Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

Calling balls and strikes for the pro-Israel community since 2006

December 12, 2021

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • Israeli security experts acknowledge that the Iran Deal worked and that Trump's withdrawal from the deal was a major mistake.
  • "Never again" is meaningless if it means "never again" only for us--we have a moral duty to oppose the Chinese genocide against the Uyghurs.
  • Israel agreed to participate in a research project that excludes the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Does that violate the anti-BDS laws that Ben & Jerry's allegedly violated?
  • It's been 80 days since the House passed funding for Iron Dome and Senate Republicans are still blocking it. Imagine how long Hanukkah would be if the Maccabees had to wait for the GOP to deliver the oil.
  • Trump blasted Bibi for disloyalty. The U.S.-Israel relationship should be based on values and policies, not personalities.
  • Twelve members of Congress endorsed Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) over Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) in the upcoming primary.
  • Read to the end for upcoming events with Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA). Plus the usual fun stuff.

You're welcome to read for free, but you can chip in for the cost of the newsletter by clicking here and filling in the amount of your choice. You don't need a PayPal account; the link lets you use a credit card. If you have trouble, let me know. Or you can Venmo @Steven-Sheffey (if it asks, last four phone digits are 9479).


"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us. John Maynard Keynes (or someone) responded to questions about why he changed his position with "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" Unfortunately, too many opponents of reentering the Iran Deal cling to their priors despite mounting evidence that they were wrong.

The facts, or at least our knowledge of the facts, have changed. There is no shame in changing your mind based on facts previously unknown to you. There was never a realistic alternative to the Iran Deal. It is beyond dispute that the Iran Deal pushed Iran further from nuclear weapons capability and that Iran is much closer to nuclear weapons capability now than it was when Trump left the deal. But opponents of diplomacy fall back on the argument that "Israel is against it, and Israel is in the neighborhood, so they must know something we don't--and Israel will suffer the most if we are wrong."

Thanks to recent revelations from major Israeli security experts, we now know that Netanyahu's government lied about the risks posed by the Iran Deal and supported Trump's withdrawal from the deal for political gain.

Last week, Major General Isaac Ben Israel said that "Netanyahu’s efforts to persuade the Trump administration to quit the nuclear agreement have turned out to be the worst strategic mistake in Israel’s history" and that trying to address Iran's other nefarious activities in the deal would needlessly complicate it, especially since Israel can deal with terrorism on its own. Israel can't stop a nuclear-armed Iran on its own, and unless the United States is willing to invade and occupy Iran indefinitely, neither can we.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel's history, said that pulling out of the original deal “was a delusional decision that allowed the Iranians to move forward quickly in the direction of becoming a nuclear threshold state.”

Neri Zilber writes that "Iran’s nuclear program is by all estimates at its most advanced stage ever, and a growing chorus of former Israeli officials have decried Netanyahu’s (and Trump’s) strategy as nothing short of calamitous: jettisoning a nonproliferation agreement that, however flawed, was working, in favor of a coercive strategy against Iran that on every parameter has failed to achieve the results confidently predicted by those who cheered on Trump."

In addition, as Nadiv Tamir explains, arguments against the deal based on its sunset provisions were false, and arguments based on the deal's alleged failure to limit Iran’s long-range missile development and its regional subversion were unfounded.

We don't know if a return to the Iran Deal is possible. Trump's withdrawal while Iran was in compliance weakened our credibility and stiffened Iran's negotiating posture. The Biden administration has said that will not accept a bad deal. Plenty of individuals and organizations will opine on Plan B. We should discount the views of those who got it wrong the first time and won't admit it.

What does “never again” mean if we cannot learn lessons and draw parallels from the Holocaust? The Holocaust was a uniquely evil event perpetrated by a particular government (Nazi Germany) against a particular people (Jews) at a particular time and place.

By definition, an event that is unique can never happen again. Does that mean all comparisons are inappropriate and that “never again” is a definitionally self-fulfilling prophecy--or does it mean that we should apply the lessons from that unique event to prevent evil of varying degrees from recurring in our day?

