Commentary Magazine


Topic: Zionist Organization of America

Conference Vote Demonstrates J Street’s Irrelevance

Today, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will vote on the J Street lobby’s application for membership. The question has split the Conference with more conservative pro-Israel groups expressing opposition and left-wingers and centrists seeming to favor it. If, as some expect, J Street wins the vote, it will probably be interpreted as a victory for “diversity” of thought about Israeli politics. More to the point, the group and its allies will spin the ballot as proof that its brand of left-wing politics and support for U.S. pressure on the State of Israel to “save it from itself” has gained legitimacy in the American Jewish organizational world.

But both celebrating J Streeters and opponents who will mourn its growing acceptance should calm down. The fact is, joining the Conference as just one more not particularly influential member among a long roster of generally well meaning but politically insignificant groups is actually a huge step down for J Street from where it started a few years ago. The best thing that could happen to J Street would actually be to lose this vote.

Here’s why:

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Today, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will vote on the J Street lobby’s application for membership. The question has split the Conference with more conservative pro-Israel groups expressing opposition and left-wingers and centrists seeming to favor it. If, as some expect, J Street wins the vote, it will probably be interpreted as a victory for “diversity” of thought about Israeli politics. More to the point, the group and its allies will spin the ballot as proof that its brand of left-wing politics and support for U.S. pressure on the State of Israel to “save it from itself” has gained legitimacy in the American Jewish organizational world.

But both celebrating J Streeters and opponents who will mourn its growing acceptance should calm down. The fact is, joining the Conference as just one more not particularly influential member among a long roster of generally well meaning but politically insignificant groups is actually a huge step down for J Street from where it started a few years ago. The best thing that could happen to J Street would actually be to lose this vote.

Here’s why:

J Street burst upon the public scene at the end of 2008 hoping to capitalize on the victory of Barack Obama. At that point J Street’s ambitions soared as high as the new president’s popularity. Its goal was nothing less than to challenge and then replace AIPAC as the voice of American Jewry on Israel. More sober observers always thought this was a pipe dream and today it seems not so much over-ambitious as it does ridiculous. But at the time the J Street crowd was drunk on the Obama victory and convinced that the traditional overwhelming support in the community for the Democratic candidate meant that most American Jews shared Obama’s desire for pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to achieve peace. Since they wrongly believed AIPAC to be a right-wing dominated clique rather than a bipartisan consensus-driven umbrella coalition, J Street thought its appearance on the scene would shove the older group aside and establish the newcomers as the go-to organization for American Jews on Israel. It was, they thought, the perfect opportunity at the perfect time for a group whose raison d’être was to take Obama’s side against the Israelis.

To say that these hopes were quickly dashed is the understatement of the 21st century. AIPAC shrugged off the J Street challenge without missing a step. The left-wing group quickly proved that it was out of step with even most liberal supporters of Israel by opposing its counter-attack against the Hamas terrorist base in Gaza and went downhill from there. Not only did J Street soon find that it had little influence in Congress in comparison to AIPAC’s across-the-board support but it also rapidly began to comprehend that even its friends in the Obama administration were not interested in boosting it at the expense of its mainstream rival. Even worse, every time Obama picked a fight with Israel’s government to the cheers of his J Street fans, he eventually always disappointed him by backing down. By the time of his 2012 election-year Jewish charm offensive, the president was not only seeking to please the very people J Street despised, he was appearing at AIPAC and taking a tough stand on Iran that left-wingers opposed.

Though J Street has survived these disappointments and has enjoyed some moments of triumph during Obama’s second term as the president once again found himself at odds with Israel on both Iran and the peace process, it remains a noisy but marginal group. While it can count on support from the New York Times, it is still out of step with mainstream Jewish opinion (as its support for engagement with the Hamas terrorists proved again last week) and its positions are completely at odds with the views of a majority of Israelis.

The arguments against J Street’s acceptance are not without merit. The group’s positions are, at best, unhelpful to Israel and by seeking to undermine efforts to isolate anti-Zionist organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace it has hurt rather than helped the fight against the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement that seeks to wage economic war on the Jewish state. But so long as J Street adheres to a position of support for Israel’s existence and opposition to BDS, the rationale for keeping them out of such a non-exclusive and diverse group like the Conference is a tough sell.

