Thursday, February 28, 2019

Representative Omar and Anti-Semitism

How To Define Anti-Semitism

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a first term representative from Minneapolis MN’s 5th district, recently accused AIPAC of buying influence in Congress.  Ms. Omar was born in Mogdishu, Somalia, is a naturalized American and is the first African-American, female, Muslim Representative in history.  Ms. Omar has been a consistent critic of Israel in the past, accusing Israel of humanitarian and political evils, but is she “Anti-Semtic?”

In a tweet from 2012 Ms. Omar said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.  In this past month, she described her view that the Israel lobby buys off members of Congress to be pro-Israel. Regarding AIPAC (The American Israel Political Affairs Committee), she tweeted: “It’s all about the Benjamins [$100 bills], baby.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a statement that Ms. Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” was both offensive and wrong, and that she needed to apologize.  Ms. Omar’s apology included a rejection of “Anti-Semitism” and acknowledgement of hurt feelings. But this is not the only example.

The Labor party in England, under Corbyn in particular, as also been strongly condemned for “left wing” Anti-Semitic content in its criticism of Israel. Several members of the party left in 2018 and in February, in part citing this reality.  In France, elements of the “yellow vest” protests have been accused of anti-Semitism in recent weeks. So much so that President Macron announced that they will accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition from now on:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” In their explanations, this includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

As Purim reminds us of Haman and Amalek, there will always be those who accuse “the Jews” of this kind of ugliness.  Yes, Ms. Omar, Mr. Corbyn and others – there is a line beyond which you cannot hide as mere free speech.  And we will call you out on it.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The teams are announced, the race is on.

The Israeli Electorate now knows whom they will be choosing from in the upcoming elections on April 9.  As previous posts in January and February indicated, the field is dynamic and shifting.  However, now that the deadline to form "join lists" has passed, we have a new sense of stability. According to the most recent Yediot Acharonot poll, the "left" and the "right" are running neck and neck, and the combination of Ganz and Lapid under the banner "Blue White" is projected to get more seats than Likkud.

Here are the "moves" of late:

21 FebThe Joint List splits up. Hadash joins Ta'al as Balad runs with Ra'am.[14]
21 FebYesh Atid and Hosen L'Yisrael reach agreement to run as one list called Blue & White[15]
20 FebThe Jewish HomeTkuma and Otzma Yehudit reach agreement to run as one list called Union of Right-Wing Parties[16][17]

Here are the polls a of today:

DatePolling firmHadash
MeretzLaborBlue &
Current seats[3]6751811101530357661
24 FebMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[4]7783631987762
24 FebMidgam/iPanel/Yediot Ahronot[5]7549354429655756
But who will have the first chance to form a government?  Remember, it is the sole decision of Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, to grant the first attempt to build a coalition.  Usually this goes to the largest party, but can easily and fairly go to the most likely coalition.  That makes this very interesting, because now the "right" will include the "New Right" party, which includes the Otzma Yehudit Party, which is made up in part of the remnants of the outlawed racist-terrorist-Kahanist Kach party. Also interesting, the "left" would have to include some part of the now-broken Joint Arab List to form a majority.  Both choices were not anticipated 4 months ago, and both are potentially on the table. This does not mean that the Left are "pro Arab" or that the Right are "pro Kahane."  But either choice would be historic in its reach away from the middle ground to form a government.

Remember, a coalition must have 61 seats:

Left:  Blue & White (36), Labor (9), Meretz (4), Hadash-Ta'al (7), Ra'am-Balad (5) = 61
Right: Likud (30), Kulanu (4) Yisrael Beitenu (4), New Right (6), URWP (5), Shas (5), UTJ (7) = 61

How can a 120 seat Kenesset poll a total of 122 seats? By rounding up.

Somebody is going to lose a couple of those seats and that "somebody's" coalition will fall short.


  1. Will the Arab parties join Ganz, the general of the 2014 Gaza war? 
  2. Will Kulanu go with Netanyu again, after their humiliation in the last coalition?
  3. Will Meretz, Kulanu and Israel Beiteunu all get the 3.25% they need to meet the threshold to enter the Kenesset?
  4. Would Rivlin ever allow a potential +Arab coalition to have the first opportunity to form a government?

Stay Tuned, and come to my presentation this Thursday, February 28, at 8:30 pm. in the Gruhin Sanctuary of B'nai Shalom to learn the latest and explore the details.  This election is one for the ages.