And now, a word from the Jewish Democratic Council of America

Source

February 15, 2019

Friends,Events of the past week demonstrated that words matter. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) immediately condemned Representative Ilhan Omar’s tweet for what it was – an anti-Semitic trope. We followed-up with a statement, denouncing Rep. Omar’s tweet because it represented a form of anti-Semitism that has historically been used to target Jews. We expressed deep concern that a member of Congress would express such incendiary views, and asserted that her constituents and the American people deserved better.

Within 24 hours, House Democratic leadership, as well as dozens of Democratic members of Congress, condemned Rep. Omar’s statement and expressed similar concerns. Facing immense pressure, Rep. Omar “unequivocally” apologized for her tweet. JDCA responded by welcoming Rep. Omar’s recognition that her words were offensive and her willingness to learn. We expressed hope that this would be last time she repeats dangerous stereotypes targeting Jews and said we look forward to engaging with her to voice our deep concerns. We also expressed concern that her apology was in fact equivocal because it repeated some of the same references she had originally tweeted about. JDCA is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress understand the gravity of these issues and calling out anti-Semitism wherever we see it.

JDCA has spoken out against Rep. Omar and other Democrats with whom we disagree before, and we will continue to speak out against anyone who engages in anti-Semitism irrespective of their party affiliation. Speaking truth to power, even within your own party, is consistent with our values. Words matter. But hypocrisy matters too.

JDCA Board on the Hill

That is why JDCA will continue to call out the hypocrisy of Republicans who are quick to criticize anti-Semitism when it’s politically expedient, but refuse to denounce anti-Semitism in their own ranks and at the highest levels of power.There is no question that insinuations of Jewish money controlling American politics is an anti-Semitic canard. So where was the Republican outrage when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insinuated just four months ago that Jews were attempting to buy the midterm election? In the last election, Republican state parties and candidates ran attack ads in six states featuring Jews clutching cash. Where was the outrage over the GOP’s widespread use of this anti-Semitic trope? Unfortunately, it wasn’t there. Instead, we have seen Republicans selectively condemn anti-Semitism when it suits their political interests but remain silent when it comes from the highest ranks of power.

Republicans were silent as Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign in which he frequently used anti-Semitic tropes. His final campaign ad – which was explicitly condemned by at least five Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – referred to the same anti-Semitic trope Rep. Omar invoked this week. But that wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. In 2015, Trump told a crowd of Jews that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.” More recently, he promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on Twitter. And we will never forget that the President of the United States publicly created a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those protesting them in Charlottesville.

Again, where is the Republican outrage? There has been none. Just silence.

Republicans have been quick to point to their recent condemnation of Rep. Steve King for his alignment with white supremacy, but as Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded us on Wednesday, Republicans’ decision to finally take action against King – who has long been known to hold anti-Semitic views – took Republicans 13 years.

Even this past week, 177 House Republicans voted against a bill containing language condemning anti-Semitism. All Democrats – including Rep. Omar – voted for it, but Republicans chose party over principle, and nearly all of them voted “no.” JDCA spoke out after this vote, affirming that it was “blatant hypocrisy on the part of Republicans, plain and simple, and we condemn them for it in the strongest possible terms.”

This hypocrisy is simply unacceptable.

We’ve had enough. Anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated, and we must uniformly hold elected officials to the highest standards. If you are committed to calling out anti-Semitism only when it’s politically expedient, then you are just dedicated to partisanship not principles. That’s why we’re encouraging the GOP to commit to calling out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it emerges. As JDCA stated on Wednesday in a message to Republicans – “enough of the willful blindness, hypocrisy, and double standards.”

Words matter, but hypocrisy matters too, and if you agree with the work JDCA is doing, please consider supporting our efforts today. Please also check out more of JDCA’s work from this past week on our website, including our response to the breaking news of President Trump’s emergency declaration at our border, an op-ed by Executive Director Halie Soifer published in the Times of Israel, and a letter to the editor published in the Jewish Journal by JDCA Board Member Ada Horwich and Halie Soifer.

