Nel's New Day

December 15, 2019

‘Anti-Semitism’ Ban Doesn’t Protect Jewish People

At a White House Hanukkah reception, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed an executive order explicitly naming Jews as a protected class under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and cracking down on anti-Semitism by denying federal funds to any group exhibiting his definition of anti-Semitism. Title VI lists non-discrimination only for race, color, and national origin which means that Jewish people are protected as “national origin” and not religion.

The order punishes any First Amendment free speech criticism of Israel, blocks the BDS movement—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions—which attempts to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” by boycotting Israel for its illegal activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and eliminates any support for Palestinians. Curriculum that did not completely support Israel would also be banned under this order.

A hue and cry declaimed that DDT didn’t declare Judaism a “nationality,” that he just put it under “race” and “nationality.” That explanation seems to have the same meaning as “nationality”—it even uses the same word. The order raises questions such as whether Ivanka Trump, a Jewish convert, now has a new “race” or “nationality.” Most of the Jews in the U.S. describe their identity as cultural or religious—or perhaps heritage—while they are Americans. Being separate from Americans can deny them the nation’s rights. If the government determines a definition of nationality for Jewishness, this different category leaves them open to more discrimination.  

Several Jewish organizations raised objections to DDT’s order. Alissa Wise, an activist rabbi with Jewish Voice for Peace, said:

“Trump has never cared about stopping antisemitism — this executive order is about silencing Palestinians and the people who speak up with them.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, said:

“We feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right.”

In its petition to reject DDT’s executive order, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights states:

“Though touted as a means of protecting Jews and of supporting Israel, this planned Executive Order only threatens First Amendment rights, which include the right to criticize the actions of any country on earth, while confirming a centuries-old antisemitic trope — that the primary loyalty of Jews is not to the state in which they live. This supposition has resulted in horrific discrimination against Jews in countless countries. Take a stand against it today.”

Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow, wrote:

 “Trump’s executive order is not about keeping Jews safe. After a week in which he spewed classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money, this is just more anti-Semitism. The order’s move to define Judaism as a ‘nationality’ promotes the classically bigoted idea that American Jews are not American. This order is a dangerous move to silence the free speech of human rights advocates and, in particular, Palestinian and Muslim college students.”

Last weekend, DDT used anti-Jewish negative stereotypes of the wealthy Jew in real estate when he said to the Israeli American Council:

“A lot of you are in the real estate business… You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax.”

DDT continues his pattern of protecting anti-Semitic white supremacists, as he did after their racist protests in Charlotte (VA). Despite the nationalist protesters’ cries of “Jews will not replace us,” DDT continues to insist that they were “fine people on both sides.” 

The executive order is reminiscent of the 1870 Crémieux Decree that the French government enacted in Algeria with the white supremacist goal of giving Algerian Jews the rights and protection of French citizenship while leaving Muslim and Amazigh Algerians second-class citizens. Jewish Algerians lost their privileges when Nazis took over Europe and set up the Vichy regime in France.

By creating citizenship for Algerian Jews, the French government deflected Algerians’ anger of the violence of colonization onto this minority group. Separating the two oppressed groups, Jews and Muslims, meant that they could not successfully opposed the French colonial power. The rise of anti-Semitism drove Jews out of Algeria to France and the anti-colonial movement. By 1940, Muslims fought colonization in Algeria, and Jews faced genocide in France.

France suffers from both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the direction that the United States is taking. White supremacist governments, including the United States, isolate religious and ethnic groups to pit them against each other to block solidarity. DDT separates Jews and Muslims to make them more ineffective in the fight against white supremacy. He strengthens his division of minority groups by ordering that Palestinian liberation work and fighting anti-Semitism are in opposition.

George W. Bush and President Obama used Title VI to oppose discrimination against people of different religions, not specifically Jewish, and did not declare them a nationality. Instead, discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, etc. was covered by Title VI if the discrimination is based on “the group’s actual or perceived ancestry or ethnic characteristics” or “actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity.”

