25 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Aipac attacks Israeli PM’s pact with ‘racist and reprehensible’ Jewish Power party

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has defended his merger as a way to form a rightwing coalition in April and accused his critics of ‘hypocrisy and double standards’. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to enter an electoral pact with a party of ultranationalist extremists has drawn rare criticism from an influential pro-Israel group in the US.

In a rare criticism, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), which has generally given unflinching support to the Israeli leader during his 13 years in power, called the Jewish Power party “racist and reprehensible”.

Aipac, which receives Netanyahu as a celebrity, with adoring crowds at conferences, joined a chorus of condemnation worldwide from Jewish and Zionist groups shocked by the agreement with the far-right party.

Netanyahu helped orchestrate the merger last week of Jewish Power with another ultranationalist ally, Jewish Home, that would give him a better chance of forming a majority government in an election on 9 April.

Aipac retweeted a statement by the American Jewish Committee, another major pro-Israel advocacy group. Although not mentioning Netanyahu by name, it warned that Jewish Power might conceivably enter government under the new deal.

“The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible,” it said, using the group’s Hebrew name. “They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel.” It added that it would be up to Israel’s elections commission to decide if the party could run.

A former long-time Aipac official, David Kreizelman, said the group “very rarely” comments on domestic Israeli politics. “It’s pretty major. It’s a very strong statement,” he said.

Jewish Power’s leaders are ideological successors to Meir Kahane, a US-born rabbi who served one term in parliament 1984. His Kach movement was later banned by Israel and the US under anti-terrorism laws.

He advocated for a Jewish theocracy, the expulsion of millions of Palestinians and a ban on sex and marriage between Jews and Arabs.

After moving to the US and setting up the militant Jewish Defense League, he was imprisoned for bombmaking and later assassinated in 1990 by an Egyptian-born American gunman. The FBI deems the Jewish Defense League a “rightwing terrorist group” after two members attempted to bomb a California mosque.

Key Israeli figures in Jewish Power include Baruch Marzel, who has said homosexuality is “a disease of choice”, and Benzi Gopstein, the leader of a pro-segregation group that fights against Jews marrying non-Jews.

Another, Itamar Ben Gvir, an attorney who defends Israeli settlers implicated in violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, was convicted in 2007 for inciting racism after holding signs at a protest reading: “Expel the Arab enemy.”

In a recent interview, he said Arabs who are “loyal to the state” are welcome. “But those who are not must be expelled.”

A recent poll suggested the new alliance might receive as many as five seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu has defended his merger as a way to form a rightwing coalition in April and accused his critics of “hypocrisy and double standards”.

As well as more progressive Zionist groups, who frequently attack Netanyahu, the deal received criticism from more conservative pro-Israel organisations.

The Zionist Federation of Australia said it did not typically comment on the internal political machinations of Israel but added: “Electoral gains should never justify sacrificing the very values underpinning the Jewish atate that we, as Diaspora Jewry, are proud to support.”

Under Israel’s political system, which strongly favours multi-party coalition governments, the merger will guarantee Netanyahu allies in exchange for two cabinet positions if he wins.

Running for a fifth term, the 69-year-old leader has seen a growing threat from former army chief, Benny Gantz, whose chances of defeating Israel’s second-longest serving premier have risen after he allied with centrist parties.

Gantz said the prime minister was damaging “our important relationship with US Jews”.

“The rare reaction by Aipac, an organisation that does not usually touch on internal Israeli politics, proves that Benjamin Netanyahu has once again crossed ethical red lines just to keep his seat while causing serious harm to Israel’s image,” he tweeted.

An analysis in the right-leaning Jerusalem Post newspaper, however, said the crisis between Israel and Aipac was being overplayed. “The next time [Aipac] goes to meet a senator or congressman to lobby for additional funding for Israeli missile-defense projects, it might be asked about Otzma. It needed to take a moral stand now,” it read.

It noted that despite the criticism, Aipac announced two days later that it was honoured Netanyahu would address its annual meeting in Washington next month.

The piece went on to say: “More concerning was that Netanyahu showed the world that almost nothing is off-limits in achieving the goal of remaining in power.”

As a teacher, how do I show my pupils the right values when they see so little of it from their adult ‘role models’?

Young people take part in the climate strike in London.