JDCA Board on the Hill

Shabbat Shalom,Ron Klein
Chair, Jewish Democratic Council of America

Halie Soifer
Executive Director, Jewish Democratic Council of America

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Ramin Mazaheri interviewed by Sputnik about the “Yellow Vests” and Macron

February 05, 2019

Ramin Mazaheri interviewed by Sputnik about the “Yellow Vests” and Macron

Macron Won’t Put Question of Resignation Up for French Referendum – Journo

You can listen to the full audio of the interview here:

The first referendum in 14 years could take place in France in May as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the ongoing series of weekend ‘yellow vests’ protests. The newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported that Macron was planning to organise the vote on the same day as European parliament elections: on May 26th.

According to the publication, one of the questions the French would be asked is whether they want to reduce the number of national lawmakers — a campaign pledge by Macron, as well as whether they favour imposing term-limits on legislators.

Radio Sputnik discussed the possibility of France holding its first referendum in 14 years with Ramin Mazaheri, PressTV’s Chief Correspondent in Paris.

Sputnik: What do we know about this proposed referendum and how likely is it to happen in your opinion?

Ramin Mazaheri: The Yellow Vests have no clear programme; there are literally dozens and dozens of demands which are associated with them and the reason that there are so many demands is because France has submitted to the dictates of Brussels for eight years and they have embraced far-right economic austerity, and austerity has totally created a lost decade of economic growth, high employment and suppressed wages, and reduce government services. So, you know, we should see why the Yellow vests have so very many demands. Austerity accumulates; it’s been eight years, so you always have to keep that in mind.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. November 30, 2018

But the idea of more referendums, that this something that truly has risen to the top of the list of their demands… why is that? It’s because in the past decade, it has become painfully clear to the French that their politicians just don’t care a bit for the popular will. Macron, you know, he’s totally done away with the false promises of his predecessor, Francois Hollande, because he openly says he doesn’t care about public opinion at all. He says that public opinion will not affect his policy decisions whatsoever. This is obviously contrary to the modern idea of democracy. So this new demand for a referendum has to be viewed as a reaction to the dominance of the French elites in policy-making. The French people want more power in policy-making.

We have to keep in mind that out of all of the Western governments, the presidency of France has the most power, and we have to combine this reality with another one, that Macron has more power than any [French] president in recent memory, and that’s because he has an absolute majority in Parliament and because he also has total control over his own party, which is full of political novices, they owe their entire careers completely to Macron.

Macron is known for ruling like a Roman God, Jupiter; he’s also known as the president of the rich. So a referendum would reinject democracy into France’s Fifth Republic, that’s the background for this demand for the referendum. The French want direct democracy because their elected leaders, in their indirect democracy, they’re not only not succeeding, they’re not even listening to public opinion. There hasn’t been a referendum in France in 14 years, not since 2005, and French voters then rejected the Lisbon Treaty on the European Union Constitution, and what happened? The vote was totally ignored. So it’s important to keep in mind that Many Yellow vests view a referendum as some sort of cure-all for the French democracy. History proves that that’s not necessarily the case in France. The only country which seems to have incorporated referendums in an effective manner is Switzerland, and France clearly wants to emulate their neighbour in this respect, but these are two very different countries with very different political systems, so it’s not really that simple.

Macron has stated that the idea of a referendum is being discussed, it will be held on the same day as EU elections, but it’s not a done deal. I would say that a referendum is likely to happen because it’s avery attention grabbing way for Macron to say, “Look, I’m not ruling like Jupiter, I am being democratic.” However it’s something which, depending on the issues which are being voted on, this is something which could have very little political risk for Macron.

Sputnik: Let’s talk in greater detail about these issues that could be deliberated?

Ramin Mazaheri: Well that’s really the key question here, right? I mean, if you listen to the Yellow Vests, the most popular question would be: Should President Macron resign? But I think we can all agree that there is no way that Macron is going to put that question up for referendum. It’s really very ironic that Macron, I’m sure he’s going to refuse the hold new elections, because that is exactly what he ordered Venezuela to do. Macron and other EU leaders, they gave Venezuelan leader Nicholas Maduro just eight days to hold new elections or they will recognize someone else, someone who’s never received a presidential vote, as Venezuela’s new president, so it’s really a case of hypocrisy from France, but that is nothing new at all.