DDT uses a pattern of stating that Jewish people in the United States aren’t really “Americans.” Speaking to Jewish groups, he calls Israel “your country” and Benjamin Netanyahu “your prime minister.” He uses perspectives about Israel, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and himself to define the Jewish community as “loyal” or “disloyal.” Prominent Jewish people, for example, Alexander Vindman who testified during the impeachment inquiry, suffer from questions about their patriotism and their loyalty to “America.” DDT’s executive order expands on the difference, insinuating that “Jewish” is separated from “America” and putting that idea into law. This follows DDT’s position that “Mexican Americans” aren’t really Americans.

The new executive order lumps together all anti-Israel conduct without considering whether it is anti-Jewish. The First Amendment protects anti-Semitic speech—at least until DDT was inaugurated. Although it may be repugnant, the term “I hate Jews” is as protected as “I hate carnivores.” The order bans free speech by requiring all government agencies consider the nonbinding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism in enforcing anti-discrimination law. The criteria, developed for data-collection, are so vague and imprecise that a Palestinian rights group on campus could lose funding for a school.

To ban all criticism against Israel is to stop criticism of a country.  Israel is a political entity, and DDT’s order bans any criticism of an entire country and its government. Criticism of illegal West Bank settlements is a political discussion, not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group,” a definition of anti-Semitism. Debates about Israeli policy is not necessarily anti-Jewish.

DDT’s goal with his executive order is to stop any criticism of Israel by calling it “anti-Semitic.” Israel is a political entity, and his order bans any criticism of a country and government. Criticism of illegal West Bank settlements is a political discussion, not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group,” the definition of anti-Semitism. Debates about Israeli policy are not anti-Semitism.

Technically, DDT’s executive order against “anti-Semitism” should oppose discrimination against a wide range of communities. Although claims have been made that “anti-Semitism” is exclusively for Jewish people, the term Semite covers people in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta—all racially connected by the Semitic language. Therefore, bans against anti-Semitism should stop discrimination against Muslims, Palestinians, etc. DDT’s “anti-Semitism” order is actually anti-Zionism. Both left and right Zionists want the state of Israel, but DDT’s ideology, the rightwing Zionists, combine religion and politics while opposing peace with Palestinians in order to take over all their land. The Zionists want privileges for Jews over Arabs, Palestinians, and Christians.

As a person, DDT is pro-Zionist, trying to protect the state of Israel to keep the evangelical Christians happy, but he demonstrates anti-Jewish behavior which encourages his prejudiced base to behave violently toward Jewish people in their desire to rid the U.S. of Jewish people. Anti-Jewish episodes in the U.S. increased 60 percent in the first year after DDT’s inauguration and continued into a record number of attacks, for example the killing of four people at a Jersey City kosher supermarket this past week.  

Anti-Muslim evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress spoke at the Hanukkah event where DDT signed his order. Jeffress maintains that “you can’t be saved being a Jew” and called Mormonism “a heresy from the pit of hell.” According to anti-Jewish Jeffress, Hell is “filled with good religious people who have rejected the truth of Christ.” DDT supports Jeffress because “I like people that talk well about me.”

DDT is not a friend of the Jewish people in the United States.

March 7, 2019

House Democrats: Get Back to Work

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A claim about Fox network is that it’s the far-right against everyone else. The same is true with the existing rank and file GOP, leaving lots of “everyone else” in the Democratic party, a diverse batch of people known in the past for many internal differences. One of these emerged when Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said that the strong support for Israel, despite its genocidal behavior, came from the dollars poured into paying politicians. In an initial knee jerk reaction, Democratic leadership talked about a resolution to condemn her. The Republicans were all for the idea, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) demanded that she be taken off the Foreign Policy Committee.

An assumption to silence any debate about Israel was the anti-Semitic accusation of any suggestion that U.S. fails to support equal rights for Palestinians with one-sided support for Israel. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) addressed the narrowness of the proposed resolution when she asked why “no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!” on the floor).” Later she added, “Where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he’ll ‘send Obama home to Kenya?’” Jeremy Cahill, editor of The Intercept, tweeted:

“If we lived in a sane society, those politicians who promote the Israeli government even as it slaughters Palestinians and cozy up to its lobbyists would be the focus of investigation and condemnation. Instead, they attack the woman, @IlhanMN, who bravely calls it out.”

