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Speaking to Israeli-American group, Trump slams Jews who ‘don’t love Israel enough’

Sun, 2019-12-08 04:15

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (JTA) — President Donald Trump slammed American Jews who he said did not sufficiently “love Israel.”

“So many of you voted for the people in the last administration. Some day you will have to explain that to me because I don’t think they like Israel too much,” the president said Saturday evening at the Israeli-American Council’s annual conference.

More than 4,000 people gathered at the Diplomat Beach Resort here for the four-day conference, which concludes Sunday and features sessions on topics such as the Israeli-American relationship, anti-Semitism and Israeli technology.

After being introduced by Israeli-American philanthropist and Republican mega-donor Miriam Adelson, Trump spoke for nearly an hour.

In his address, the president surveyed his record of Israel-related policies, including moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, ending U.S. policy labeling settlements as illegal as legal and pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.

His descriptions of his policies were met with enthusiasm from the audience, including loud applause and vigorous chants of “four more years.”

He twice called out Jews who he said did not adequately support Israel.

“You have people that are Jewish people that are great people, they don’t love Israel enough, you know that, but David Friedman is not one of them,” he said, referring to his former lawyer who now serves as the U.S Ambassador to Israel.

When he spoke about finding a location for the U.S. Embassy in Israel he told the audience that “a lot of you are in the real estate business.”

“I know you very well, you’re brutal realtors. But you have to vote for me. You have no choice, you’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas,” he said, using a pejorative nickname for Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who claims to have Native American ancestry.

Trump also denounced anti-Semitism.

“My administration is committed to aggressively challenging and confronting anti-Semitic bigotry in every resource and using every single weapon at our disposal,” he said, adding that he chose to withdraw the U.S. from the U.N. Human Rights Council due to its singling out Israel in its condemnations.

He called out anti-Semitism on the far left, including anti-Israel activism on campuses and a tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota. Omar has apologized for the tweet, which critics said had invoked a trope of Jews paying for influence. Trump did not mention anti-Semitism on the extreme right, including the massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh last year.

The Democratic Majority for Israel on Twitter slammed Trump for peddling anti-Semitic tropes and ignoring the threat from the far right.

Watching Trump “traffic in antisemitic stereotypes is disgusting,” the tweet said. “Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy when discussing antisemitism is equally distressing.

During his speech, Trump called up two people to address the audience.

One was Elan Carr, the State Department’s anti-Semitism monitor. The other was Adela Cojab, an undergraduate student at New York University, who took legal action against her school because of anti-Semitism she said she experienced. She said the Education Department was now investigating her complaint.

Trump addressing the conference represented a significant achievement for the IAC, which has risen in prominence in recent years but still lags behind Israel lobby groups AIPAC and J Street. The group was founded in 2007 and seeks to connect Israelis living in the United States and strengthen the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

The crowd at the conference cheered loudly as Trump finished his speech and walked off the stage.

The organization’s co-founder and CEO, Shoham Nicolet, called Trump’s address “an incredible honor and milestone.”

“It is also a message of unwavering support for the entire pro-Israel community in America,” he said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jewish Democrats said Trump’s speech would not assuage the concerns of a community that continues to vote in large majorities for Democrats.

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Meet the ‘groyper army,’ a movement that wants conservatives to be racist and anti-Semitic

Fri, 2019-12-06 19:58

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The young man in the smiley face baseball hat and the Teddy Spaghetti t-shirt had a question for Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump youth movement. It was about an incident that long predated both of their births, and Kirk knew just what to say.

“Why do you deny the attack on the USS Liberty which is well documented by both U.S. and Israeli sources and which resulted in the deaths and injuries of over 200 Americans?” the man asked Kirk at an October event at the University of New Hampshire organized by Turning Point USA.

“I deny that it was a deliberate attack by the Israeli government,” Kirk replied coolly.

U.S. and Israeli officials long ago concluded that the attack on the Liberty was a tragic mistake. In the midst of the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel mistakenly identified the ship as Egyptian or Soviet and launched an airstrike, killing 34 crewmen. Israel apologized for the attack and paid damages to the United States and the families of the victims, but the incident has nonetheless been embraced by conspiracy theorists as a code for Israeli nefariousness.

It has also been embraced as part of a strategy by the far-right to publicly confront mainstream Republicans and insinuate their ideas into establishment conservatism. Led by Nick Fuentes, a 22-year-old YouTube personality, the so-called “groyper army” has regularly and publicly challenged mainstream conservatives for their views on the USS Liberty as part of a broader effort to paint them as subservient to Israel and unworthy heirs of President Donald Trump’s America first agenda.

“RT if you think that Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA are not for America First,” Fuentes says in a tweet pinned to the top of his Twitter feed.

At events around the country, groypers have heckled mainstream conservatives and asked provocative questions — often about Israel, immigration and LGBTQ rights — in an effort to unmask them as “fake” conservatives and “frauds.” Named for a more grotesque version of the cartoon Pepe the Frog, which has been coopted by white nationalists, the goal appears to be to move conservatism closer to white nationalism, according to Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“What they’re trying to do, there’s this whole grouping who refer to themselves as the dissident right, they want to move the Overton window,” said Mayo, using a a term that refers to the spectrum of acceptable political discourse. “They want to make racism and anti-Semitism mainstream.”

Turning Point is a particularly ripe target for that effort because of its emergence as the vanguard of Trump’s following among young adults. Last month, young people disrupted a Turning Point appearance by rising GOP star, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, at Arizona State University. Days later they made headlines when they drove Donald Trump Jr. off the stage at an event the group organized at UCLA.

“What a HUGE victory today,” Fuentes posted on Telegram, a secure messaging app favored by white nationalists, according to The Daily Beast. “Cannot be understated what an incredible win we saw at UCLA.”

