Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

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

December 19, 2021

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • We are facing multiple crises: Climate change, gun violence, threats to democracy, public health, and economic issues. If we lose our democracy, we lose the rest.
  • Whatever "pro-Israel" means, it does not include blocking Iron Dome funding and supporting policies on Iran that Israeli and American security experts oppose.
  • It's been 87 days since the House passed funding for Iron Dome, but Senate Republicans blocked it again for the fourth time on Wednesday.
  • Trump's departure from the Iran Deal, opposed by Israeli security experts, moved Iran closer to nuclear weapons and emboldened Iran's other nefarious activities. If Biden cannot clean up his mess, Iran might become a nuclear-threshold state or worse.
  • Let's keep the BDS debate on campus in perspective: Of 4,000 four-year colleges, 17 student governments voted on non-binding BDS resolutions, 11 passed, and zero colleges out 4,000 divested from Israel.
  • An audiotape of an antisemitic rant from Donald Trump surfaced on Friday--strong condemnations from the ADL, JDCA, and other groups. Not a word from Republicans.
  • 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).


More than 800,000 Americans have died from COVID, but Republicans continue to oppose vaccine mandates. Last week marked the ninth anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook, when 20 first-graders and six educators were murdered, but Republicans continue to block gun-control legislation.

The evidence that Republicans, led by Donald Trump, plotted a coup is increasingly clear. Republicans continue to lay the groundwork for another coup attempt in 2024, including by blocking federal legislation necessary to prevent GOP vote suppression at the state level. Yet nearly half of America, some of whom cannot be reached because they rely on Fox News and similar outlets, continue to support Donald Trump and the Republicans.

The Republican agenda is lower taxes for the wealthy and corporate deregulation, but since not even the GOP can suppress enough votes to win with 1%, Republicans say whatever they think will get them enough votes. The easiest messages for them are racial resentment, xenophobia, and fear. It works; not with most Americans, but with enough Americans to give Republicans a chance to win.

Democrats are focused on preserving democracy, combatting climate change, gun safety, public health, and making the economy work for everyone. They don't have one message. Dan Pfeiffer makes a strong case for messaging on democracy, arguing that "when the stakes are high, you want to make the election about big things. And what is bigger than the fate of democracy?"

Some Americans won't care about losing democracy until it affects them personally, when it will be too late. An important issue is not necessarily a winning issue. Maybe Democrats should campaign on pocketbook issues but make democracy a legislative priority. Yet if Democrats do not react with alarm to Republican attempts to undermine our democracy, why should Americans take the threat seriously?

If you think you have the answer, use the messages you think are effective. Get political on social media and let your networks know what you think is important. Contact a campaign you support and volunteer to text, call, or go door to door. We don't need one message. We need more votes, and we get them by talking to voters--not even Fox News can stop us from doing that, and you can do that starting today by sharing this newsletter with your networks.

Republicans continue to block Iron Dome funding. It's been 87 days since the House passed $1 billion in emergency funding for Iron Dome after President Biden agreed to Israel's request, but Senate Republicans are still blocking it. They wailed and gnashed their teeth when it took two days longer than expected in the House, but nothing but crickets from the GOP on Israel's security for nearly three months. On Wednesday, Democrats tried again to pass it, and for the fourth time, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked it. Senate Republicans did nothing, and Republicans in the House were silent.

Noting the irony of "Paul objecting to this life-saving assistance on the same day Israel announced it would send aid to Kentucky after the horrific tornadoes," Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer said that "the GOP continues to falsely claim the ‘pro-Israel’ mantle when it’s completely ignored Paul’s obstruction of this bill."

Despite Donald Trump's claim that Bibi was "willing to fight Iran to the last American soldier," the truth is that Israel has never asked American troops to defend Israel. Israel asks only for the tools to protect its security. The GOP has blocked Iron Dome for 87 days and counting, and not one Republican member of Congress has condemned Trump--the leader of the GOP and its frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination--for this slanderous untruth.

Israeli security experts oppose Republican policies on Iran. Daniel Drezner wrote last week that "the Trump administration’s 2018 exit from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposition of economic sanctions have proved to be a colossal failure." Trump's increased sanctions have not worked. Instead, Iran is a month, maybe a few weeks, away from the capacity to produce enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb. Iran's proxies have increased their influence in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan since Trump left the deal.

