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Steve Sheffey's Pro-Israel Political Update

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

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January 7, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • It's an election year. Democracy and abortion are on the ballot in every state. The Republican base is fine with authoritarianism as long as they are the short-term beneficiaries. The GOP has become the political home of antisemitism and the Democratic Party continues to be better on Israel.

  • It’s been three months since Hamas savagely murdered, raped, and tortured 1,200 people, including babies, children, and the elderly. Hamas still holds roughly 136 men, women, and children hostage, dead and alive. We cannot forget them and we must bring them home now. Until then, no ceasefire.

  • Republicans have been blocking President Biden's $14.3 billion request for emergency aid for Israel for 11 weeks. This after Republicans voted to cut aid to Israel by 30% in September.

  • Three years ago yesterday, Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection against the United States, and hours later, 147 Republicans voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Jews and other minorities don't fare well under fascism. Republicans have done more than tell us what they'll do: They've shown us.

Read to the end for corrections, what you may have missed last week, fun stuff, and our upcoming event with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

You're welcome to read for free, but if you want to chip in to help defray the cost of the newsletter, click here to pay by credit card or PayPal. Just fill in the amount of your choice. If you see something that says "Save your info and create a PayPal account," click the button to the right and it will go away. You don't need a PayPal accountOr you can Venmo @Steven-Sheffey (last four phone digits are 9479). You can send a check too. But no crypto or gold bars.

Hi Steve,

It’s Election Year 2024. It’s not exaggerating to say that a Trump victory could end American democracy as we know it. Republican control of the House, Senate, and the White House would result in a federal ban on abortion, no matter how rich you are or how Democratic your state is. The Republican Party is the political home of antisemitism and Democrats are better on Israel. The polls prove that for the Republican base, Hitlerian rhetoric and authoritarianism are features, not bugs.

In this week's must-read, Brynn Tannehill writes that "an unbreakable plurality of the GOP explicitly wants fascism. Another 29 percent are OK with it as long as it doesn’t directly affect them ... And of the remaining 28 percent who don’t like it, Trump’s approval ratings within the GOP as president suggest that most who don’t like what he is saying will pull the lever for him anyway in November 2024."

They can't be persuaded. It's up to us to vote and encourage others who share our values to vote.

It’s been three months since Hamas savagely murdered, raped, and tortured 1,200 people, including babies, children, and the elderly. Over 3,000 people were wounded. More Jews were murdered on October 7, 2023, than on any day since the Holocaust. Hamas took 240 hostages, denied them medical treatment, and badly mistreated and in some cases tortured them, including pinning a boiling piece of metal to the legs of children, drugging children, and forcing children at gunpoint to watch videos of Hamas's October 7 atrocities. These threads from Alex Plitsas and Tamara Zieve about the videos are hard but vital reading.

Thanks to President Biden’s diplomatic efforts and Israel’s military pressure, dozens of hostages are now free, but Hamas still holds roughly 136 men, women, and children hostage, dead and alive. We cannot forget them. We must bring them home. For those alive, every minute matters. Hamas’s sexual violence is a matter of fact. We can only imagine what these hostages are enduring day after day.

Hamas broke the ceasefire that was in effect on October 6, and in December they ended what had been a seven-day humanitarian pause by refusing to continue to release hostages as agreed upon. No country would permit a terrorist organization that committed such barbaric actions to exist armed and dangerous on its border. Israel will downshift its operations in the coming weeks but will continue military pressure as leverage to gain release of more hostages. 

An ideology cannot be defeated militarily. Donald Trump’s Nazi-style rhetoric, and its failure to disqualify him in the eyes of Republican voters, is proof, 80 years after World War II.

But as National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said on January 3, “we don’t believe that military attacks alone are going to eradicate an ideology. And it’s not likely that you’re going to get rid of every single Hamas fighter [but what Israel] absolutely can do is eradicate the threat that Hamas poses to the Israeli people. And you can do that by going after their leadership, you can do that by going after their infrastructure, you can do that by going after their resource. And we showed that with respect to ISIS and al Qaeda; it can be done. ISIS and al Qaeda still exist, but they are nowhere near the kind of threats that they once posed. So, it can be done militarily.”

Republicans have been blocking aid to Israel for 11 weeks. On October 20, 2023, President Biden proposed an emergency aid package to our allies that included $14.3 billion for Israel--nearly four times the amount of aid we give Israel annually. Contrary to what Nikki Haley thinks, Israel needs America.

When Democrats controlled the House and Biden requested $1 billion in emergency aid for Iron Dome in 2021, it took Democrats two days to pass it (Republicans criticized them for taking so long--and then it stalled for six months in the Senate because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) filibustered it).

House Republicans never even called Biden's package for a vote. Instead, they waited until November and then stripped out the aid to allies other than Israel (including Ukraine) and added provisions that would cut funding to the IRS and increase the deficit, knowing that such a bill would never pass the Senate. This after Republicans voted to cut funding to Israel by 30% in September.

The Senate GOP blocked Biden's emergency aid request on December 6 because it did not include unrelated border security measures. Whatever the GOP is, it's not "pro-Israel." Not while it insists on adding poison pills on domestic policy to what should be an uncontroversial but essential emergency foreign aid package.