Groypers carefully couch their views in code and irony. Provocative questions about race are often wrapped in anodyne terms like “identity” and “demographics.” And at a recent Turning Point USA event in Ohio, a questioner asked Kirk if there were “any awesome, fun dance parties” at a recent speaking engagement in Israel, an apparent reference to the myth that Israelis were caught on video dancing after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In an interview last year, Fuentes said he avoids the term “white nationalist” for purely tactical reasons.

“The reason I wouldn’t call myself a white nationalist — it’s not because I don’t see the necessity for white people to have a homeland and for white people to have a country,” Fuentes said. “It’s because I think that kind of terminology is used almost exclusively by the left to defame and I think the terminology and the labels that we use — I don’t think that we can look at them outside of the context of their connotations in America.”

The strategy appears to be bearing some fruit. In April, Ann Coulter retweeted a Fuentes tweet on immigration. Michelle Malkin, a Fox News regular, criticized efforts to silence groypers, who she described as “truth-tellers.”

“They’ve been trying to figure out since Charlottesville what new tactics can we do to recruit more people and get the attention of the media,” said Mayo. “What we’re really seeing is that some of the views that these white supremacists present at these Q&As are views that some people who are considered mainstream have adopted.”

There has been some skilled pushback from mainstream conservatives. When a heckler in Arizona shouted that Crenshaw is “pro-sodomy,” the congressman capably parried.

“Bring it out guys,” Crenshaw said. “Let everybody know who you are.”

Ben Shapiro, the Jewish conservative pundit, last month called out the groypers at an event of the Young American Foundation, another conservative youth movement that has denounced Fuentes. Shapiro noted that despite his best efforts, Fuentes was not always successful at maintaining an ironic distance from his bigotry.

“You also happen to have the unfortunate habit of saying really disgusting things when you think other people aren’t listening,” Shapiro said, recounting an incident in which Fuentes questioned the number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust by considering whether Cookie Monster could have baked six million cookies in five years. Shapiro then quoted a Nazi official describing how Jews were murdered.

“But maybe he was just being ironic, bro,” Shapiro said.

Howard Graves, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who tracks the extreme right, said he saw in the groypers a new iteration of the 2016 election, when Trump pushed the Republican party rightward on issues like immigration.

“It is recapturing that spirit of the 2016 election where there is this kind of no-holds-barred insurgent campaign against conservatism,” he said.

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How Britain’s huge upcoming election affects Jews

Fri, 2019-12-06 19:44

(JTA) — The British elections on Dec. 12 are shaping up to be a watershed moment for the United Kingdom as a whole because of their implications for Brexit and the region’s economy, health system and minorities.

But they are particularly crucial to Jews.

The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, is looking to unseat the Conservatives, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson’s push for a Brexit at all costs, with or without a trade deal with the European Union, has significantly hurt his approval ratings. But his party still holds a commanding lead over Corbyn’s — due in large part to an anti-Semitism controversy that has dogged Labour for the entirety of Corbyn’s four years in charge.

Many of the U.K.’s thousands of liberal Jews are now facing a historic conundrum: Vote for Johnson, which means a possibly ugly exit from the E.U., or Corbyn, a candidate called an anti-Semite by a former chief rabbi of Britain. The current chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis — making the first partisan intervention by someone in his position — said Corbyn was “complicit in prejudice.”

How did we get here, and what’s likely to happen after the vote? Here are the answers to five frequently asked questions that explain the controversy and the stakes.

1. Is Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite?

Corbyn, a longtime left-wing parliamentarian, stands accused of allowing anti-Semitism to fester among his party and his supporters — and also of saying things that suggest he might personally hold anti-Semitic views.

Jonathan Sacks, the previous chief rabbi of Britain, certainly thinks Corbyn is anti-Semitic, as he said in a bombshell interview last year with the New Statesman. So do more than the 58,000 signers of an online petition promoted by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, one of two major Jewish community watchdogs.

A survey in May found that 80 percent of British voters are aware of an anti-Semitism crisis surrounding Labour.

The body of evidence against Corbyn includes his defense in 2013 of a London mural depicting Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of dark-skinned men. Corbyn later said he didn’t notice what he acknowledged was anti-Semitic motifs.

Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in August 2019. The Labour leader has been accused of allowing anti-Semitism in his party. (Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Then there was his remark later that year that Britain-born “Zionists” don’t “understand English irony.” He denied allegations that he used Zionists as a euphemism for Jews.

In 2014, Corbyn laid a wreath on a monument in Tunisia for the Palestinian killers of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Corbyn had consistently supported boycotting Israel before being elected Labour leader — since 2015 he has limited his support to boycotting only settlement products.

Corbyn passionately rejects the allegations. In 2018, he wrote in a statement that “Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement.”

2. Whether or not Corbyn is anti-Semitic, is the Labour Party anti-Semitic under him?

It is objective fact that after Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, many of the party’s new left-wing supporters have said anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic things.

The Labour Against Antisemitism group has documented thousands of cases of alleged anti-Semitic hate speech by members since 2015, most of which have not been processed by the party’s Ethics Committee. Last year, Labour was placed under a probe of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government watchdog, over its handling of an explosion of anti-Semitic incidents.

In 2016, an interparliamentary committee, which included Labour representatives, accused the party of creating a “safe space for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”

Some members caught in the act of anti-Semitic hate speech have been kicked out of the party, but many others have been let back in.

Some are even running on the party’s ticket for Parliament next week, including Afzal Khan in Manchester, who in 2015 posted a video on Facebook about the “Israel-British-Swiss-Rothschilds crime syndicate.”