Were J Street to be denied entry to the Conference it would, however, be a huge public-relations coup and allow it to milk the situation for sympathy and depict its critics as seeking to silence a voice for peace. But its potential entry into the Conference would be confirmation that rather than a significant force on the Jewish scene, J Street is just one more insignificant Jewish group among a welter of such organizations whose infrastructure consist of little more than a staff and a mailing list.

To say this is not to criticize the Conference which, under the leadership of Malcolm Hoenlein, has done great service to the community by helping to mobilize support for consensus positions on the issues. But joining it will be proof that rather than challenging AIPAC, all J Street has accomplished is to attain the dubious distinction of being the leading left-wing sparring partner for the Zionist Organization of America and its leader Mort Klein.

The point here is that rather than signifying its acceptance, today’s vote is merely a sign that J Street failed in its mission to overturn the Jewish consensus on Israel. A seat in what is, for all intents and purposes, a debating society–most of whose members are little known even among American Jews–strikes me as a poor consolation prize for such a defeat.

UPDATE:

J Street’s application to join the Conference was rejected. My take on the vote can be read here.

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Anti-Semitism Can Be a Civil Rights Violation After All

In the September 2010 issue of COMMENTARY, Kenneth Marcus documented the rise of anti-Semitic incidents on school campuses and found that the federal government had adopted a hands-off policy:

[I]t has finally become clear that the current policy of the office charged with enforcing civil rights at American universities involves treating anti-Jewish bias as being unworthy of attention—a state of affairs in stark contrast to the agency’s quite justified alacrity in responding to virtually every other possible case of discrimination. While one cannot identify the motive for this astonishing double standard with complete certainty, the justification for it involves an unwillingness to treat Jews as a distinct group beyond considerations of  religious adherence.

That situation, thanks to Ken and other advocates, including the Zionist Organization of America, has now been remedied. In an October 26 letter, Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, set forth detailed guidelines on school harassment. In this section, the government reverses itself on its previous indifference to anti-Semitic incidents. Ali provides a hypothetical situation in which  a “junior high school received reports of several incidents of anti-Semitic conduct at the school. Anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, was scrawled on the stalls of the school bathroom.” The conduct included “two ninth-graders trying to force two seventh-graders to give them money. The ninth-graders told the seventh-graders, ‘You Jews have all of the money, give us some.’ … At the same school, a group of eighth-grade students repeatedly called a Jewish student ‘Drew the dirty Jew.'”

The Education Department analyzed the case this way:

The school administrators failed to recognize that anti-Semitic harassment can trigger responsibilities under Title VI. …

Because the school failed to recognize that the incidents created a hostile environment, it addressed each only in isolation, and therefore failed to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment and prevent its recurrence. In addition to disciplining the perpetrators, remedial steps could have included counseling the perpetrators about the hurtful effect of their conduct, publicly labeling the incidents as anti-Semitic, reaffirming the school’s policy against discrimination, and publicizing the means by which students may report harassment. …

The problem of anti-Semitism on campuses is growing. Perhaps this development will spur school administrators to re-examine their curious double standard when it comes to anti-Jewish incidents.

In the September 2010 issue of COMMENTARY, Kenneth Marcus documented the rise of anti-Semitic incidents on school campuses and found that the federal government had adopted a hands-off policy:

[I]t has finally become clear that the current policy of the office charged with enforcing civil rights at American universities involves treating anti-Jewish bias as being unworthy of attention—a state of affairs in stark contrast to the agency’s quite justified alacrity in responding to virtually every other possible case of discrimination. While one cannot identify the motive for this astonishing double standard with complete certainty, the justification for it involves an unwillingness to treat Jews as a distinct group beyond considerations of  religious adherence.

That situation, thanks to Ken and other advocates, including the Zionist Organization of America, has now been remedied. In an October 26 letter, Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, set forth detailed guidelines on school harassment. In this section, the government reverses itself on its previous indifference to anti-Semitic incidents. Ali provides a hypothetical situation in which  a “junior high school received reports of several incidents of anti-Semitic conduct at the school. Anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, was scrawled on the stalls of the school bathroom.” The conduct included “two ninth-graders trying to force two seventh-graders to give them money. The ninth-graders told the seventh-graders, ‘You Jews have all of the money, give us some.’ … At the same school, a group of eighth-grade students repeatedly called a Jewish student ‘Drew the dirty Jew.'”