‘Maybe if we as adults actually started practising what we preached then our children wouldn’t need to go on strike.’ Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The children’s climate strike has become another lightning rod in the never-ending culture war. Those on the left applauded them for their brave moral stand. Jonathan Freedland – not without basis – pointed to the strike as evidence that children were acting more like adults than the adults. But on the right the focus seemed to be on chiding them and telling them to get back to school – from the prime minister’s spokesperson to Toby Young, who saw the children’s behaviour as an argument for raising the voting age to 21.

So far, so predictable. And then came the waves of abusive comments and tweets in response. Teachers who “support this strike should have their assets confiscated and [be] sent to work down the salt mines”. “Oh do shut up you total fucking arse” the actor James Purefoy tweeted at Young to his 107,000 followers.

With all this discord you wouldn’t blame any child, unsure of what they think about the strike, for wishing that the adults would all stop fighting and just play nicely.

Who can blame young people for having little faith in adults when they see the chasm that separates what adults tell them and what they actually do themselves. It must seem to them that we are playing one huge game of Simon Says, where the object is to do the exact opposite of what we tell children to do. On a societal level we seem to be saying: do as I say, not as I do. So ask yourself: if you were a young person, would you really have much faith in adults to deal with the greatest challenge facing humanity when those selfsame adults – even teachers, such as me – are such blatant hypocrites?

We tell children to treat each other how they wish to be treated themselves, yet the House of Commons regularly resembles a playground fight, with the different sides jeering and sneering at each other. In the streets, we blare our horns and shout obscenities at other drivers. We hurl abuse at the opposition during the football and scream angrily at powerless call-centre workers when we are unhappy about something. All the while, our children watch.

Just the other day, I took the children in my class to task for laughing too forcefully at the misfortune of one of their classmates. We talked about how they didn’t have the right to make another person feel worse about themselves, and I asked them to imagine how they would feel if they were in that child’s shoes. Fast-forward only a few hours, and I sat laughing as Jeremy Corbyn mocked the transport minister for yet another mistake. MPs, and indeed all of us, relish this sort of thing. Many a standup’s career is made from perfecting the pithy putdown.

Our hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. As parents, families and teachers we tell children that mistakes are a good thing and that they are proof you are trying, a chance to learn. And yet we are far less forgiving when we are asked to put this in to practice as adults. Errors – true or perceived – by politicians, business leaders, sports people and co-workers are pounced on as evidence of their incompetence, unsuitability and negligence.

Debate in parliament UK

‘We tell children to treat each other how they wish to be treated themselves, yet the House of Commons regularly resembles a playground fight with the different sides jeering at each other.’ Photograph: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA

Is it any wonder that so few of us are good at accepting responsibility for our mistakes when the response to doing so is damning? Just think how rarely we hear someone say: “Sorry. I was wrong.” Even when those words are uttered, more often than not they’re qualified by a conditional “if you misunderstood me” or “if anyone took offence”. It makes it hard to muster the audacity to stand in front of a class of young children and tell them to grow up and start taking responsibility for their actions.

In my classroom in Spain, as in most others, “partner talk” is an essential part of most lessons. Children are encouraged to share their thinking with their partner and we even take time out to practise listening effectively. “Listen to understand rather than just to respond,” I tell them all. Because that’s how adults behave, isn’t it?

I’ve stopped listening to BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze and Question Time as I just can’t cope with how little anyone actually listens (Melanie Phillips could learn a thing or two from my year 6 class). The contributors seem to have their idea of what the other person thinks – and is going to say – and will respond to this rather than what is actually said. But it’s not just in politics: I regularly argue with my wife about something she has said only to find out 10 minutes later that we were saying the same thing all along.

The more you think about the depth of our hypocrisy, the worse it gets. We shouldn’t physically hurt others, we say, and yet violence is glorified in films, sport and music. Being different is good, we tell children, yet we live in monolithic echo chambers, cross the road to avoid people acting “weird” and pull funny looks if someone does something out of the ordinary in a public place. Knowledge is power, we say, yet experts are derided and belittled at every turn. Clever people are nerds, often figures of fun.

And that brings me to the biggest hypocrisy of all, the mantra that you need to work hard to get ahead. Should our children really believe this when there is so much evidence to the contrary? Yes, we have inspiring examples, famous and non-famous, whom we can point to. But with social mobility decreasing, unthinkable amounts of wealth being held by just a tiny percentage of the population, and with an upswell in racism and bigotry across the western world, it stretches credulity to breaking point to suggest hard work is all that is needed for success.