Several Jewish lawmakers have faced online anti-Semitic bullying from Labour supporters, and many have left the party. Among the more prominent ones is Luciana Berger, once a rising star in the party who is now running with the more centrist Liberal Democrats party.

Parliament member Luciana Berger announces her resignation from the Labour Party at a news conference in London, Feb. 18, 2019. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Labour members and supporters have also abandoned the party, which used to be British Jewry’s political home.

After brushing aside the issue in past interviews, Corbyn apologized on ITV “for everything that’s happened” involving Labour Party members.

3. What else is at stake for British Jews in the election?

Corbyn wants private schools, including religious ones, to be “absorbed” into the public education system – a term that is widely perceived as a euphemism for ending them. A Labour victory could mean new taxes that the party currently supports, including one that will cost small businesses an extra $6,600 annually and another that will reduce top paying pensions by $15,000.

Thus the election is likely to affect both impoverished haredi Orthodox Jewish families and affluent secular ones, and everyone in between.

A victory for Boris Johnson would likely not mean business as usual, either. Many economists warn that leaving the EU without a trade deal could trigger a financial crisis. And Brexit is, according to some, responsible for a wave of xenophobic incidents.

4. Does Labour still have Jewish members?

It does, but it’s hard to tell how many. The Jewish Labour Movement, which was established in 1903, is one of the oldest socialist societies affiliated with the party, though it seems to be teetering on the edge of cutting ties as the scandals escalate. Its members are among Corbyn’s most vocal internal opponents.

Then there’s Jewish Voice for Labour, a group set up in 2017 by Jews who support Corbyn and rush to confront critics of the anti-Semitism issue.

Countering Mirvis’ intervention, Jewish Voice for Labour wrote in a statement that the rabbi “pitted us [Jews] against what millions see rightly as the greatest set of proposals for progressive, anti-austerity, social reform and egalitarianism most of us have ever seen – and yearn for.”

Still, the vast majority of British Jews seem to have parted ways with Labour, at least for the time being.

In a poll conducted last year, before the eruption of several major new scandals, among 710 British Jews, more than 85 percent said they consider Corbyn to be an anti-Semite and Labour “to have high levels of anti-Semitism.”

5. Can Corbyn conceivably win?


In a new YouGov survey from Wednesday, the Conservatives had 42 percent of the vote, with Labour trailing at 33 percent. The centrist Liberal Democrats are well behind at 12 percent.

That’s good news for the Conservatives because, thanks to the British electoral system, that means they’re on course for obtaining a majority in Parliament.

Boris Johnson calls on lawmakers to support a “No Deal” Brexit, in London, Sept. 2, 2019. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

However, almost none of the other parties are likely to form a coalition with Johnson due to his rigid Brexit policy. So even if the Conservatives emerge as the largest party, they might still lose the election without an overall coalition majority.

That’s figuring that the country does not have a last-minute panic over Brexit as well. Corbyn, who has remained fairly neutral on Britain leaving the EU, now represents, to some at least, the country’s only viable anti-Brexit stance. Others, however, believe his left-wing, anti-globalist politics (and base) mean he may well prefer to keep the Brexit train on its tracks.

Labour, on the other hand, may well stop the train, striking a coalition deal with the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats and other parties, installing Corbyn as prime minister.

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Democrats pass two-state resolution in Congress

Fri, 2019-12-06 19:13

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Democrats in Congress passed a resolution on Friday saying that only a two-state outcome would bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians.

The nonbinding resolution approved largely on party lines has been subject to considerable behind-the-scenes drama since its introduction in the spring by Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif. The only Democrats who voted against were the Squad, the grouping of four freshman congresswomen who to varying degrees have been critical of Israeli government policies.

Lowenthal cast the resolution as a means of redressing decisions by the administrations of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to retreat from the two-state outcome. Netanyahu’s suggestions this week that he is ready to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank helped spur the passage, insiders said.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House majority leader, came close in his efforts to get Republican support for the bill. But other Democrats balked at a GOP demand that the word “only” be removed from the phrase “only the outcome of a two-state solution that enhances stability and security for Israel, Palestinians, and their neighbors can both ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.”

Also this week, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a moderate Democrat, got leaders to attach an amendment to the resolution that made an “ironclad” commitment to maintaining defense assistance to Israel — an implicit rebuke to Democratic presidential candidates who have said they would consider leveraging aid to pressure Israel.

The five Republicans who voted for the amendment are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus of moderate Republicans and Democrats that is co-chaired by Gottheimer.

The bill passed 228-188, with two lawmakers voting “present.” Among the Squad, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said she opposed the bill because she favors a one-state outcome, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said she backed the resolution until this week, when Gottheimer got his “ironclad” language passed.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said in his floor speech opposing the resolution that it did not sufficiently address Palestinian responsibility for the collapse of peace talks and undercut peace efforts by the Trump administration.

J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, backed the resolution. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee had no position.

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9 inspiring Jews who died in 2019

Fri, 2019-12-06 18:52

(JTA) — The end of each year offers the opportunity to remember the Jewish figures who we lost over the past 12 months who left outsized impressions on our world.

This year, there were victims of violence and old age, survivors who made it through the Holocaust to tell their fateful stories, and others who revolutionized their fields.

Here are some whose stories inspired us the most.

Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom talks to an audience at the CUNY campus in New York City, March 9, 2003. (Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

Born to Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants in New York City, Harold Bloom didn’t learn to speak English until age 5. He would grow up to become one of the most influential American literary critics of all time, a fierce defender of the Western literary canon and perhaps the leading authority of his time on what belongs in it. But he never shook his affinity for Yiddish, telling an interviewer shortly before his death that he still dreamed in the language of his youth. Bloom died on Oct. 14 at 89.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye

Lori Gilbert-Kaye was killed in the April shooting at the Chabad of Poway. (Courtesy of Ariella Lee)

When a gunman burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27, Lori Gilbert-Kaye reportedly leapt in front of the rabbi to shield him from the bullets. Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was the only fatality in the attack on the San Diego-area congregation. Remembered as a pillar of the community and a regular hostess of Shabbat meals filled with guests, Gilbert-Kaye was survived by her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, and their daughter, Hannah.