The Education Department analyzed the case this way:

The school administrators failed to recognize that anti-Semitic harassment can trigger responsibilities under Title VI. …

Because the school failed to recognize that the incidents created a hostile environment, it addressed each only in isolation, and therefore failed to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment and prevent its recurrence. In addition to disciplining the perpetrators, remedial steps could have included counseling the perpetrators about the hurtful effect of their conduct, publicly labeling the incidents as anti-Semitic, reaffirming the school’s policy against discrimination, and publicizing the means by which students may report harassment. …

The problem of anti-Semitism on campuses is growing. Perhaps this development will spur school administrators to re-examine their curious double standard when it comes to anti-Jewish incidents.

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White House Hopes Someone Else Will Clean Up This Mess, Too

Three more Jewish organizations have come out with statements condemning Helen Thomas’s remarks. B’nai B’rith’s statement contains this:

“Thomas’ comments are contemptible,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany—site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history—is beyond offensive. . .These vile comments, unfortunately, are the culmination of Thomas’ ongoing anti-Israel sentiments that she kept thinly veiled over the years,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There should be no place for her in a news organization. Her comments go beyond commentary and land well in the camp that will stop at nothing to delegitimize Israel.”

B’nai B’rith calls on Hearst to dismiss Thomas immediately.

The American Israeli Action Coalition put out a news release that reads in part:

“As Americans living in Israel, we are outraged at Ms. Thomas’s remarks which we feel are directed at us,” said AIAC Chairman Harvey Schwartz. “The remarks are a direct attack on American Israelis. Not only are they based on ignorance of history, but are the height of vicious anti-Semitism. They are beneath contempt. Furthermore, Ms. Thomas’s lame excuse of an “apology” contains not one word of remorse for the substance of her odious remarks.”

“AIAC joins with Bnai Brith International, the Anti Defamation League and other prominent Americans in calling on the Hearst Corporation to dismiss Thomas immediately,” continued Chairman Schwartz. “In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association should immediately cancel her White House press credentials. The failure of either of such organizations to do will be proof positive that it agrees with Ms. Thomas’s vile comments.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement includes this:

Helen Thomas’ despicable anti-Semitic statements must not be tolerated. She should be fired by Hearst News and barred from the White House press corps. There is no way such vicious denial of Jewish nationhood and connection to the Jewish homeland would be tolerated if such statements were uttered in respect of any other people.

Helen Thomas’ long record of hostile questioning and grandstanding speeches in the guise of questions regarding Israel at White House press conferences over many years indicates only too clearly that Thomas has long harbored deep hostility towards Israel which she has now revealed to go even further – denying Jewish nationhood and the Jewish right to a sovereign state. She is clearly an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not a matter of mere criticism of Israel, which people are free to exercise, but of fostering hatred against Jews. Helen Thomas should be fired, not only for her unvarnished bigotry, but because she has made it unequivocally clear that she is deeply biased and unable to report with any semblance of objectivity. Helen Thomas would certainly condemn and reject anyone who would have tried to tell her parents, who were Lebanese, that they should go back to Lebanon. She would not tolerate it if someone told her that, since she is of Lebanese ethnicity, she should go back to Lebanon.

The White House remains mum. The administration no doubt hopes that Hearst will take care of this mess. But the White House has its own responsibility and is making its own views apparent by its silence: the Obama administration simply doesn’t care.

Three more Jewish organizations have come out with statements condemning Helen Thomas’s remarks. B’nai B’rith’s statement contains this:

“Thomas’ comments are contemptible,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany—site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history—is beyond offensive. . .These vile comments, unfortunately, are the culmination of Thomas’ ongoing anti-Israel sentiments that she kept thinly veiled over the years,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There should be no place for her in a news organization. Her comments go beyond commentary and land well in the camp that will stop at nothing to delegitimize Israel.”

B’nai B’rith calls on Hearst to dismiss Thomas immediately.

The American Israeli Action Coalition put out a news release that reads in part:

“As Americans living in Israel, we are outraged at Ms. Thomas’s remarks which we feel are directed at us,” said AIAC Chairman Harvey Schwartz. “The remarks are a direct attack on American Israelis. Not only are they based on ignorance of history, but are the height of vicious anti-Semitism. They are beneath contempt. Furthermore, Ms. Thomas’s lame excuse of an “apology” contains not one word of remorse for the substance of her odious remarks.”

