Bizarre Tweet Storm, and Continuing Weakness on Anti-Semitism

Ten serious questions about President Donald Trump's bizarre tweet storm Saturday, in which he alleged with no evidence that President Barack Obama wiretapped him. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that if there is something "bad or sick," it's Trump's willingness to make outlandish and destructive claims without a scintilla of evidence. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said that "we are in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust."

Trump condemned threats and violence against Jews in his joint address to Congress on Feb. 28. But once again, he just couldn't bring himself to call it what it is: anti-Semitism. Trump said that "Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms." 

Good words, but not enough: Why is it so hard for Trump to condemn the perpetrators of these acts, tell us what he'll do to combat it, and call it anti-Semitism?

To make matters worse, only hours earlier, echoing David Duke, Trump seemed to suggest that his rivals, even Jewish groups, may have been behind attacks against Jews. David Schraub explains that

When Donald suggests that when Jews cry "anti-Semitism" it's really a plot to discredit him and his, it doesn't matter what his motives are--the effect is to render Jews a little more suspicious, a little more alien, a little less trustworthy, and a little less worthy of our solidarity and support. And in this way, the most ancient and dangerous anti-Semitic canards are slowly but surely resurrected in the American psyche.

Using language often used by President Obama, Trump also "reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel." Here's the latest scorecard for Trump's record on Israel.

As for the speech overall, James Fallows explains what happens if you don't grade Trump's speech on a curve.

Trump wants to eliminate the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Good timing! Hannah Rosenthal, who held this post in President Obama's first term, writes that "at a time when we are seeing such an increase in acts of anti-Semitism in our country, it is unconscionable that such a tool in the U.S. foreign policy arsenal will be gone."

Ira Forman, who held the position during Obama's second term, said that "I can't believe someone at the White House won't have better sense than to realize that this is a disaster. I just can't believe that they would even think of this given the relatively small budget needed to run this office. The office exists by legislation. It's just a matter of someone signing up to fund it. This is as bipartisan as an issue as you can get, and I just hope folks at the White House come to their senses."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) delivered a must-read speech on IsraelThis speech is mandatory reading for anyone who thinks that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is not pro-Israel. 

Full disclosure: I ran as a delegate pledged to Hillary Clinton in the Illinois primary and I am a Kenen Society Lifetime Member of AIPAC. So why am I urging you to read the speech Sanders delivered at the J Street Conference last week? Because it's a great illustration of how to apply progressive values to pro-Israel advocacy.  

Sanders is not a right-winger imagining what a progressive might want to hear; he's a progressive talking to progressives. The fight on college campuses is not right vs. left. It's left vs. left. That's why we need genuinely progressive voices speaking on campus against BDS, not right-wing voices like StandWithUs who only alienate the students they are trying to persuade. 

Yes, progressives do show more sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians than some of our right-wing friends. That's not anti-Israel. That's human. There is no contradiction between acknowledging the suffering of Palestinians and advocating for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

In his speech, Sanders makes a point similar to what I recently wrote in the Times of Israel. I asked "If we can be pro-America and disagree with Donald Trump (or Barack Obama), why can't we be pro-Israel and disagree with Benjamin Netanyahu?"

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) asked the Trump administration to take action against anti-Semitism. Ellison urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions "to investigate the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Missouri, and designate this attack as a hate crime. We cannot afford to ignore the series of recent threats against the American-Jewish community. Anti-Semitism poses a grave threat it to our democracy and every American's Constitutional right to freely practice their religion." That's what Trump should have done and said.

On Friday, a leftist former reporter was arrested for a small portion of the bomb threats. Apparently, he wanted to frame and harass a woman. Yair Rosenberg has five simple takeaways, including this: There is no situation where making bomb threats to Jewish preschools is not anti-Semitic.

Tell your senators to oppose David Friedman's nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Holocaust survivor Charles Gati explains why Friedman's "kapo" comment disqualifies him.

We must also oppose the Taylor Force Act. A group of Republican senators and congressmen is pushing the Taylor Force Act, which would cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA stops paying stipends to individuals convicted of terrorism (currently, aid to the PA is reduced by the amount it pays to terrorists' families but is not cut off completely).  

The Taylor Force Act seems emotionally satisfying, but as Michael Koplow explains, "there is a strange and terrible irony at work, which is that punishing the PA for its rewarding of terrorism will damage Israeli security rather than improve it ... Ask any Israeli security official, and they will tell you that coordination with the [PA Security Forces (PASF)] is one of the primary reasons that terrorist attacks on Israelis now consist of lone-wolf stabbings and shootings rather than mass suicide bombings, and why there are rockets from Gaza but zero from the West Bank."

Eliminating economic assistance to the PA "puts the PA in danger of collapse, and with the end of the PA comes the end of the PASF and its partnership with the IDF."

This issue might be a great way for Republicans to act like they're looking out for Israel, but they're playing with Israeli lives. That's not pro-Israel.

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