French 'red scarves' (foulards rouges), critics of violent 'yellow vest' (Gilets Jaunes) protests demonstrate in Paris on January 27, 2019.

So what the government is proposing right now about the referendum is to have just one question and that’s to ask voters if they want to reduce the number of parliamentarians and limit the number of terms they may serve. I think that all of our listeners will immediately grasp that this is not a major interest for the Yellow Vests. It will not affect their purchasing power, it will not touch austerity, and we should see that this is really quite a neoliberal idea once again, because it’s a way to reduce the size of France’s government. So we see that Macron is actually trying to use the referendum, and it’s not decided yet, this is what he’s floating in the media, to push the very same neoliberal agenda. He’s not talking about putting up ideas which the average French person cares about, so it’s really a tone deaf move if he goes forward with just this one question, and France’s politicians have said exactly that. They’ve said that if this is the only question on the referendum, it’s going to be a total failure. Reducing the number of legislators actually is one of Macron’s campaign pledges, so it’s amazing that despite his massive unpopularity and the massive protests that have really undermined his international image, he’s on the precipice of sticking with pursuing his very, very unpopular political agenda.

Sputnik: What the Yellow Vests envisioned for a referendum is obviously going to be quite different. They want questions on a number of socioeconomic issues.

Ramin Mazaheri: You know, for example, Macron has rushed through many, many sweeping reforms which are so very unpopular and all of which are designed to make France more in line with the American system, the English system, the German system, and what is on the docket for this year is major right-wing roll-backs to the unemployment system and the social security system. So the Yellow Vests, they would want ideally those types of issues to be on the referendum, to really talk about public policy and the policies that really affect the average French person, the average French household, the pensioner, everybody.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

And Speaking of Banned and Challenged Books…

A few days ago I posted an article about children’s books by Jewish authors, a disproportionately high number of which were found by Andrew Joyce, the writer of the article, to have been included on a list of “banned and challenged books” that is yearly maintained by the American Library Association (ALA).

Not long after I posted the article, a friend sent me an email about the children’s book you see above.

P is for Palestine has not, at least as of yet, made the ALA’s list, although that could be because it was only published this past November. Yet assuredly the book has been challenged (rather persistently), and may possibly have been banned in certain places as well. It is not currently available, for instance, at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The only online retailer that appears to be carrying it is Etsy.

According to Joyce, the books published by Jewish authors and which made the ALA’s list were found to have been objectionable by parents and school officials mainly due to their sexual content. For instance, one of the books he talks about, It’s Perfectly Normal, contains graphic illustrations of people engaging in sex acts. The book, which has been made available to ten-year-olds, has a section explaining that sexual intercourse “can involve the penis and the vagina, or the mouth and the genitals, or the penis and the anus.” Not surprisingly, the inclusion of the book in public school curricula has sparked considerable protest.

P is for Palestine has also sparked protests–but for an entirely different reason.

In November of 2017, shortly after the book’s release, a number of New York City Jews launched a campaign against a local bookstore after it scheduled an event featuring a reading and book signing by the author. The following was reported by the website Palestine Legal:

Last week, a popular independent book store in New York’s Upper West Side, Book Culture, received calls to censor and denounce a children’s book, P is for Palestine, after the book’s author, Professor Golbarg Bashi, publicized an event at the store on an Upper East Side mother’s blog.

I haven’t actually seen a copy of the book, but apparently it does not include any graphic depiction of the human anatomy or sex acts. On the contrary, like many children’s books, it attempts to expand children’s vocabularies by presenting them with words beginning with different letters of the alphabet (this I do know from reading the reviews). And the chief complaint from Jews who have gone ballistic over the issue is the “I” word–intifada.

“I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!” reads one section of the book.

Additionally, there is a section reading, “J is for Jesus,” which probably also doesn’t sit too well with the kosher critics.

“We forcefully reject Palestinian efforts to persuade us that ‘intifada’ has a peaceful connotation,” wrote three rabbis in an open letter posted on the website of a local synagogue after the controversy erupted. “These are apologetics, at best, and more likely, attempts to confuse, whitewash, and distort. It is easy to philosophize from afar about the Arabic origins of the word ‘intifada’ if you have never experienced its murderous wrath or lived under its constant violent threats.”