“AIAC joins with Bnai Brith International, the Anti Defamation League and other prominent Americans in calling on the Hearst Corporation to dismiss Thomas immediately,” continued Chairman Schwartz. “In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association should immediately cancel her White House press credentials. The failure of either of such organizations to do will be proof positive that it agrees with Ms. Thomas’s vile comments.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement includes this:

Helen Thomas’ despicable anti-Semitic statements must not be tolerated. She should be fired by Hearst News and barred from the White House press corps. There is no way such vicious denial of Jewish nationhood and connection to the Jewish homeland would be tolerated if such statements were uttered in respect of any other people.

Helen Thomas’ long record of hostile questioning and grandstanding speeches in the guise of questions regarding Israel at White House press conferences over many years indicates only too clearly that Thomas has long harbored deep hostility towards Israel which she has now revealed to go even further – denying Jewish nationhood and the Jewish right to a sovereign state. She is clearly an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not a matter of mere criticism of Israel, which people are free to exercise, but of fostering hatred against Jews. Helen Thomas should be fired, not only for her unvarnished bigotry, but because she has made it unequivocally clear that she is deeply biased and unable to report with any semblance of objectivity. Helen Thomas would certainly condemn and reject anyone who would have tried to tell her parents, who were Lebanese, that they should go back to Lebanon. She would not tolerate it if someone told her that, since she is of Lebanese ethnicity, she should go back to Lebanon.

The White House remains mum. The administration no doubt hopes that Hearst will take care of this mess. But the White House has its own responsibility and is making its own views apparent by its silence: the Obama administration simply doesn’t care.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s one Jewish organization that’s not mute about Obama’s double standard for the Middle East: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged President Barack Obama to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas accountable for a broadcast on PA TV on May 4 and May 7 which called Israelis thieves and advised them to return to Europe & Ethiopia. … Only four days following the second of the two broadcasts of this program by PA TV, President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with the PA’s Abbas, in which he actually raised the issue of incitement,  but not in reference to this or any other PA act of incitement.”

Here’s one more sign the Democrats are in trouble: “Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are ‘very’ conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are ‘very’ liberal.”

Here’s one deluded liberal: Greg Sargent writes of Richard Blumenthal that “whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him. Bottom line: It seems clear he’ll survive. But man, what a colossal train wreck. Don’t do it again, Dick.” So “whatever” the truth, it’s a “train wreck,” but everyone stand by their man!

Here’s one more reason entertainers should just “shut up and sing”: “British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello this week became the latest in a list of stars to cancel performances in Israel as a political protest. … The singer’s withdrawal follows similar moves by other high-profile musicians, including Santana and Gil Scott-Heron.”

Here’s one Democratic incumbent who looks safe: “No major Republican has opted to challenge her, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is comfortably ahead of the three lesser-known GOP hopefuls who’ve announced for this year’s special Senate election in New York.”

Here’s one wild goose chase: “White House seeking missing health care bounce.”

Here’s one more poll showing that Elena Kagan’s nomination isn’t a political winner for Obama: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent the past week introducing herself to the Senate and to the nation, but U.S. voters remain evenly divided over whether she should be confirmed for the high court. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of voters believe Kagan should be confirmed by the Senate, while another 39% say she should not be confirmed.”

Here’s one Jewish organization that’s not mute about Obama’s double standard for the Middle East: “The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged President Barack Obama to hold Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas accountable for a broadcast on PA TV on May 4 and May 7 which called Israelis thieves and advised them to return to Europe & Ethiopia. … Only four days following the second of the two broadcasts of this program by PA TV, President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with the PA’s Abbas, in which he actually raised the issue of incitement,  but not in reference to this or any other PA act of incitement.”

Here’s one more sign the Democrats are in trouble: “Registered voters who identify themselves as conservatives are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this fall’s congressional elections than are liberals or moderates. Those who say they are ‘very’ conservative are the most enthusiastic of all, with substantially higher enthusiasm than those who say they are ‘very’ liberal.”

Here’s one deluded liberal: Greg Sargent writes of Richard Blumenthal that “whatever the truth, he insisted with a great deal of conviction that his lapses weren’t intentional. And the evidence so far suggests that in other settings, he didn’t intend to mislead. Perhaps most important, no Dems are cutting and running right now. They seem to have closed ranks behind him. Bottom line: It seems clear he’ll survive. But man, what a colossal train wreck. Don’t do it again, Dick.” So “whatever” the truth, it’s a “train wreck,” but everyone stand by their man!

