Jewish Voice for Peace, how can you?

Last Friday, a Jewish Voice for Peace held a conference in Chicago, with an estimated attendance of 1,000 people. The conference was held following a series of failures of the BDS movement, the latest of which is the legislation passed by Arkansas against BDS, the 17th state in the U.S. that has passed laws against BDS.

One of the main speakers at the conference was Rasmah Odeh, a convicted terrorist who was active with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization. Rasmah was convicted and imprisoned in Israel for her terrorist activities.

Other prominent speakers were leading individuals in the boycott and anti-Israel movement. These include Linda Sarsour, a prominent anti-Israeli activist in the U.S., whose family members were imprisoned in Israel due to their links with Hamas; Bina Ahmad, an attorney who also worked for Al Haq and Badi; the lawyer Dima Halidi, who was involved in the legal warfare against Moshe “Bogi” Ya’alon and Avi Dichter; Fadi Quran, who in the past held a position in Al Haq, one of the leading delegitimization organizations in the Palestinian Authority and was arrested Hebron in 2012 following a physical altercation with an IDF soldier; and Hatem Aboudiya, an activist who was interrogated in the United States for possession of materials supporting terrorism.

This conference was dedicated to harming Israel and to the planning of boycotts, against the backdrop of a series of failures that the movement has suffered in the last year, in the legislative and economic spheres (closing bank accounts, growing foreign investments in Israel) and cultural activities (many prominent artists are planning to perform in Israel in the near future, despite the attempts by the BDS to threaten and bully them into canceling their performances). Among the topics discussed at the conference: The academic boycott; how to fight legislation against BDS; how to promote labor union boycotts; how to plan multifront campaigns, etc.

Jewish Voice for Peace was established in 1996 and currently has 60 branches throughout the U.S. The organization is headed by Rebecca Wilkommerson, who lived in Israel for several years and was arrested in 2014 for trespassing on the FIDF offices in New York. The organization routinely collaborates with pro-Palestinian organizations operating against the State of Israel, including Students for Justice in Palestine, which works to boycott Israel on campuses; American Muslims for Palestine, and others.

The JVP is an anti-Semitic organization which incites against Israel. It regularly cooperates with extremist organizations which seek Israel’s destruction. It is inexcusable that the organization chose to host at its conference a terrorist who was convicted for her involvement in murdering two Israeli students. I will continue to lead a determined struggle against those who seek to harm Israel and undermine its legitimacy.

As a Jew, I am ashamed that a conference that is filled with hatred for Israel, and whose sole purpose is to harm the homeland of the Jewish people, is led by a Jewish organization.

Gilad Erdan

Gilad Erdan is Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs. He is a member of the Likkud party.

AIPAC must build bridges

The problem with both AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is that when it comes to both Israeli and American politics, they have ceased to be bipartisan for the last 25 years; they have been pro-Republican and pro-Likud.

Look at the speaker’s roster. You will see loads of Republicans and only a few Democrats (no Senator Elizabeth Warren or Senator Al Franken ) and a lot of crowing about President Trump replacing President Obama. When was the last time either of these groups met with Livni, Hertzberg, or Lapid?

There are results of this bias. Jews and others who are liberal tend to be turned off to Israel advocacy. Would not AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents be more effective in forming a coalition across the ideological spectrum, including people are not necessarily in love with Trump, Netanyahu or the West Bank settler?

As much as I disagree with both AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents, I must state my distaste for the demonstrators from If Not Now, When and Jewish Voices for Peace.

First of all, as much as I may disagree with the policies of the Likud-led coalition, the demonstrators seem to ignore the fact that this coalition would not have come to power but for the intifada and the violence in Gaza. Both Labor- and Kadima-led governments tried to end the occupation but were not allowed to, because of the PA’s failure to control violence and Hamas. Israel cannot be expected to move toward peace unilaterally.

The cycle of violence involves two sides.

Secondly, regarding Jewish Voices for Peace, they have adopted the most anti-Israel positions of them all. They can cry about the Nakba ( Made necessary by the Arab leadership’s position on partition) but not about the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands. One has to wonder if they need to adopt such positions to prove how they are proper leftist. This is not unlike the Jewish Stalinists in a different generation who endorsed the Soviet-Nazi pact at a time when the Holocaust was beginning.

Alan Mark Levin
Fair Lawn

Health care needs bipartisanship

There is an old expression: Beware the tail that wags the dog — for that is not the natural order of things.

The House Freedom Caucus, formerly the Tea Party Caucus, has been the tail wagging the Republican Party in Congress and America for the last 20 years.

They scare the heck out of House Speaker Paul Ryan, President Trump, and many Republican moderates.

Freedom Caucus supporters have been, with some exceptions, the likeliest to turn out in Republican primaries and in heated general elections, though their numbers are far less than the rest of registered Republicans. The Freedom Caucus is a group of only about 35 to 40 of the House’s present 237 Republican members. Without their votes, though, the House Republicans need Democratic votes to reach a majority of 218, to pass a bill.

Congressmen in the Freedom Caucus talk constantly about letting the American people be free of the kinds of federal government intervention they don’t like. They describe most federal programs as ones making Americans weak and socialist.

However, for example, they insist on federal crop and coal subsidies for their constituents, U.S. national trade barriers against their state’s products competitors, Congressional grants for roads, sewers and bridges, and federal government money and supplies in the event of natural disasters. The list is long.

Most of them would never want to reveal to their families and constituents that their health care policies will actually hurt Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. Yet that would have been the effect of their efforts, a few years ago, to privatize Social Security; and this year to pass the Trump/Ryancare plan that voucherized Medicare, raised prices for seniors, ended the guarantee for Medicaid-eligible American citizens, and destroyed Obamacare.

Only 17 percent of American citizens want to get rid of Obamacare. My guess is that the number who would want to hurt Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is even lower. The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats don’t want harm to come to these programs.

Yes, our founders wrote about seeking the individual’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but they also saw the need and created a governmental system encouraged “to form a more perfect Union” and “to provide for the common defense and general welfare.”

In the last 100 years, Congress has enacted social safety net programs because the people of our country need them. And the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled each of those laws consistent with our Constitution.

So now the question is whether Trump and Ryan will set these few Freedom Caucus members free.

Time for Trump to invite the moderate Republicans and Democrats back to the grownups’ table. That’s the way Ronald Reagan saved Social Security in 1983, when he worked with Tip O’Neil and the House Democrats.

If he follows Reagan’s example, Trump just might save Obamacare. He could even take the first steps toward Medicare For All, a program that will bring universal health care to America and reduce our health care costs dramatically.

After all, our present health care system relies on private insurance companies to provide coverage; and their profit-making overhead is 15 percent. Medicare’s overhead is only 3 percent.

There would still be a role for private companies in offering the kind of supplemental insurance they now sell to today’s Medicare recipients.

But first the American people must persuade Trump that he won’t be popular again unless he creates a bipartisan effort to save Obamacare and then realize universal health care for all Americans.

Stopping Trump/Ryancare saved 14 million Americans from losing their health insurance next year; 24 million from losing theirs in the next 10. It also avoided huge increases in the healthcare and prescription costs for seniors, the poor and working poor.

Now moderate Republicans and Democrats must insist that the president and Speaker Ryan abandon their Freedom Caucus on this issue and reach out to them to fix Obamacare and enact some form of Medicare for All.

Progress in our time. It is still possible. It is up to us.

Steven R. Rothman

Steven R. Rothman, a Democrat, represented New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District from 1997 to 2013.

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