When some representatives and the public protested a resolution rebuking Omar, it got softened to condemning anti-Semitism and then moved to including a condemnation of anti-Muslim positions. By now the resolution may have disappeared after many House Democrats want to go farther in condemning all religious hatred. In a caucus session, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) said, “Why are we doing this?” After the meeting, she said:

“We’ve individually and collectively already responded to the fact that we oppose all ‘-isms’ that do not treat people in this country fairly and justly. To continue to engage in this discussion is simply an opportunity to give both the media and Republicans distractions from our agenda. We’ve got important work to do.”

Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA) demonstrates how biased some representatives are over the issue when he tweeted that “questioning support for the U.S.-Israeli relationship is unacceptable.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) advised her Democratic colleagues: “Everyone stop tweeting.” It’s a start. Thanks, ladies!

A sampling of the GOP representatives who stay in Congress but smeared Omar and/or threatened to take action against her:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA): Accused three Jewish billionaires of trying to “buy” the midterms the day before one of them got a pipe bomb at his New York home. McCarthy refused to apologize for the anti-Semitic tweet but deleted it. McCarthy also funded attack ads in which Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) called his Mexican-Palestinian opponent a “terrorist.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA): Attended and spoke at a white supremacist convention by a group founded by David Duke, Holocaust-denying former grand wizard of the KKK and described by the Anti-Defamation League as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”

Louie Gohmert (TX): Attacked a Jewish billionaire on the Fox Business channel with this falsehood, “George Soros is supposed to be Jewish but you wouldn’t know it from the damage he inflicted on Israel and the fact that he turned on fellow Jews and helped take the property that they owned.” Host Stuart Varney had to clarify that Gohmert’s views to represent those of Fox—and Fox’s views tend to be fairly far out.

Matt Gaetz (FL): Invited notorious Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to be his guest at the State of the Union, suggested that the George Soros funded the immigrant caravan to “storm the U.S. border,” and appeared on Alex Jones Infowars when Jones said that “it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.” (DDT called Gaeta “one of the finest and most talented people in Congress.”)

Steve King (IA): Re-tweeted a neo-Nazi, sat on a panel with white supremacists, praised both German and Austrian neo-Nazis, and finished by defending white supremacy and many more racist statements. [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pointed out that Republicans didn’t notice King’s offensive remarks for 13 years.]

Paul Gosar (AZ): Claimed that the Charlottesville (VA) rally where marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” was “created by the left” and funded by Soros, repeating Gohmert’s lie about Soros.

DDT has used Jewish stereotypes since he began his presidential campaign. Most recently he labeled Adam Schiff, the Jewish Democrat from California who leads the House Intelligence Committee, “shifty”—a stereotypical remark for “crafty” Jewish people. DDT’s cozying up to white supremacists has also led to far more hate crimes against Jewish people than in the past. Anti-Semitic crimes rose 37 percent in 2017.

In his push to remove Ilhan from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, DDT cited a letter from organizations that he called “Jewish groups.” The coalition, also called “leading Jewish organizations” by conservative media included those who spread anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and one has ties to a longtime neo-Nazi. The anti-Muslim groups have ties to DDT’s administration and favor military intervention in the Muslim world, raising questions about why DDT wants Omar removed. One of the hate groups, ACT for America, calls State Secretary Mike Pompeo a “steadfast ally” in its publicity and presented him with its National Security Eagle Award in 2016. Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of another anti-Omar group called the Center for Security Policy, has called for U.S. war in the Middle East since 9/11 and makes Islamophobic and xenophobic comments, including those against Somalian immigrants. Omar is a Somali refugee. The group is now led by Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff to DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton.

Omar made a statement about how her being Muslim automatically leads to accusation of anti-Semitism, a useful method of shutting down debate:

“What I’m fearful of—because Rashida [Tlaib] and I are Muslim—that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. And so to me, it’s something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of—yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, ‘The words you used, Ilhan, are resemblance [sic] of intolerance.’ And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that.

“But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say that is supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement or advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled something, and that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

If the House decides to propose any “anti” resolution about religious and ethnic bigotry should be inclusive, not an attack. In the meantime, Watson Coleman got it right: “Everybody stop tweeting.” And get back to work.

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