Here’s one more reason entertainers should just “shut up and sing”: “British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello this week became the latest in a list of stars to cancel performances in Israel as a political protest. … The singer’s withdrawal follows similar moves by other high-profile musicians, including Santana and Gil Scott-Heron.”

Here’s one Democratic incumbent who looks safe: “No major Republican has opted to challenge her, and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is comfortably ahead of the three lesser-known GOP hopefuls who’ve announced for this year’s special Senate election in New York.”

Here’s one wild goose chase: “White House seeking missing health care bounce.”

Here’s one more poll showing that Elena Kagan’s nomination isn’t a political winner for Obama: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent the past week introducing herself to the Senate and to the nation, but U.S. voters remain evenly divided over whether she should be confirmed for the high court. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% of voters believe Kagan should be confirmed by the Senate, while another 39% say she should not be confirmed.”

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Mearsheimer Makes a List

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Patty Murray may be in trouble, especially if Dino Rossi gets into the Washington senate race.

At least one pro-Israel group is going after the Obami: “Activists for the Zionist Organization of America lobbied Congress to consider military action against Iran. In more than 100 meetings with members of Congress on Wednesday, the ZOA said hundreds of its activists also asked the lawmakers to defund the Palestinian Authority, press the U.S. embassy issue and enshrine anti-Jewish discrimination safeguards in education legislation.”

Read all of P.J. O’Rourke’s latest. A sample: “The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. . . . America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: ‘A students work for B students.'”

No surprise from Mahmoud Abbas: “Mr. President (Barack Obama) and members of the American administration, since you believe in this (an independent Palestinian state), it is your duty to take steps toward a solution and to impose this solution.” After all, Abbas has no incentive to do anything else.

Douglas Schoen keeps trying to save Democrats from themselves. Forget cap-and-trade and immigration reform, he says: “Instead, what the Democrats should be doing is taking up the issue of jobs, then jobs and then jobs once again. With the unemployment rate still hovering perilously close to 10 percent, the only way congressional Democrats and the administration can improve their eroding political position is by taking on the jobs issue systematically — not sporadically and spasmodically. Every approach should be put on the table: tax incentives for job creation, a payroll tax holiday and even infrastructure investment — if only to demonstrate the party’s commitment to doing everything possible to stimulate employment.”

Works for me: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that he will be ‘unable to move forward’ with the upcoming climate and energy bill he’s crafting if Democratic leaders push ahead with plans to move immigration legislation. Graham’s declaration could halt or unravel the months-long effort to craft a compromise climate measure he has undertaken with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The measure is slated to be unveiled Monday.”

Dana Milbank is whining about Republican “leaders,” claiming that Charlie Crist is being drummed out of the party. Nonsense. Voters don’t like him and he’s losing. He’s threatening to bolt to keep his pathetic senate race alive. (By the way, you’ll recall Joe Lieberman never got a single mainstream column pleading for the Democrats’ sanity when he ran as an independent.)

Alan Dershowitz pushes J Street: “Do you believe that if America fails to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and if the Israeli government makes a considered decision that it must use military action, as a last resort, to prevent Iran from being able to deploy nuclear weapons, that Israel would have the right to engage in preventive self defense by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? I am not asking whether Israel should or should not consider such attack, since I lack the military expertise to make that decision, as do you. I am asking whether Israel should have the right to make that decision. And I’m asking whether you believe the United States should seek to prevent Israel from acting on that decision as an absolute last resort?” More important, what does Obama think?

Patty Murray may be in trouble, especially if Dino Rossi gets into the Washington senate race.

At least one pro-Israel group is going after the Obami: “Activists for the Zionist Organization of America lobbied Congress to consider military action against Iran. In more than 100 meetings with members of Congress on Wednesday, the ZOA said hundreds of its activists also asked the lawmakers to defund the Palestinian Authority, press the U.S. embassy issue and enshrine anti-Jewish discrimination safeguards in education legislation.”

Read all of P.J. O’Rourke’s latest. A sample: “The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. . . . America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: ‘A students work for B students.'”

No surprise from Mahmoud Abbas: “Mr. President (Barack Obama) and members of the American administration, since you believe in this (an independent Palestinian state), it is your duty to take steps toward a solution and to impose this solution.” After all, Abbas has no incentive to do anything else.

