1. Congress Goes To Israel
It was exactly what Democratic House leadership had wished for—a massive expression of support for Israel, strong enough to drown out critical voices in the party, and powerful enough to deliver the message that “the squad,” a quartet of first-term progressive Congresswoman, some of whom had taken a harsh tone toward Israel, don’t speak for the party.
The size of the delegation, which included a record number of 41 Democratic lawmakers, 32 of them freshmen, helped drive home what Democrats hope will be a winning message: Sure, there are critical voices, some of them even extreme, but they are a tiny minority in a party which overwhelmingly supports Israel. The visit, as many other delegations to Israel, was organized and sponsored by the American Israel Educational Foundation (AIEF), an AIPAC sister organization. It also included 31 House Republicans. For freshmen, for those visiting Israel for the first time, and for those who are less involved in foreign affairs, these visits are valuable, and yes, even educational. AIEF are pros in tailoring a perfect experience for top American visitors—from high-level meetings (a group sit down with Netanyahu is a must) to in-depth security briefings, full with helicopter rides and border visits, and a well-crafted program that exposes the lawmakers to many facets of Israeli society, including a decent representation for opposition views and civil society groups.
The result—lawmakers who had been immersed with issues of their local constituency and who hadn’t had the chance to delve into Middle East issues end the visit with a deep knowledge of Israel, strong personal ties with Israeli politicians (and more importantly, with pro-Israel lobbyists) and with a better understanding of what they’re voting for when it’s time to approve foreign aid, or joint missile programs. They also come home with a valuable political tool—the ability to show constituents, whether Jewish, evangelical or those with a strong national security inclination, that they care about Israel enough to take a week off their recess time to learn more about it.
2. Pittsburgh and Beyond
On their very first date, Connor Betts pulled out his phone and showed Caitlyn Adelia Johnson body-cam footage of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting, America’s worst attack on a Jewish house of worship which left 11 people dead. He exhibited deep knowledge of the massacre, as well as that of other mass murder events across the country.
This red flag, which went unnoticed, could have predicted Betts’s future actions. On August 4th he drove to Dayton’s Oregon District and began shooting outside a bar, killing nine people before being shot by police.
A few days later, in an unrelated event, authorities arrested Las Vegas resident Conor Climo, who had plotted to attack a local synagogue, the Vegas offices of the Anti-Defamation League and an LGBT bar. His plan to attack the synagogue was alarmingly detailed: Climo tried to recruit a homeless person to surveil the place, and had planned to attack the synagogue with home made explosives and molotov cocktails.
The scary part—Jewish places of worship are becoming the face of domestic terrorism. From Pittsburgh to Poway, from the string of arsons at Chabad synagogues in Massachusetts in May to the Vegas plot. (Betts, the Dayton murderer, was not a white supremacist, but seems to have drawn inspiration for his deadly plan from the Pittsburgh anti-Semitic attack.) As with many other instances of terrorism, a successful attack, such as the one on Tree of Life, motivates other extremists and copycats to take similar actions.
3. ADL Shows the Data the Trump Administration Is Trying to Hide
Marking the second anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, and coinciding with yet another attack by a white supremacists in El Paso, the Anti-Defamation League released a report detailing the extent of white nationalist violence in America in the past two years. The paper maps the actions of extremist groups since Charlottesville and does the chilling math: In the past two years, white supremacists have committed at least 73 murders, including those in Pittsburgh and Poway.
These numbers, as shocking as they may sound, shouldn’t be surprising. The ideological background of all murderers involved in recent domestic terrorism incidents are well-known, publicly reported and some appear in court documents. But you wouldn’t know that by simply asking the U.S. government.
According to a Yahoo News report, the Trump administration has blocked a report prepared for Congress which analyzes all domestic terror attacks that occurred last year. The paper found that white supremacists were responsible for all domestic terror incidents in 2018. Congress never got to see this report, which never left the Department of Justice, but the numbers it presents are now public and they confirm those gathered by the ADL. The bottom line: America’s domestic terrorism problem is, in fact, a white supremacy problem.
4. Is Attacking Hollywood anti-Semitic?
Trump, in his Friday Twitter rage, took aim once again at “Hollywood” and the “elites.” “Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate! They like to call themselves ‘Elite,’ but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order……..to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!” the president tweeted.
What was that all about?
Trump was referring to the movie The Hunt, which depicts rich Americans hunting blue collar white people for fun. In light of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, Universal films halted distribution of the movie, which even before its debut gained piles of criticism on Fox News.
And why should the Jews care about it?
Well, because in some circles, “liberal Hollywood elites” reads as a reference to Jews, who, historically, played a prominent role in Hollywood studios, and who are by and large liberal and, depending on your definition, are heavily represented in the “elites.”
Trump provided plenty of other reasons for people to be offended this past week—from lashing out at grieving leaders of two cities hit by gun violence to accusing the Clintons of murdering Jeffrey Epstein. In comparison, a questionable reference to Hollywood is really marginal.
5. The Perfect High Holidays Gift?
Want to really make an entrance when you walk into shul on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur this year? How about donning a bright red Trump/RJC kippah? The Jewish version of the MAGA cap is now on sale, just in time to make a political statement in the upcoming holidays. The Republican Jewish Coalition is offering those who join and pay $100 for membership not one but two kippot, carrying the Trump’s name and the RJC logo.
Next step will be, naturally, the election-year kippah-off between Republicans and Democrats, each side trying to make the case it has distributed more yarmulkes, therefore it must have more Jewish voters. But for that you’ll have to wait a while for Democrats to actually choose their nominee (and good luck trying to fit the name Buttigieg on a kippah).
(Photo Credit: AIPAC/Twitter)