Besides all the venom-spitting over the book, the article in Palestine Legal goes on to report on threats to block the store, Book Culture, from participating in an upcoming book fair sponsored by a local synagogue. The piece was published November 29, but on December 4, an update was posted noting that the store’s owners had been “forced to put out a statement which says that they do not endorse boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian rights, that they support Israel’s right to exist, and that they oppose terrorism.”

The statement issued by the store reads as follows:

  1. We regret that we did not fully appreciate the political or communal ramifications of the children’s book P is for Palestine by Dr. Golbarg Bashi, nor did we anticipate the pain and distress it has caused in our community. We now understand these much better.
  2. We oppose terrorism or other forms of violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians during the intifada or thereafter. Any impression from the book to the contrary is not our view.
  3. We support Israel’s right to exist.
  4. We do not endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

In addition to the above written statement, one of the store’s owners, Chris Doeblin, produced an outpouring of contrition in an interview with a local media outlet–in an article headlined, “Rabbis and Bookstore Owner Break Bread After Split Over Palestine Book.”

The store, we are told by Palestine Legal, was finally allowed to participate in the book fair.

The author of P is for Palestine is Goldbarg Bashi, an Iranian-Swedish woman who formerly taught at Rutgers University. You can visit her website here. In a Facebook post in late November she talks about death threats and other hostile communications she has received since the release of her book. Here is an excerpt:

A small but very loud minority have accused my book of very serious but false charges. It is important for me to note, once again, that their disproportionate backlash against my book and my person (resulting in death threats, devaluing of my social-impact business) was initially to the mere title of the bookPalestine they claimed does not exist, even though the UN and scores of legitimate nation states on our globe recognize Palestine as a country, and how dare I (read an Iranian, or Muslim, or Arab, or Palestinian woman) publish such a book in “their” city New York.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and in the Palestinian context the letter I most certainly stands for Intifada, as does B for BethlehemC for ChristmasJ for JesusF for FalafelK for KuffiyaN for Nazareth and so on.

Intifada means resistance and resilience against the global and the UN condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine—it is a daily component of Palestinian life that is manifested in carrying the signs and symbols of Palestinian life with pride—carrying a Palestinian flag, wearing a Palestinian dress, cooking a Palestinian dish, protecting a Palestinian olive tree from being bulldozed etc are all examples of Intifada.

It would be irresponsible of an author of a book for Palestinian children (or e.g. Native American children) to ignore or whitewash the fact that their people have a resistance movement, most of which is manifested in peaceful protest—I have written a loving book for real Palestinian children with some of whom I grew up in a Swedish refugee camp—along with many other refugee children from around the world. My sense of moral responsibility emerged in those refugee camps not among the self-proclaimed powerful neighborhoods of New York City who racially-profile me, incite hatred and violence against my person and my social-impact start-up, and issue edicts to boycott and shut down bookstores for having dared to sell world’s first English language alphabet book on Palestine.

I wonder how many of the Jews who have gotten so upset over P is for Palestine, became equally as worked up over It’s Perfectly Natural.

Something tells me probably not many.

And I wonder how many of those who take such offense at the word “intifada” have ever bothered to go out and protest against any of  Israel’s murderous campaigns in Gaza?

Again, something tells me probably not many.

Whether the book P is for Palestine has specifically been banned from Amazon and Barnes and Noble I can’t say. All I know for sure is that as of this posting it is not available at either (unlike It’s Perfectly Natural, which is available at both). Certainly it’s possible that the author, for whatever strange reason, chose not to sell it through these two major online dealers.

But a question very much worth pondering at this point is whether any of this will be mentioned by the American Library Association when it publishes its next list of the most “banned and challenged books.”

And once again…though I hope I’m wrong…I have a feeling I know the answer to that as well.

MBS’s Lavish Buys: Some See Hypocrisy, Others Say They’re No Big Deal

Tom DiChristopher

29-12-2017 | 15:32

A series of recent reports have connected Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince – an avowed anti-corruption crusader – to lavish real estate, art and yacht purchases.