Robert Frank

Robert Frank in 1996 (Patrick Downs/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Robert Frank was among the most influential photographers of the 20th century. His groundbreaking book “The Americans” was produced from 28,000 photos he took on road trips across the United States in the 1950s. According to The New York Times, the Nazi threat raging in neighboring Germany during his youth formed his understanding of oppression. Frank died on Sept. 9 at 94.

Peggy Lipton

Peggy Lipton at the New York Hilton Hotel in New York City, April 19, 1986. (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Actress Peggy Lipton was descended from Russian-Jewish immigrants and raised in a heavily Jewish enclave on Long Island, New York, but she became the quintessential American flower child as the star of the crime drama “The Mod Squad.” In 1974, she married the legendary music producer Quincy Jones, with whom she had two daughters — including Rashida Jones, the actress and writer. She died of cancer in May at 72.

Moshe Arens

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Arens in his home in Savyon, July 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Over the course of his three decades in Israeli public life, Moshe Arens served as a lawmaker, ambassador and defense minister under three prime ministers. Born in Lithuania, Arens immigrated to the United States in 1939 and served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. Prior to entering politics, he was a professor of aeronautics and an executive in the Israeli aerospace industry. Arens died on Jan. 7 at 93.

Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk in 1975 (Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

When Time put Herman Wouk on its cover in 1955, it found the Orthodox novelist’s blend of literary achievement and religious practice to be paradoxical. But over the course of his nearly seven-decade career, Wouk would help usher Judaism into the American mainstream through more than two dozen novels and works of nonfiction, several of which were adapted for the screen. He died on May 17 at 103.

Barbra Siperstein

Barbra Siperstein in 2010 (Screenshot from YouTube)

On Feb. 1, the Babs Siperstein law went into effect in New Jersey, allowing residents to change their gender identity without proof they had undergone gender reassignment surgery. Two days later, the law’s namesake died at 76. Barbra Siperstein was a fierce advocate for gender equality and transgender rights. In 2009, after completing sex reassignment surgery, she officially changed her Hebrew name from Eliezer Banish to Baila Chaya at a ceremony at her Conservative synagogue in Freehold.

Yechiel Eckstein

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein arrives in Israel with the first group of immigrants brought by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Dec. 22, 2014. (International Fellowship of Christians and Jews)

History will remember Yechiel Eckstein as the man who raised hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly from Christians, to benefit needy Jews in Israel and beyond. But to thousands of Jews in conflict zones who he helped bring to Israel, Eckstein was something of a guardian angel. Eckstein founded the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in 1983, and through a combination of pluck, charisma and tireless legwork made unprecedented progress in raising money for Jewish causes from evangelicals. In February, he died of heart failure in Jerusalem at 67.

Eva Mozes Kor

Eva Mozes Kor at Temple Emanuel in Denver, April 16, 2015. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

Eva Mozes Kor was born in Romania and, along with her twin sister, sent to Auschwitz in 1944. At the concentration camp, they underwent medical experiments at the hands of the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. But Kor was not the type to hold grudges, even against Nazis. She publicly forgave Mengele and made headlines in Germany for embracing Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening at his trial in 2015. Kor died in July in Poland while on a trip organized by the Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which she founded in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1995.

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New York state accuses town of ‘systematic effort’ to bar Hasidic residents

Fri, 2019-12-06 18:36

(JTA) — The attorney general in New York state has accused an upstate town of discrimination for its attempt to block a real estate development that is partly owned by Hasidic Jews.

In papers filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Letitia James accused officials of Chester and Orange County of “a concerted, systematic effort” to block Hasidic families from moving to the town.

“Blocking the construction of homes to prevent a religious group from living in a community is flat out discriminatory,” James said. “This campaign to deny housing to members of the Jewish community is not only a clear violation of our laws, but is antithetical to our basic values and blatantly anti-Semitic. New York has a longstanding commitment to ensure equal housing opportunities for all residents – regardless of race, gender, or religious identity – and we will ensure this commitment is upheld.”

With the filing, James is inserting the state into a lawsuit that began in July when developers accused the town of blocking the project because they didn’t want Jews moving there.

According to the suit, a 117-acre parcel in Chester was approved for residential  development under a previous owner. But in 2017, when the property was sold to The Greens at Chester, which is partially owned by Hasidim, the town began imposing restrictions aimed at limiting or even scuttling the project — moves the lawsuit claims violate the federal Fair Housing Act.

“We remain deeply concerned by the blatant anti-Semitism arising out of Orange County,” Evan Bernstein, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

Local officials deny their actions are driven by anti-Semitic animus.

“We are not full of bigots, we are not anti-Semites,” Alexander Jamieson, a former town supervisor who is named in the lawsuit, told The New York Times. “This is just about the size of the houses. The other stuff is just smoke and mirrors. It’s just a distraction.”

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The Tell: Three of the impeachment witness lawyers were Jewish, and it matters

Fri, 2019-12-06 16:56

WASHINGTON (JTA) – On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee launched impeachment hearings just hours after the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., concluded its own impeachment inquiry.

The 300-page Intelligence Committee report concludes that President Donald Trump “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States” in asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, calling it “the act of a president who viewed himself as unaccountable and determined to use his vast official powers to secure his reelection.”

