Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

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

September 2o, 2020

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • If Republicans replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democrats should increase the number of Supreme Court Justices to 11.
  • The Republican embrace of anti-Semitism and extremism is making Jews unsafe. The Republicans embracing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are not a squad--they're a battalion, led by Donald Trump.
  • Trump again accused Jews of dual loyalty, this time on a Rosh HaShanah call with Jewish leaders.
  • The UAE and Bahrain agreements do not change the verdict that Trump is bad for Israel.
  • Read to the end for upcoming events and fun stuff.

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5780 ended tragically, with the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I did not know her personally. I know her work and her place in history. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold hearings for Merrick Garland 237 days before the 2016 election, but within hours of Ginsburg's death, 46 days before the 2020 election, McConnell said that he would fill the vacancy.

Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote that the Republican Party "is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." They wrote that in 2012. It's truer today.

Trump and McConnell are not outliers; they lead the Republican Party because they embody what the GOP has become. Democrats need to stop pretending that we have a functioning two-party system with sanity on the other side of the aisle. The fate of the Supreme Court depends on whether four Republican Senators out of 53 can summon what's left of their conscience to do the right thing.

We cannot accept as normal that the vast majority of Republican Senators can be counted on to put their allegiance to Trump before their allegiance to our country. Four will be considered a miracle. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for want of ten. If Democrats win in November and Republicans fill this seat before Joe Biden takes office, Democrats should expand the Supreme Court from nine to 11 and appoint two more justices to depoliticize the Court.

May her memory be for a blessing. May we make her memory a blessing.

The Republican Party's embrace of anti-Semitism and extremism is making Jews unsafe. QAnon is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory so bizarre it's hard to believe that any sentient being could take it seriously, but at least 70 Republicans supporting QAnon have run for Congress this cycle, and at least 19 will be on the ballot in November. That's not a squad--that's a battalion. No wonder Jewish Americans feel less secure under Trump.

But rather than denounce and marginalize them, the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, embraces them. Trump has retweeted QAnon followers at least 201 times. Laura Loomer (R-FL), who won her Republican primary, has been banned by Facebook, Twitter, CPAC, GoFundMe, Venmo, MGM Resorts, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Instagram for spreading hate speech and is a QAnon supporter. Trump congratulated her.

Trump congratulated conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has made racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic statements, after she won her primary earlier in August. She will win in November.

Eric Yoffie asks "how can it be good for Israel or American Jews when an American president will not speak out instinctively, emphatically, and immediately against a lunatic conspiracy theory dripping with racism and with clearly anti-Semitic overtones? Should we not be entitled to expect at least a modicum of moral clarity from our president?"

Trump again accused Jews of dual loyalty. Remember the outrage when a member of Congress who wore a hijab was alleged to have done that? The same Republicans who feigned outrage then responded with silence when Trump told Jewish American leaders on a Rosh HaShanah call that Israel was "your country." I am pro-Israel. But America is my country, and Trump's anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish Americans render him unfit for any office, let alone the highest in the land.

But what about the UAE and Bahrain deals? Imagine the foundation of your house was crumbling. One contractor suggests spending time and money to preserve the existence of your house. Another contractor tells you to paint the exterior, enjoy how nice it looks, and who knows--maybe you'll find a gullible buyer before the house shows signs of collapsing.

I've been involved in pro-Israel advocacy for decades, and I never knew until a couple weeks ago that all along the goal has been for Israel to normalize relations with two Gulf states 1,800 miles away. Mission accomplished!

These agreements are economic and arms agreements. They are not "peace agreements" because the parties were not at war. Normalization is good; you'd have to wear blinders not to see that. These agreements are historic in the sense that they open doors that have been formally closed and begin to weave Israel into the fabric of the region. It's easy to see why Israelis welcome these developments, and as far as they go, we should too.

But you'd have to be wearing a blindfold not to see that the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain are nowhere near as important as the peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt were and that where the Jordan and Egypt agreements took threats to Israel off the table, these agreements do not address the two threats to Israel's existence: A nuclear-armed Iran, now a greater threat following Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA and Trump's failures to garner international support the U.N., and lack of progress toward a two-state solution, which remains the only path toward ensuring Israel's survival as a Jewish, democratic state. Those problems cannot be whitewashed, and time is not on Israel's side.

Noa Landau writes that these agreements lack "explicit recognition of Israel as a Jewish state on one hand, and explicit mention of the two-state solution on the other" and that the "end result was a bunch of statements in support of global peace of the type normally made by winners of the Miss Universe pageant."

Trump sealed this deal by promising F-35s to the UAE. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), a national security expert, writes that "it appears the political leaders simply cut this deal without the security experts weighing in" and that while this sale could threaten Israel's security, it is unlikely that opposition in Congress will rise to the level necessary to block it.

Dana Stroul and Barbara Leaf provide in-depth background and analysis for those who want to drill into the important details.

Six weeks before the most important election of our lifetimes, some think that they have to prove their bipartisan or nonpartisan bona fides by finding something, anything, to praise Donald Trump for. I'd break out the champaign if Trump brokered a two-state solution or a deal better than the JCPOA, but these deals don't come close.

These deals don't change the verdict that Trump is bad for Israel. We don't help anyone except Trump by exaggerating the importance of vague deals whose implications won't be known for months or years timed to benefit the leaders of the countries involved rather than the countries themselves. Martin Raffel has a message for Jewish voters thinking of voting for Trump because of Israel.

ICYMI. Such an important article on so many levels: Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote this in 2019 following other anti-Semitic comments by Trump, but it's worth reading and saving for many reasons.

Tweets of the Week. Joe Biden and Josh Malina.

Twitter Thread of the Week. Robert Danin.

Facebook Post of the Week. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).

Video Clip of the Week. Paul Rudd on wearing masks.

Upcoming Events. Dana Gordon and I are hosting Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff on Wednesday, September 23, at noon CT. Contributions are welcome but not required.RSVP to get the Zoom link. Jon is running against Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). Perdue has yet to apologize for anti-Semitic ads he ran against Ossoff.

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The Fine Print: This newsletter usually runs on Sunday mornings. 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. Intelligent, 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. © 2020 Steve Sheffey. All rights reserved.