MBS luxury yacht

To some, the spending is a sign of hypocrisy and a threat to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s legitimacy. The reports come on the heels of his anti-graft campaign, which culminated in the detention of Saudi princes, officials and businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

But to others, the purchases are legitimate investments and nothing unusual for a future king.

The 32-year-old crown prince is a polarizing figure who has captured the financial world’s attention. First in line to succeed his father, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, he is spearheading Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation plan and has overseen an invasion of Yemen, a blockade of Qatar and a domestic crackdown on graft that has swept up high-profile royals.

As such, his every move is dissected by Middle East watchers for signs of turbulence in the world’s second-largest oil-producing nation and pre-eminent Sunni Muslim power. This month, a pair of New York Times investigations gave tea-leaf readers plenty to talk about.

First, the paper linked Crown Prince Mohammed to the record $450.3 million auction sale of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, “Salvator Mundi”. The following week, the Times traced the mysterious $300 million sale of Chateau Louis XIV in France to Crown Prince Mohammed. The paper also noted his roughly $500 million yacht purchase in 2015, reportedly a spur-of-the-moment splurge.

The Saudi government declined to comment about the chateau to the Times, but has disputed reports that a Saudi royal purchased the da Vinci on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed.

In light of the anti-corruption arrests, the chateau and yacht purchases send signals that are inconsistent with Crown Prince Mohammed’s social and economic reforms, said Robert Jordan, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush.

“The lack of judgement and the lack of self-awareness that this reflects I think is shocking,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“There will be members of the royal family, others in the community, who are saying, ‘Wait a minute. This guy is just the biggest hypocrite in the world.’ So, I think he’s got to be very careful to balance that,” said Jordan, now an adjunct political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

But others say Crown Prince Mohammed’s spending habits and his corruption crackdown are separate issues, and those who conflate them might fuel misconceptions about public opinion Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammed is trying to rein in widespread corruption, not discretionary spending by the future king, said Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University. He says Saudis don’t consider splashy purchases to be corruption, nor do they typically object to wealthy princes investing in assets with tangible value like overseas property, yachts or artwork.

“This is not a guy who is going to Monaco and dropping $100 million on gambling,” Haykel told CNBC on Wednesday. “That would be a very different kind of story.”

While Western media are focused on the purchases, the average Saudi is more concerned about the introduction of a new value-added tax and the ongoing reduction in fuel subsidies, said Haykel, who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. These Saudis worry that their incomes will not rise to meet higher costs.

Haykel says wealthy Saudis who say they built their fortunes through legitimate channels are “ecstatic” that Crown Prince Mohammed cracked down on allegedly corrupt princes and officials. They see the type of corruption he is targeting, like bribe-taking and skimming funds for development projects, as a burden on the system, Haykel said.

Still, Haykel says Crown Prince Mohammed has not clearly communicated his motives for the crackdown either at home or abroad.

Saudi youth have also emerged as a base of support for the crown prince due to his social reforms, notes Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and energy policy program at the Washington Institute. At least for the moment, he said, they are forgiving his extravagances as Saudi Arabia prepares to lift a ban on women driving and rolls back restrictions on entertainment.

Still, Henderson cautions that Crown Prince Mohammed is treating some corners of the royal family and the religious Islamic establishment with “disdain.” He’s getting away with it because royals are scared and religious figures don’t want to be marginalized, but the crown prince’s ambition could cost him in the future, Henderson noted.

“My guess is that the ulema are waiting for him to make a big mistake or for a surprise event and for him to come to them for political help,” he told CNBC in an email, using a word for religious scholars. “At which point they will say ‘we warned you’ and exact a price for their support.”

Source: CNBC, Edited by website team

‘War to Save the Children’ — Talk By Vanessa Beeley

Recently Vanessa Beeley discussed the cynical manipulation of children to promote war in Syria.  Entitled “War to Save the Children,” her presentation was given as part of a London event entitled “Media On Trial.” It is a very important talk, and Beeley does a superb job of underscoring the hypocrisy behind the so-called “humanitarian interventions” so incessantly pursued by those who decidedly are not humane. The irony here of course: that the “war to save the children,” as it were, is in reality a war that kills children.

Held last month at a church in London, the Media On Trial event was organized by Frome Stop War, an independent anti-war group formed in 2011 in response to the bombing of Libya.

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