It is now the Judiciary Committee’s task to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment. And while the officials who appeared before Schiff’s committee were fact witnesses who described the events surrounding the Ukraine scandal, Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., brought three witnesses — all constitutional scholars — that he hoped would outline a theory of impeachment.

All three witnesses are Jewish: Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina. So are Schiff and Nadler, and so was the Democrats’ counsel who directed the first 45 minutes of questioning, Norm Eisen.

Why does this matter?

Well, predictably, it mattered to anti-Semites.

Ann Coulter, the right-wing agitator, tweeted, “Too little ethnic diversity among the professors for me to take them seriously.” Considering her past flirtations with anti-Semitism, one could conclude that she wasn’t faulting the professors just for being white.

TruNews, the YouTube channel run by an anti-Semitic Florida pastor who has coined the term “Jew coup” to describe the impeachment process, took to Twitter to accuse  “Jewish socialist Jerry Nadler” and his “three Jewish witnesses” of “escalating the Jew coup.” TruNews also helpfully informed us that Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University scholar and witnesses called by the Republicans who testified that the evidence for impeachment simply does not add up, is a Roman Catholic.

Twitter removed the tweet. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt screenshotted it for posterity, calling on social media platforms to take action against blatantly anti-Semitic posts.

Why not ignore the blatant anti-Semitism?

Because the fringes no longer have pariah status: TruNews has been accredited for White House news conferences. Trump has taken questions from them (about his plans for Israeli-Palestinian peace, of all things) and his son, Donald Jr., gave TruNews an impromptu interview earlier this year at a Michigan rally. (Trump Jr.’s spokeswoman told The Washington Post that he was not aware at the time of TruNews’ outlook.)

Those views have crept into the mainstream discourse.

While the hearings were underway, Breitbart News, the Trump-boosting news site, posted a story, “Norm Eisen, Democrat Impeachment Counsel, Linked to George Soros.” Breitbart reported that Soros’ Open Society Foundation had helped fund an ethics watchdog Eisen founded, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to the tune of $1.35 million in 2017. (This is not a secret: It’s on the Open Society website.)

But the Breitbart story failed to explain the relevance. Eisen is not pretending to be nonpartisan or unaffiliated from a liberal outlook; there is no suggestion that Soros’ money is reaching the committee itself.

Soros, the liberal Jewish billionaire philanthropist, is incessantly attached to conspiracies. Fiona Hill, a former senior National Security Council staffer, noted last month how the baseless Soros conspiracy theories beset the Ukraine scandal and called them anti-Semitic.

Republicans on the panel attempted to depict the three scholars on the Democratic side as effete elitists, another classic trope.

“Democrats still don’t get it,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “They are pushing ahead with impeachment based on opinions from liberal law professors from coastal universities.”

McCarthy, from California, attended a “coastal university” (Cal State, Bakersfield), and Turley, the GOP’s scholar, teaches at one, George Washington — but never mind.

This creates Jewish fear

I got texts from leading Jewish Democrats during Wednesday’s hearings wondering, with not inconsiderable trepidation, whether the scholars were indeed Jewish.

The trepidation is a shame because considerations of how being Jewish shapes one’s outlook should be free of anxieties about what anti-Semites will make of it. And there are meaningful Jewish stories behind the decisions of these witnesses to become constitutional scholars:

“I grew up in Alabama, and I grew up Jewish in Alabama in the 1960s,” Gerhardt told C-Span last year, “and that was a time of great turbulence, and the time the civil rights movement was sort of unfolding, and it was all unfolding in front of me, and I paid attention to it, and that  — those events that arose in the ’60s and early ’70s really shaped my interest in civil rights, but also my interest in law.”

Karlan, delivering closing remarks in 2006 at the annual meeting of the liberal American Constitution Society, called herself one of the “snarky, bisexual, Jewish women who want the freedom to say what we think, read what we want and love who we do,” calling on listeners to “seize back the high ground on patriotism and on love of our country” from the rich, pampered, prodigal, sanctimonious, incurious, white, straight sons of the powerful.”

Feldman, who in 2015 launched Harvard’s Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law, also helped draft the Iraqi constitution; he is gripped by how and whether religious and civil law can coexist.

“Jewish law and Israeli law are distinct and different,” Feldman was quoted as saying by Tablet at the time of the launch of the Harvard program, “yet they also interact and make claims on each other.”

In Other News

Georgia on my mind: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a conservative narrowly elected a year ago with a boost from Trump, this week named businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to fill the Senate seat vacated by Johnny Isakson, who is ill. The twist is that Trump wanted Kemp to name Doug Collins, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee who led the charge Wednesday against the impeachment — and now Trump and Kemp are on the outs. Trump is losing his luster in the South (gubernatorial candidates he backed were defeated in Kentucky and Louisiana and won narrowly in Mississippi) and women in Atlanta’s suburbs, emboldened since Trump’s election, are the hinge on whether Georgia turns blue next year. Kemp does not want to further alienate them.

A lot of those women are Jewish. I spoke to two who head up a “salon” of 1,500 Jewish women aimed at flipping the state for Democrats, and also to Atlanta-area Jews who are grappling with how to rebuild a moribund alliance with African-Americans as a means to topple Republicans. Two Jewish candidates feature in two separate Senate races next year, and I met with both.

Two states and ‘only’ two states: Earlier this year, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif,  introduced a resolution backed by J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, that would recommit Congress to a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The idea was to keep the outcome alive while both the Trump and Netanyahu governments had retreated from it. The resolution likely comes to a vote before this week ends, and it has had a rocky road.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the majority leader, endeavored to sign on Republicans to the resolution. They agreed, if the word “only” was removed from the phrase “only the outcome of a two-state solution that enhances stability and security for Israel, Palestinians, and their neighbors can both ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.” J Street forcefully objected and the Republicans balked. The resolution will pass with “only,” but a look at the sponsor list features only Democrats — it won’t accrue many, if any, Republicans.