Douglas Schoen keeps trying to save Democrats from themselves. Forget cap-and-trade and immigration reform, he says: “Instead, what the Democrats should be doing is taking up the issue of jobs, then jobs and then jobs once again. With the unemployment rate still hovering perilously close to 10 percent, the only way congressional Democrats and the administration can improve their eroding political position is by taking on the jobs issue systematically — not sporadically and spasmodically. Every approach should be put on the table: tax incentives for job creation, a payroll tax holiday and even infrastructure investment — if only to demonstrate the party’s commitment to doing everything possible to stimulate employment.”

Works for me: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that he will be ‘unable to move forward’ with the upcoming climate and energy bill he’s crafting if Democratic leaders push ahead with plans to move immigration legislation. Graham’s declaration could halt or unravel the months-long effort to craft a compromise climate measure he has undertaken with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The measure is slated to be unveiled Monday.”

Dana Milbank is whining about Republican “leaders,” claiming that Charlie Crist is being drummed out of the party. Nonsense. Voters don’t like him and he’s losing. He’s threatening to bolt to keep his pathetic senate race alive. (By the way, you’ll recall Joe Lieberman never got a single mainstream column pleading for the Democrats’ sanity when he ran as an independent.)

Alan Dershowitz pushes J Street: “Do you believe that if America fails to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and if the Israeli government makes a considered decision that it must use military action, as a last resort, to prevent Iran from being able to deploy nuclear weapons, that Israel would have the right to engage in preventive self defense by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? I am not asking whether Israel should or should not consider such attack, since I lack the military expertise to make that decision, as do you. I am asking whether Israel should have the right to make that decision. And I’m asking whether you believe the United States should seek to prevent Israel from acting on that decision as an absolute last resort?” More important, what does Obama think?

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RE: Other Than That, Mr. Biden

Joe Biden’s trip to Israel isn’t getting any better. The New York Times cites an unknown “Western diplomat” — it seems George Mitchell or whoever is churning out the Israel-bashing today wouldn’t even permit “American” to be affixed to the blind quote — as saying that the Israelis’ housing announcement put a “damper” on the visit. Yes, when things were going so swimmingly! The Israelis have no problem with on-the-record statements:

Yuli Edelstein, minister of public affairs for Israel, said in an interview that the timing of the housing announcement was not aimed at harming the visit by Mr. Biden. “But it is also very important to make things clear and not to play make-believe,” he said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have been saying loud and clear that according to Israeli law Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, so no special commissions are needed to build within the municipal borders of Jerusalem. There will not be in the foreseeable future an Israeli government willing to divide Jerusalem. Normally our friends in Washington understand that.”

Meanwhile, the predictable J Street and Peace Now crowd is piling on the Obami’s undiplomatic diplomacy, nervous that the spat might interfere with the proximity talks. (At this rate, we might need another party to go back and forth between the U.S. and Israel.) Meanwhile, JTA points out:

On Thursday, according to Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Authority is planning to go through with plans to name a public square after Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 bus hijacking in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were killed. Thursday is the 32nd anniversary of the attack. Biden will still be in town. So it’ll be interesting to see if he wieghs in, as he did on the Israeli housing starts.

Any word from J Street on that one? From Foggy Bottom? Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America doesn’t mince words: “The record shows that within the PA, few opportunities are missed to glorify a terrorist, celebrate a suicide bomber, or inculcate Palestinian youth into worshipping cold-blooded murderers. The record also shows that all aspects of PA life — the schools, youth movements, sports teams, newspapers, TV, even the names of streets — are made vehicles for honoring and praising terrorism. This in turn breeds more terrorists and bloodshed.” But the Obami think the problem is apartment buildings.

Makes one miss the days when Israel’s “friends in Washington” understood what the nub of the problem was, and, as a spirited reader put it, when there was no “mistaking where Israel stands on its eternal and undivided capital.”

Joe Biden’s trip to Israel isn’t getting any better. The New York Times cites an unknown “Western diplomat” — it seems George Mitchell or whoever is churning out the Israel-bashing today wouldn’t even permit “American” to be affixed to the blind quote — as saying that the Israelis’ housing announcement put a “damper” on the visit. Yes, when things were going so swimmingly! The Israelis have no problem with on-the-record statements:

Yuli Edelstein, minister of public affairs for Israel, said in an interview that the timing of the housing announcement was not aimed at harming the visit by Mr. Biden. “But it is also very important to make things clear and not to play make-believe,” he said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have been saying loud and clear that according to Israeli law Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, so no special commissions are needed to build within the municipal borders of Jerusalem. There will not be in the foreseeable future an Israeli government willing to divide Jerusalem. Normally our friends in Washington understand that.”