The Holocaust should never be trivialized nor its victims disrespected. But neither should analogies to the Holocaust and events leading up to the Holocaust automatically be off-limits. If they are, "never again" means nothing. We honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust not by closing our eyes to evil, but by using lessons of the past to prevent suffering today.

If you wonder how the world allowed the Holocaust to happen, ask what you and the organizations you support are doing to stop Chinese atrocities against the Uyghurs. We know what is happening. But it's across the ocean, we don't personally know any Uyghurs, and we have other pressing issues to worry about...

Last week, the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China to protest what Senate Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) termed "the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign of genocide in Xinjiang" against the Uyghurs. The House passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which imposes sanctions against those involved in the atrocities in Xinjiang. Good first steps, but not enough. Nothing is enough until the genocide stops. Our inability to come up with a solution does not absolve us of our obligation to demand that our elected officials take action.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) has the perfect response to objections from corporate lobbyists who will fight the bill in the Senate--which should have been the response to those who voiced practical objections to the U.S. doing more to help the Jews during the Holocaust: "I say, 'that’s too damn bad.' We have to do this...We can’t allow this to continue.”

The false alarms about Ben & Jerry's are similarly disingenuous. You don't have to agree with everything in this article from Rabbi Nancy Weiner and Rabbi Lester Bronstein to agree that "the distinction between Israel and the settlements is consistent with decades of American law...We must continue to emphasize this distinction — as Ben & Jerry’s has — and both affirm Israel’s existence within its internationally recognized borders and fight against creeping de facto annexation of the West Bank if we ever hope to move toward two states. Divesting from Unilever will not help Israel or Jews."

If you think refusing to business in the West Bank is anti-Israel, ask yourself why Israel signed a major research and innovation agreement with the European Union despite the exclusion of West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights from the program. Chunky Monkey for me but not for thee? If you need a refresher on the Ben & Jerry's controversy, read their statement and my analysis.

Senate Republicans continue to block Iron Dome funding. It's been 80 days since the House passed funding for Iron Dome and Senate Republicans are still blocking it. Imagine how long Hanukkah would be if the Maccabees had to wait for the GOP to deliver the oil.

Tweets of the Week. Nicholas Miller, Ben Silverstein, and Caitlin.

Twitter Thread of the Week. Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Response to Supreme Court of the Week. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA).

Upcoming Events. For all events, contributions are welcome but not required: Dana Gordon and I are hosting Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) on Zoom at 3:00 pm CT on Sunday, January 9. RSVP here to get the Zoom link. Thus far, 12 members of Congress and over 40 local activists have endorsed Casten over Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL). Casten is the only candidate in this race who is strong on Israel and all of the other issues we prioritize.

We and Democratic Jewish Outreach of Pennsylvania are hosting Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) on Zoom at 6:00 pm CT on Thursday, February 17. RSVP here to get the Zoom link.

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The Fine Print: This newsletter usually runs on Sunday mornings. If you receive it as an ICYMI on Wednesday it's because you didn't open the one sent on Sunday. Unless stated otherwise, my views do not necessarily reflect the views of any candidates or organizations that I support or am associated with. I reserve the right to change my mind as I learn more. I am willing to sacrifice intellectual consistency for intellectual honesty. Smart, well-informed people may disagree with me; read opposing views and decide for yourself. A link to an article doesn't mean that I agree with everything its author has ever said or that I even agree with everything in the article; it means that the article supports or elaborates on the point I was making. I take pride in accurately reporting the facts on which I base my opinions. Tell me if you spot any inaccuracies, typos, or other mistakes so that I can correct them in the next newsletter (and give you credit if you want it). Advertisements reflect the views of the advertisers, not necessarily of me, and advertisers are solely responsible for the content of their advertisements. I read, value, and encourage replies to my newsletters, but I don't always have time to acknowledge replies or to engage in one-on-one discussion. Don't expect a reply if your message is uncivil or if it's clear from your message that you haven't read the newsletter or clicked on the relevant links. © 2021 Steve Sheffey. All rights reserved.