Bipartisanship is becoming harder: AIPAC has been asking its members for weeks to get senators to sponsor legislation that would extend sanctions to entities dealing with already sanctioned Palestinian groups. So far, it has 20 sponsors for the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2019, but until this week there was just one Democrat, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who initiated the bill with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. I’ve heard another two Democrats have just signed on.

Clemmons making Clemmonade: Alan Clemmons is the Republican South Carolina state legislator you may never have heard of who is shaking up U.S. Israel policy. His 2015 bill penalizing Israel boycotters has become a template for other state bills doing the same thing. He led the push in 2016 for the GOP to remove the two-state outcome commitment from its platform. Clemmons now chairs ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that circulates templates for state legislation — the model Clemmons pursued after passing his 2015 bill targeting the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. That puts him in a position of enormous influence in the conservative world. ALEC had its annual get-together this week in Scottsdale, Arizona. “ALEC is a wellspring of learning of, by and for legislators,” he said in a release.

Worth a Look

Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice Jay Sekulow hosts the GMA Honors Celebration and Hall of Fame Induction at the Allen Arena at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee on April 29, 2014. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images for GMA)

Elizabeth Williamson at The New York Times profiles Jay Sekulow, the un-Giuliani: the Trump lawyer not currently mired in scandal and his own legal difficulties. He is also the general counsel for Jews for Jesus. Politico reported this week that Sekulow’s son, Jordan, also a lawyer on Trump’s team, gleefully anticipated damaging the scholars that House Democrats invited to impeachment. “I can’t wait to find out what crazy stuff the law professors have written,” Jordan said on his dad’s radio show. “I bet anti-Israel, borderline anti-Semitic. Maybe anti-American?” That was before we learned all three were Jewish.

Tweet So Sweet

Seforim Chatter, an account dedicated to Jewish exegetical texts, uncovers a book on how to properly consume Hanukkah doughnuts.

Emek HaSufganim:
Iyunim & Biurim B'Inyan Minhag Achilas Sufganim (Donuts) B'Yimei Chanukah

— SeforimChatter (@SeforimChatter) December 4, 2019

Stay In Touch

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The Tell is a weekly roundup of the latest Jewish political news from Ron Kampeas, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington bureau chief. Sign up here to receive The Tell in your inbox on Thursday evenings. 

The post The Tell: Three of the impeachment witness lawyers were Jewish, and it matters appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

British daily drops claim that West Bank settlements are ‘the trouble with Jews today’

Fri, 2019-12-06 15:47

(JTA) — The Independent daily in the United Kingdom revised an op-ed that called West Bank settlements “the trouble with Jews today.”

The change was made Thursday to an op-ed by the influential philosopher Slavoj Zizek published two days earlier titled “There is no conflict between the struggle against anti-Semitism and the struggle against Israeli occupation.”

It contained an apparent defense of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, from allegations of anti-Semitism.

The original language said that “the trouble with Jews today is that they are now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people.”

Following an outcry and allegations that the language used was anti-Semitic, The Independent replaced the phrase “the trouble with Jews today” with “the trouble with the settlement project today.”

The online article does not indicate that it had been revised.

In the op-ed, Zizek, whom the German Der Spiegel newspaper in 2015 described as “one of Europe’s boldest intellectuals and also a self-avowed leftist,” also condemned British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ warning last month about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party ahead of the Dec. 12 election as “ethically disgusting.”

Zizek also wrote: “I, of course, indisputably reject anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

The Independent was established in 1986 and has its digital editions are accessed more than 20 million time a month, according to the Newsworks website.

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American rabbi suspected of running baby trafficking network

Fri, 2019-12-06 15:13

(JTA) — Israeli police have arrested five people, including an American rabbi who heads a yeshiva, for allegedly running an international baby trafficking ring that targeted mentally disabled mothers.

The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday identified the rabbi as Shmuel Puretz, 44, a businessman who divides his time between New York and Jerusalem, according to The Times of Israel. He and at least four other suspects were arrested in February, but details of the three-year investigation against them had been subject to a gag order until the court lifted parts of it on Thursday.

All the suspects have been released pending an indictment and trial.

Puretz, who denies the allegations, is accused of sending Israeli expectant mothers in need or suffering from a mental disability from within haredi Orthodox communities to the United States so they would give birth there. The babies would be given to childless foster parents who allegedly paid Puretz and others for the babies.

Many details about the affair, including how much money the handlers allegedly charged, are still subject to a gag order.

Yediot Aharanot reported in a 2017 expose about the affair that they charged a $100,000 to $150,000 “handling fee” per child.

One alleged accomplice is Rivkah Segal, a rabbi’s wife from Migdal Haemek, a city in northern Israel. She is suspected of abusing her legal guardianship over an expectant mother with mental health problems. The mother said that Segal had her flown to New York highly pregnant, deliver a boy in a Caesarian procedure and had him taken from her.

Segal denied the charges. But an Israeli court last week ruled she should pay that mother $144,000 in damages.

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Angela Merkel announces $60m donation to Auschwitz museum

Fri, 2019-12-06 13:23

BERLIN (JTA) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited for the first time the former Nazi German concentration camp Auschwitz, pledging an extra $66 million in funding to that memorial museum.

Merkel entered the camp through the infamous gate under the sign that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” — work will free you. An entourage of survivors and dignitaries kept their distance as she and her guides made her way slowly along the path that led to death for so many.

Her visit on this cold, sunny Friday included a moment of silence at the so-called “Black Wall,” where some 20,000 people were shot to death. Together with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, Merkel walked through the former death camp where over a million people were murdered.