Meanwhile, the predictable J Street and Peace Now crowd is piling on the Obami’s undiplomatic diplomacy, nervous that the spat might interfere with the proximity talks. (At this rate, we might need another party to go back and forth between the U.S. and Israel.) Meanwhile, JTA points out:

On Thursday, according to Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Authority is planning to go through with plans to name a public square after Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 bus hijacking in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were killed. Thursday is the 32nd anniversary of the attack. Biden will still be in town. So it’ll be interesting to see if he wieghs in, as he did on the Israeli housing starts.

Any word from J Street on that one? From Foggy Bottom? Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America doesn’t mince words: “The record shows that within the PA, few opportunities are missed to glorify a terrorist, celebrate a suicide bomber, or inculcate Palestinian youth into worshipping cold-blooded murderers. The record also shows that all aspects of PA life — the schools, youth movements, sports teams, newspapers, TV, even the names of streets — are made vehicles for honoring and praising terrorism. This in turn breeds more terrorists and bloodshed.” But the Obami think the problem is apartment buildings.

Makes one miss the days when Israel’s “friends in Washington” understood what the nub of the problem was, and, as a spirited reader put it, when there was no “mistaking where Israel stands on its eternal and undivided capital.”

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The ADL Is Wrong: Boycotts Can Be Kosher

A long simmering dispute about the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement going on at the University of California at Irvine has prompted a debate between Jewish groups about the propriety of academic boycotts. After the latest incident in which heckler disrupted a speech being given by Michael Oren — Israel’s ambassador to the United States — at the school’s campus, the Zionist Organization of America has called for donors to cease making contributions to the institution and for students to stop applying to the school. But the Anti-Defamation League says this is a mistake, since such boycotts are a “double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel.”

The problem with UC Irvine goes deeper than just the bunch of loudmouths who interrupted Oren. For a number of years, the Irvine campus’s Muslim Student Union and its leftist allies have made the school a haven of Israel-and-Jew bashing without the university’s administration doing much or anything about it. The result has apparently been the creation of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. Repeated attempts to get the university to address the grievances of the Jewish community have failed. After years of talking about the problem, the ZOA has apparently concluded that the only thing the school will understand is a boycott that will bring home to them that their indulgence of radical anti-Israel and anti-Jewish elements has consequences. The ADL prefers to keep the lines of communications open with the university and, in its usual manner, spends as much time complimenting the administration for the little it has done as it does criticizing them for their obvious failures.

The conflict on campus is sometimes construed as one between free speech and civility. On the one hand, friends of Israel have a right to expect that a campus mafia of Muslim Jew-haters does not disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, thus protecting the right of the Jews to free speech. That means that anti-Israel events must have the same protection. Yet if the latter descend as they often do, into hate speech against Israelis and Jews, a university that claims to be trying to create a haven of free inquiry must at some point step in and say enough is enough. The dispute here is not between Jews and Arabs who both want to be heard but rather between a democratic Zionist movement on campus that is under siege and a Muslim anti-Zionist movement that holds fundraisers for Hamas terrorists.

The question here is whether, after repeated attempts to get satisfaction, the Jewish community is justified in throwing up its hands and saying that it serves no further purpose to go on supporting a place that allows such a situation to persist — or whether, by contrast, it should continue its quiet diplomacy aimed at flattering or shaming the university into doing the right thing. The ZOA and the ADL, with their very different organizational cultures — the former being rabble-rousing activists at heart and the latter, the quintessential establishment group — are bound to disagree about that.

But no matter whether you think further efforts to improve the situation at UC Irvine are warranted or not, the ADL’s belief that boycotts are inherently wrong cannot be sustained. It is true that in our own time anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements have attempted to create boycotts of Israeli academics and produce and that the Jewish community has rightly decried such despicable campaigns. But these boycotts are wrong not because a desire to isolate any movement or country is inherently evil but rather because it is unjust to apply such measures to a democratic state besieged by terrorists who wish to destroy. In the past, Jews have readily embraced boycotts. Jewish activists once boycotted the Soviet Union and protested any commerce or diplomatic niceties conducted with an anti-Semitic Communist government, which had refused to let Russian Jews immigrate to freedom in Israel or the United States. Jews also boycotted Germany during the 1930s as the Nazis set the stage for the Holocaust. There is also the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were profoundly sympathetic to boycotts of grapes picked by non-union labor as well as those aimed at isolating apartheid-era South Africa. The idea that one cannot boycott evildoers just because leftist extremists wish to wrongly use the same tactic on Israel makes no sense.