Maybe, just maybe, if we as adults actually started practising what we preached then our children wouldn’t need to go on strike and could instead focus on their own futures. But for the time being, with the adult world so filled with hypocrisy and inaction, I’m glad we have an ever increasing group of young people who aren’t listening to their elders, and instead are being seen and heard.

More On The Environment:


World Politics

United States

The Mueller report looms but the president is doomed anyway – no one who screws the people so blatantly can win re-election

Donald Trump delivers his “You’re fired!” catchphrase at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire in 2015.

Donald Trump delivers his “You’re fired!” catchphrase at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire in 2015. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/REUTERS

Robert Mueller’s soon-to-be-delivered report will begin months of congressional investigations, subpoenas, court challenges, partisan slugfests, media revelations, and more desperate conspiracy claims by Donald Trump, all against the backdrop of the burning questions: Will he be impeached by the House? Will he be convicted by the Senate? Will he pull a Richard Nixon and resign?

In other words, will America fire Trump?

I have news for you. America has already fired him.

When the public fires a president before election day, as it did Jimmy Carter, Nixon and Herbert Hoover, they don’t send him a letter telling him he’s fired.

They just make him irrelevant. Politics happens around him, despite him. He’s not literally gone but he might as well be.

It’s happened to Trump. The courts and House Democrats are moving against him. Senate Republicans are quietly subverting him. Even Mitch McConnell told him to end the shutdown.

The Fed is running economic policy. Top-level civil servants are managing day-to-day work of the agencies.

Isolated in the White House, distrustful of aides, at odds with intelligence agencies, distant from his cabinet heads, Trump has no system to make or implement decisions.

His tweets don’t create headlines as before. His rallies are ignored. His lies have become old hat.

Action and excitement have shifted elsewhere, to Democratic challengers, even to a 29-year-old freshman congresswoman too young to run.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s still dangerous, like an old landmine buried in the mud. He could start a nuclear war.

Yet even America’s adversaries just humor him. Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping give him tidbits to share with the American public, then do whatever they want.

Why did America fire him? If the nation were to write him a letter informing him he’s no longer president, it would go like this:

Dear Mr President,

While many of us disagree on ideology and values, we agree on practical things like obeying the constitution and not letting big corporations and the wealthy run everything.

Your 35-day government shutdown was a senseless abuse of power. So too your “national emergency” to build your wall with money Congress refused to appropriate.

When you passed your tax bill you promised our paychecks would rise by an average of $4,000 but we never got the raise. Our employers used the tax savings to buy back their shares of stock and give themselves raises instead.

Then you fooled us into thinking we were getting a cut by lowering the amounts withheld from our 2018 paychecks. We know that now because we’re getting smaller tax refunds.

At the same time, many big corporations aren’t paying a dime in taxes. Worse yet, they’re getting refunds.

For example, GM is paying zilch and claiming a $104m refund on $11.8bn of profits. Amazon is paying no taxes and claiming a $129m refund on profits of $11.2bn. (This is after New York offered it $3bn to put its second headquarters there.)

They aren’t breaking any tax laws or regulations. That’s because they made the tax laws and regulations. You gave them a free hand.

You’re supposed to be working for us, not for giant corporations. But they’re doing better than ever, as are their top executives and biggest investors. Yet nothing has trickled down. We’re getting shafted.

Which is why more than 75% of us (including 45% who call ourselves Republicans) support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70% tax on dollars earned in excess of $10m a year.

And over 60% of us support Elizabeth Warren’s proposed 2% annual tax on households with a new worth of $50m or more.

You’ve also shown you don’t have a clue about healthcare. You promised us something better than the Affordable Care Act but all you’ve done is whittle it back.

A big reason we gave Democrats control of the House last November was your threat to eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

Are you even aware that 70% of us now favor Medicare for all?

Most of us don’t pay much attention to national policy but we pay a lot of attention to home economics. You’ve made our own home economics worse.

We’ll give you official notice you’re fired on 3 November 2020, if not before. Until then, you can keep the house and perks, but you’re toast.



Schiff threatens to call Mueller to testify if Trump-Russia report not made public>>

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