The last sitting German chancellor to visit the site was the late Helmut Kohl in 1995.

Lauder walked with Merkel through the 16-year-old conservation laboratories at the memorial, which preserve the museum’s artifacts and structures. Lauder has raised tens of millions of dollars internationally to fund these conservation efforts.

The camp was liberated by Red Army soldiers on January 27, 1945. This year, ceremonies will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation.

Merkel, who has been chancellor for 14 years, told reporter that she was pleased to deliver the “good news” of the funding personally.

The funds will help the 10-year-old Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation towards its goal of raising 120 million euro, or $133 million.

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Jay Kreigel, advisor to successive New York mayors, dies at 79

Fri, 2019-12-06 12:02

(JTA) — Jay Kriegel, a real estate executive and adviser to several New York mayors, has died at the age of 79.

Kriegel, who was born in Brooklyn to the children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe died Thursday in his weekend home in South Kent, Connecticut from complications connected top his melanoma, his wife, Kathryn McAuliffe, told the New York Times.

He had helped build the massive Hudson Yards project as a senior adviser to Related Companies, the New York Post wrote in an obituary.

Kreigel was a former chief of staff to Mayor John Lindsay from 1966 to 1973. He had set up the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The Times described him as “a workaholic known to juggle multiple callers on hold simultaneously.”

As a 25-year-old prodigy, Kreigel helped shape the Lindsay administration’s progressive challenge to New York City’s entrenched power brokers, before emerging as one himself, according to The Times.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is also Jewish, said in a statement about Kriegel: “Jay was a kid from Brooklyn who became a New York City institution. He was a legend in New York City politics, and from my first day in office to my last, he was always willing to lend a hand or offer smart advice. He loved this city, dedicated his life to making it better, and his impact can be seen and felt across all five boroughs today. I’ll miss him dearly.”

Kriegel is survived by his two biological children and three stepchildren.

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Canadian court dismisses deportation appeal by ex-Nazi death squad soldier

Fri, 2019-12-06 11:46

MONTREAL (JTA) — A Canadian court declined to hear the appeal of a former Nazi who gained citizenship deceitfully and is facing deportation.

The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday refused to hear the appeal of Helmut Oberlander, 95, of Waterloo, Ontario, leaving Oberlander with no further recourse.

Oberlander saw his Canadian citizenship revoked and won back four times since 1994, when the Canadian government first sought to strip him of his citizenship after he was found to have lied to enter Canada in 1954.

Canada’s Federal Court last year ruled that it was “reasonable” he be stripped of his citizenship.

Oberlander was an interpreter for the Einsatzkommandos, mobile killing squads that targeted Jews in the former Soviet Union during World War II, although he was never charged himself with killing Jews.

“This is a very positive decision from the court,” said David Matas, legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights. “The federal government must now take the next step towards removing Oberlander from Canada immediately.”

An ethnic German born in Ukraine, Oberlander claims to have been a low-level interpreter for the Einsatzkommandos who was conscripted under duress, that he never took part in killings and he would have been shot had he tried to escape.

He served with the squad as an interpreter from 1941 to 1943. He later was an infantryman in the German army.

Oberlander immigrated to Canada in 1954 and became a citizen in 1960 without disclosing his wartime record. His case rose to prominence in 1995.

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Belgian school teacher shares imam’s sermon about jihad on Jews

Fri, 2019-12-06 11:34

(JTA) — A teacher on Islam at a Belgian high school posted on Facebook a video of an imam calling for a jihad, or holy war, against Jews and those who “conspire” with them.

Talal Magri, who teaches about Islam as part of the religions major at the Royal Agri Saint-Georges Athenaeum 35 miles southeast of Brussels, last month posted the video of an unidentified man preaching in Arabic, the La Dernière Heure website on Thursday reported.

“Those who cooperate, work, conspire with the Jews, Allah, take them without delay. Shake their bases and topple their buildings, Allah. Support the jihad fighters, whom some of us find excuses not to join,” the preacher is seen saying.

Education ministry officials in Wallonia, the Belgian state that employs Magri, told La Dernière Heure they complained about him to police over hate speech. The school declined to comment on whether he will be allowed to continue to teach there.

Conacted by La Dernière Heure, Magri denied that the sermon mentioned Jews or jihad, adding it couldn’t be anti-Semitic “because I am an Arab and Arabs are Semites, too.”

But Khalil Zeguendi, editor of the Le Maroxellois magazine whose mother tongue is Arabic, confirmed to La Dernière Heure the translation as they printed it.

Magri headed the 2018 elections campaign of Belgium’s Islam Party, which supports the promotion of Sharia, Islamic law, and headed its regional list for Liege.

Joel Rubinfeld, the president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, called Magri one of multiple “preachers spreading poison and turning students into time bombs.”

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Israel pushed Trump to send 14,000 troops to the Middle East, report claims

Thu, 2019-12-05 21:03

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel played a role in President Donald Trump’s reported plans to send an additional 14,000 troops to the Middle East, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Multiple reports citing unnamed officials say Trump is planning to deploy the troops to counter increased Iranian adventurism in the region. On the record, the Trump administration has denied the reports.

On Wednesday, the Journal reported that the increase came in part at the behest of the Israeli government. Aides to the president reportedly also pushed for the increase.

Top Israeli officials were unnerved in September when Trump pulled most American troops out of Syria, effectively abandoning its Kurdish allies to the predations of Turkey and Syria.

Trump has said he wants to pull more troops out of the region.

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Tufts to remove Sackler name from buildings and programs

Thu, 2019-12-05 19:47

(JTA) — Tufts University will remove the Sackler name from several buildings and programs on its medical campus.