Three years ago yesterday, Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection against the United States government. Hours later, 147 Republicans supported the insurrection by voting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Any organization that supports any of these Republicans is endorsing insurrection regardless of why they are supporting these Republicans, and if you support such organizations, you are too, regardless of why you support them.

No matter what your issues are, no matter which side of the political spectrum you're on, if democracy is not your litmus test, you need to question your instincts for self-preservation.

President Biden said on Friday that "Trump’s mob wasn’t a peaceful protest. It was a violent assault. They were insurrectionists, not patriots. They weren’t there to uphold the Constitution; they were there to destroy the Constitution ... You can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American. "

Jews and other minorities do not fare well under fascism. But nearly half the country continues to support Donald Trump. Maybe they want to stick it to the libs. Maybe they don’t care about democracy as long as their day-to-day lives aren’t affected–yet. 

No single issue is more important than democracy, and you have a single issue and its definition does not include democracy, then you need to rethink that issue. Democracy is harder to get back than it is to keep. Will we keep ours? That's up to us. We'll know in ten months.

Until then, don't give up hope. We've faced tough times before. E.B. White said it best in 1973, in response to someone, like us, concerned about what seemed to be a bleak future:

"As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

"Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

"Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day."

Corrections. I'm entitled to my own opinions but not to my own facts, so I appreciate it when readers bring errors to my attention. No one brought any mistakes to my attention last week, so it looks like last week's newsletter was perfect.

In Case You Missed It:

  • James Bouie: If Trump is not an insurrectionist, what is he? The Constitution clearly prevents him from running in 2024. Ignoring the Constitution and leaving it to the voters is like letting someone who is under 35 run for president or letting Obama run for a third time (the voters would probably like that). Trump is not eligible to run.

  • Michelle Goldberg’s December 7 column on Claudine Gay and the other college presidents remains one of the best on the subject.

  • South Africa accused Israel of genocide in a December 29 filing with the International Court of Justice. Israel rejected the allegation, as did the Biden administration, which called it “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” The key to establishing a claim of genocide, by definition, is establishing intent, which is a high bar. South Africa is using rhetoric from some in Israel's government to establish intent. The U.S. (but not Netanyahu) has condemned this rhetoric. Haaretz argues that the most effective way for Israel to "undermine the filing is to remove from the government those who incite war crimes." Israel is not committing genocide, but words have consequences.

Tweet of the Week. Ami Dar.

Twitter Thread of the Week. David Roberts.

Nikki Haley Mockery of the Week. Mark Jacob.

Video Clip of the Week. The ad that might turn it around for Ron DeSantis.

Upcoming Event. Please Join Dana Gordon, Steve Sheffey, Jill Zipin, and

Democratic Jewish Outreach PA PAC for a Zoom fundraiser for Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at 4:30 PM ET. RSVP here to get the Zoom link. This will be a close race and holding this seat is key to holding the Democratic Senate majority.

For those new to this newsletter. This is the newsletter even Republicans have to read and the original home of the viral and beloved 2022 and 2023 Top Ten Signs You're At a Republican Seder. If someone forwarded this to you, why not subscribe and get it in your inbox every Sunday? Just click here--it's free.

I periodically update my Medium posts on why Democrats are better than Republicans on Israel and antisemitism and on why the Antisemitism Awareness Act and the IHRA definition are the wrong solutions to real problems. You can read my most recent effort to define "pro-Israel" here (it's a work in progress, as am I).

I hope you enjoyed today's newsletter. Donations are welcome (this takes time to write and costs money to send). If you'd like to chip in, click here and fill in the amount of your choice. If you see something that says "Save your info and create a PayPal account," click the button to the right and it will go away. You don't need a PayPal account. Or you can Venmo @Steven-Sheffey (last four phone digits are 9479). You can send a check too. But no crypto or gold bars.

The Fine Print: This newsletter usually drops on Sunday mornings. Unless stated otherwise, the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any candidates or organizations I support or am associated with. I value intellectual honesty over intellectual consistency, and every sentence should be read as if it began with the words "This is what I think today is most likely to be correct and I'm willing to be proven wrong, but..." Read views opposed to mine and make up your own mind. A link to an article doesn't mean I agree with everything its author has ever said or even that I agree with everything in the article; it means that the article supports or elaborates on the point I was making. I read and encourage replies to my newsletters but I don't always have time to acknowledge them or engage in one-on-one discussion. I'm happy to read anything, but please don't expect me to watch videos or listen to podcasts of any length--send me a transcript if it's that important (it's not you--it's the dozens of other people who want me to watch or listen to "just this one"). Don't expect a reply if your message is uncivil or if it's clear from your message that you only read the bullet points or failed to click on the relevant links. If you share an excerpt from this newsletter please share the link to the newsletter (near the top of the newsletter). My newsletter, my rules.

Dedicated to my daughters: Ariel Sheffey, Ayelet Sheffey, and Orli Sheffey z''l. Copyright 2024 Steve Sheffey. All rights reserved.

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