, it’s important to understand that we can make a difference if we intervene early,” he said.
Mr. Peduto’s trip was paid for by four organizations and government departments that organized the conference.
Some criticized the mayor via social media for his visit to Israel, as the country continues to build settlements in the West Bank.
“It’s part of the democratic process of who gets elected in foreign countries,” Mr. Peduto said. “Just as we don’t want to see interference in our elections, I don’t think it would be fair for me to be over in Israel criticizing a foreign government during a campaign season. I have my views, others have theirs, but I wasn’t there for any type of foreign diplomacy.”
Cities around the world are on the front lines of hate crime and have much to learn from each other
By Bill Peduto and Jack Rosen
No one can prepare you to lead a city through its darkest hour. But you don’t have to do it alone. Those first few days after the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the advice of mayors who had led their own cities in times of great tragedy was invaluable. Parkland. Orlando. San Bernardino. None of us has all the answers, but having lived through something similar, the ability to share our experiences and learn from one another meant everything.
That is why we are bringing the experiences, lessons and unanswered questions of Pittsburgh to the world. Last week, we gathered in Israel with municipal leaders from around the globe for the 33rd International Mayors Conference hosted by the American Jewish Congress and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mayors are often on the front lines against today’s tragedies, attacks and battles with hate. The conference provides a platform from which to share the lessons of Pittsburgh with local governments near and far, in order to prevent future violence and draw some good from Pittsburgh’s darkest day.
If you had asked a random American six months ago to guess where the next anti-Semitic attack would take place, chances are he or she would not have said Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is integral to the city’s history and identity; it wouldn’t be Pittsburgh without it. Yet on Oct. 27, Pittsburgh became the site of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States.
That anti-Semitism is on the rise is not new; 2017 saw a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crime, the third increase in as many years. And this is taking place around the world. A recent poll revealed a third of Europeans believe Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own agendas. In France, anti-Semitism rose 74 percent in 2018 from 2017 — a truly alarming statistic.
But perhaps more than any other incident, this attack should represent an international wakeup call that anti-Semitism is a real threat to Jewish lives everywhere. Before Pittsburgh, anti-Semitism in the U.S. felt like little more than a pale imitation of the anti-Semitism of old. After the shooting, we must remember that unchecked hate always leads to violence. Historically, anti-Semitism has always had the insidious ability to erupt seemingly out of nowhere.
That is why it is more important than ever to talk about Pittsburgh with leaders from around the world. To engage with them about anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic, racial and religious discrimination. To show them the history and resilience of the Jewish people through the lens of modern Israel. To warn mayors around the world of what we saw: That they must fight anti-Semitism in their cities on every level or more Jewish lives will be taken.
The effect the shooting had on the city of Pittsburgh also shed new light for many residents on what it means to experience hate crime. When we speak about hate crime, we speak only about the victimized group. But the vile massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue was an attack on all of Pittsburgh.
The man who murdered 11 worshipers on Oct. 27 hated Jews. He killed those people because they were Jewish. But he also hated Pittsburgh. He hated that it is a city where Jews are accepted and valued and can live without fear. It would be a disrespect to the dead and to the living to pretend as though this was anything short of an attack on our city of Pittsburgh.
Hate crime occurs all over the world. Cities must be able to support one another when hate crime strikes, so that the city governments can support and protect their people. We believe opening a conversation about the nature of hate crime and the ways in which cities can fight it is imperative for meetings such as the Mayors Conference.
The events following the shooting have also been a harsh reminder that although mayors know their cities best, national governments don’t always understand. It would be naïve to look at Pittsburgh and deny that hate crime and gun violence, especially in America, are linked. After witnessing the tragedy that befell Pittsburgh firsthand, we knew that concrete actions had to be taken to ensure that those who would harm minority communities would not be able to so easily. All mayors must be prepared to take hard stances for their cities.
Lastly, there is no replacement for building relationships, sharing experiences and having people to rely on. Mayors who have faced anti-Semitism and racism in their cities, who have had to make difficult decisions on gun control, and who have had to play a role in healing their cities — they can learn from one another. Above all, the International Mayors Conference offers international mayors the chance to create relationships across continents, built on something all mayors have in common: love for their cities.
Cities can help each other to heal, but our goal must be to prevent such future tragedies altogether. The battle against hate is often waged at a local level, but we don’t need to do this alone. Hate knows no borders; neither can we when we fight it. Together we must find ways to stop this from happening again — and build the bonds to be there for each other if it does.
Bill Peduto is mayor of Pittsburgh. Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.
Mayor Bill Peduto traveled to Israel on Saturday to attend the 33rd annual International Mayor’s Conference.
The conference, a global meeting of government, technology and energy leaders that studies leading examples of sustainable development, takes place Sunday through Thursday in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Twenty-five mayors from around the world are participating.
Mr. Peduto will honor the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre — the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history — while at the conference.
No city taxpayer dollars are being spent as conference organizers are paying all travel costs.
The conference is presented by the American Jewish Congress, the American Council for World Jewry, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel.
Mr. Peduto will return to the U.S. on Friday.