Thus, one can argue that the ZOA’s boycott of UC Irvine is unjustified, not helpful, or even premature. But you cannot, as the ADL does, argue that there is something inherently wrong with any boycott. The principle of free speech must protect pro-Israel speakers as well as forums for those who take the other side. But no principle obligates any Jew to attend or contribute to a school where Jews are made to feel uncomfortable or where fundraisers are held for groups that kill Jews.

A long simmering dispute about the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement going on at the University of California at Irvine has prompted a debate between Jewish groups about the propriety of academic boycotts. After the latest incident in which heckler disrupted a speech being given by Michael Oren — Israel’s ambassador to the United States — at the school’s campus, the Zionist Organization of America has called for donors to cease making contributions to the institution and for students to stop applying to the school. But the Anti-Defamation League says this is a mistake, since such boycotts are a “double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel.”

The problem with UC Irvine goes deeper than just the bunch of loudmouths who interrupted Oren. For a number of years, the Irvine campus’s Muslim Student Union and its leftist allies have made the school a haven of Israel-and-Jew bashing without the university’s administration doing much or anything about it. The result has apparently been the creation of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. Repeated attempts to get the university to address the grievances of the Jewish community have failed. After years of talking about the problem, the ZOA has apparently concluded that the only thing the school will understand is a boycott that will bring home to them that their indulgence of radical anti-Israel and anti-Jewish elements has consequences. The ADL prefers to keep the lines of communications open with the university and, in its usual manner, spends as much time complimenting the administration for the little it has done as it does criticizing them for their obvious failures.

The conflict on campus is sometimes construed as one between free speech and civility. On the one hand, friends of Israel have a right to expect that a campus mafia of Muslim Jew-haters does not disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, thus protecting the right of the Jews to free speech. That means that anti-Israel events must have the same protection. Yet if the latter descend as they often do, into hate speech against Israelis and Jews, a university that claims to be trying to create a haven of free inquiry must at some point step in and say enough is enough. The dispute here is not between Jews and Arabs who both want to be heard but rather between a democratic Zionist movement on campus that is under siege and a Muslim anti-Zionist movement that holds fundraisers for Hamas terrorists.

The question here is whether, after repeated attempts to get satisfaction, the Jewish community is justified in throwing up its hands and saying that it serves no further purpose to go on supporting a place that allows such a situation to persist — or whether, by contrast, it should continue its quiet diplomacy aimed at flattering or shaming the university into doing the right thing. The ZOA and the ADL, with their very different organizational cultures — the former being rabble-rousing activists at heart and the latter, the quintessential establishment group — are bound to disagree about that.

But no matter whether you think further efforts to improve the situation at UC Irvine are warranted or not, the ADL’s belief that boycotts are inherently wrong cannot be sustained. It is true that in our own time anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements have attempted to create boycotts of Israeli academics and produce and that the Jewish community has rightly decried such despicable campaigns. But these boycotts are wrong not because a desire to isolate any movement or country is inherently evil but rather because it is unjust to apply such measures to a democratic state besieged by terrorists who wish to destroy. In the past, Jews have readily embraced boycotts. Jewish activists once boycotted the Soviet Union and protested any commerce or diplomatic niceties conducted with an anti-Semitic Communist government, which had refused to let Russian Jews immigrate to freedom in Israel or the United States. Jews also boycotted Germany during the 1930s as the Nazis set the stage for the Holocaust. There is also the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were profoundly sympathetic to boycotts of grapes picked by non-union labor as well as those aimed at isolating apartheid-era South Africa. The idea that one cannot boycott evildoers just because leftist extremists wish to wrongly use the same tactic on Israel makes no sense.

Thus, one can argue that the ZOA’s boycott of UC Irvine is unjustified, not helpful, or even premature. But you cannot, as the ADL does, argue that there is something inherently wrong with any boycott. The principle of free speech must protect pro-Israel speakers as well as forums for those who take the other side. But no principle obligates any Jew to attend or contribute to a school where Jews are made to feel uncomfortable or where fundraisers are held for groups that kill Jews.

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