The decision announced on Thursday came after an independent report slammed the school for taking gifts from the family. Tufts commissioned the study earlier this year after a lawsuit was filed against the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma, the private held pharmaceutical company owned by the family.

The Sacklers have come under fire for their central role in the opioid crisis that has led to hundreds of thousands of American deaths. Purdue is the manufacturer of OxyContin, one of the leading opioids on the market.

Several major cultural institutions — including the Tate museum in England, Britain’s National Portrait Gallery and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York — have said they will no longer accept Sackler money.

The Sackler family gave Tufts $15 million over more than 30 years and its name is attached to its School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education, as well as on laboratories and research funds.

This is the first time Tufts has removed a donor name from a building, according to the Boston Globe.

“Our students find it objectionable to walk into a building that says Sackler on it when they come in here to get their medical education,” Dr. Harris Berman, dean of the medical school, told the Times.

The university will not be returning any of the donated money.

Sackler family attorney Daniel Connolly said he will work to reverse the decision, the New York Times reported, calling it “particularly disturbing and intellectually dishonest.”

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Report: Iran stashing missiles in Iraq that can reach Israel

Thu, 2019-12-05 18:52

(JTA) — Iran is stockpiling short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq that can reach Israel, according to a New York Times report that cited American intelligence and military officials.

The hidden rockets are part of a larger effort by Iran to intimidate countries in the region and assert its power, the Times reported. Short-range missiles generally have a range of just over 600 miles, so one fired from just outside of Baghdad could reach Jerusalem.

Iran’s effort to build up its arsenal comes as the United States has sent thousands of troops to the region with plans to send more. The arms in Iraq are reportedly intended to dissuade the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia from attacking Iran.

American intelligence officials first warned about Iranian missiles in Iraq last year, according to the report. In August, Israel launched an airstrike aimed at destroying a weapons storage facility in Iraq that was reportedly used as part of an Iranian plan to move weapons into Syria. Israel neither confirmed nor denied the airstrike at the time.

American officials say the new ballistic missiles have been secretly moved in, according to the report.

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Israel’s foreign minister says he hopes Corbyn loses

Thu, 2019-12-05 18:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s foreign minister said he hopes British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn loses his country’s national elections.

Israel Katz made the statement on Thursday, a week after he told reporters that the Israeli government had not discussed what steps it would take if Corbyn was elected.

“I won’t meddle in internal elections, but I personally hope that he won’t be elected, with this whole wave of anti-Semitism,” Katz told Army Radio in an interview.

“I hope the other side wins,” he said.

Polls show Labour coming in behind the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in elections scheduled for Dec. 12.

On Tuesday, Corbyn said in an interview that he was “very sorry for everything that’s happened” with anti-Semitic incidents involving party members. The apology came days after an interview with the BBC in which Corbyn repeatedly declined to apologize or express regret, instead repeating the party line opposing racism.

Corbyn has been dogged by criticism over anti-Semitism in Labour since his election as party leader in 2015. Some party members have been kicked out for anti-Semitic rhetoric, but others have been readmitted and thousands of complaints have gone unprocessed. Corbyn himself has called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends.”


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Jared Kushner is now negotiating a trade agreement with China

Thu, 2019-12-05 17:44

(JTA) — Jared Kushner has added a new job to his White House portfolio, this time as U.S.-China trade negotiator.

Kushner, who is married to President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, has increased his direct involvement in the negotiations with China over the past two weeks, Reuters reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the talks.

A White House official confirmed Kushner’s involvement, Reuters reported.

Washington and Beijing are trying to reach an initial agreement to avoid new U.S. tariffs set to start on Dec. 15.

Kushner played a pivotal role toward the end of U.S. negotiations with Canada and Mexico in 2018 to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to the report.

Late last month, the Washington Post reported that Kushner was tapped to oversee construction of the Mexico border wall.

Kushner’s other wide-ranging responsibilities include negotiating a Middle East peace deal, overseeing criminal justice reform and modernizing the government. He also has a leadership role in the 2020 campaign.

The Middle East peace deal has reportedly been completed but not yet presented publicly.

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New woman’s leadership award named for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Thu, 2019-12-05 17:00

(JTA) — A woman’s leadership award has been established in the name of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will personally present the first one.

The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation announced the new Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award on Tuesday in honor of Ginsburg’s “exemplary career and life,” the foundation said in a statement.

The award will “recognize an extraordinary woman who has exercised a positive and notable influence on society and served as exemplary role model in both principles and practice.”

Ginsburg will present the award to its first recipient at a ceremony in February at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

“Justice Ginsburg is a hero of our time. Her influence is felt far beyond the corridors of power, and she is an inspiration to women and girls around the world,” foundation chair Julie Opperman said in a statement.

Before his death in 2013, Dwight Opperman donated more than $150 million to various legal causes.

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France will create hate crimes office after Jewish cemetery is desecrated

Thu, 2019-12-05 16:20

(JTA) — The French government said it will establish a hate crimes office in the wake of the vandalization of more than 100 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery.

The vandalism, which included anti-Semitic imagery and text, was discovered Tuesday at the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen near Strasbourg in eastern France, the AFP news agency reported.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced a plan to open the new national office to fight hate crimes the following day.

Castaner condemned the graffiti as a sign that “hate is on our national territory,” adding: “We must respect the right to believe.”

The office, which would be part of the gendarmerie, France’s military police, will be charged with investigating all anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian acts, Castaner said.

“Jews are and make France,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted after the attack. “Those who attack them, even their graves, are not worthy of the idea we have of France.”

“Anti-Semitism is a crime and we will fight it in Westhoffen as everywhere until our dead can sleep in peace,” Macron wrote.

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