Sanctions hurt the Iranian economy, but the goal was for that hurt to change Iranian behavior. Iran's behavior has changed since Trump left the deal--for the worse. Israeli security officials agree.

Paul Pillar cites support for the Iran Deal from Israeli security officials in 2015 as well as recently, and says that "none of these judgments should be surprising. Even a moment’s reflection leads to the conclusion that, to the extent that Iran’s nuclear activities might affect Israel’s security, it is far better to have those activities tightly controlled as they were under the JCPOA than to have the alternative of no such restrictions and no limits on Iran’s production of fissile material."

Ryan Costello explains that there is no Plan B. Military action cannot stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons unless we are prepared to invade and occupy Iran indefinitely. Diplomacy is the only option. If diplomacy does not work, then as Max Boot writes, because Trump left the nuclear deal, we might have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran.

Pillar notes that those "who, as part of their supposed 'pro-Israel' stance, have opposed something like the JCPOA and applauded Trump’s reneging on the agreement have actually been acting—in the assessment of those retired Israeli security officials and as demonstrated by events of the past few years—contrary to Israel’s security."

We need to stop listening to those individuals and organizations who have been wrong for so long. The question is whether Biden can clean up Trump's mess. If he can't, then as Drezner concludes, "the best Iran hawks can hope for in the next few years is a policy failure that does not quite compare to Munich."

Let's keep the BDS debate on campus in perspective. There are 4,000 colleges in the United State. A grand total of 17 student governments considered BDS resolutions during the 2020--2021 school year. Of those 17, 11 passed. Of those 11 that passed, zero colleges divested from Israel. Zero out of 4,000 total. Put another way, BDS resolutions were introduced at 0.425% of college campuses and passed at 0.275% of campuses last year. I'll take that. 

The BDS movement is failing spectacularly, including on college campuses. That's good news for most of us. That's bad news for right-wing groups whose fundraising depends on scaring parents and scaring up right-wing donations by falsely claiming a BDS epidemic on college campuses. Antisemitism must be fought everywhere, including on college campuses, where it does sometimes exist. But using BDS for fundraising or political purposes only breathes life into a failed movement and obscures the real threats confronting our community.

If you are concerned that BDS debates on campus might turn the leaders of tomorrow against Israel, then your quarrel is not with a BDS movement that is going nowhere but with how we educate our kids about Israel. As long as we send kids to college armed with talking points against strawman arguments, our kids will be vulnerable. As long as we dismiss credible reports of war crimes committed by Israel's army, our kids will become disillusioned--or worse--when they hear about it from someone else.

When Israel's current prime minister says there will be no Palestinian state on his watch, when even Donald Trump says that Israel's previous prime minister was not serious about peace, then the problem is not public relations or debating points, but Israel's policies. As Michael Koplow observes in his excellent summary and analysis of the latest revelations about Trump and Bibi, Israeli leaders have "not grasped the full implications of what it means to reject two states out of hand and how it impacts perceptions of Israeli policies and behavior across a range of issues." Neither have the right-wing hasbaraists who think they know what's best for our kids.

Despite at least 40 years of warnings about the leaders of tomorrow, support for Israel remains strong where it matters most, in Congress. But to the extent public opinion has shifted, we should ask ourselves if Americans have changed or if the policies of Israel's government have changed. Loving and supporting a secure, Jewish democratic state of Israel does not require us to check our critical thinking skills at the door. If we send our kids to college with their thinking skills intact and a perspective on Israel that is not based on right-wing talking points, we can focus on real antisemitism and not fear debate about Israel's policies.

Trump's latest antisemitic rant seems fine with the GOP. An audio tape of Trump talking about Jews and Israel surfaced on Friday. This antisemitic rant is real and was condemned by the ADL and JDCA, but not one Republican. Are there any limits to GOP hypocrisy? Watch JDCA CEO Halie Soifer on MSNBC yesterday.

The question is not why 25% of Jewish Americans support Republicans. The question is why any Jews support today's Republican Party. Have they no self-respect?

ICYMI. Today’s GOP is Endangering the U.S.-Israel Relationship, by Hon. Ron Klein, Chair of JDCA, and Steve Sheffey.

Tweets of the Week. Andrea Junker and Hillary Clinton.

Twitter Thread of the Week. Brynn Tannehill.

Obituary of the Week. Renay Mandel Corren.

Video Clip of the Week. Lonely Christmas ad.

White House Content of the Week. Nick Jonas.

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.