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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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July 2, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Israel's president supports President Biden's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

  • Kenneth Stern--the lead drafter of the IHRA definition--praised the White House for not building its strategy around the IHRA definition.

  • The Republican Party is the political home of antisemitism in America. No wonder just-released polling shows that Jewish voters trust Democrats more than Republicans by more than 2-1 to fight antisemitism and support Joe Biden by 50 percentage points over Donald Trump.

  • The State Department said that rumors about a nuclear deal, interim or otherwise, are false and misleading.

  • Last week's 6-3 rulings leave no doubt that we either have unpack the Supreme Court by expanding the Supreme Court or change the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and create a 13-judge multi-circuit panel to hear cases where the United States or a federal agency is a party.

  • On July 4, 2022, seven people were murdered at the Highland Park, Illinois, Fourth of July parade and more than 40 people were wounded by bullets and shrapnel, all fired by a lone gunman with an assault weapon. We need a national ban on assault weapons.

Read to the end for corrections, what you may have missed last week (including from the Supreme Court), fun stuff, and an in-person event in Highland Park and on Zoom with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), candidate for U.S. Senate.

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. 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.

Hi Steve,

July 4 comes on the heels of three U.S. Supreme Court decisions that, combined with last year's Dobbs decision, prove that this Supreme Court does read the Constitution--the original version that privileged white males above everyone else and does not guarantee the rights that have evolved over centuries of caselaw and constitutional amendments. Our laws should enshrine our best ideals and serve as tools for bettering society. This Supreme Court wants to drag us down to the level of Donald Trump (who, not coincidentally, appointed three of the six justices in the majority last week).

Hillary Clinton warned us this would happen. How many times were we told oh, that's just talk, they won't really do all those things Democrats say they'll do? Elections matter. The best way to make this July 4 meaningful is to eat as many hot dogs as you can make July 4 the day you start actively participating in the democracy we are celebrating by participating in the electoral process. Stop pretending that both parties are the same and stop treating bipartisanship and nonpartisanship as virtues. Elections are partisan by nature and design, and the right to hold free and fair elections is what we are celebrating on Tuesday.

Israel's president backs Biden's plan. In a private letter to U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt, Israeli president Isaac Herzog called President Biden's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism "a historic moment deserving of recognition and gratitude" while expressing a “profound appreciation” for both the strategic approach and the body of work behind it. “The formidable language of the report contains a sound strategy, well-defined pillars and concrete, viable goals that will help create more tolerant and open societies,” Herzog wrote.

In his June 9, 2023 letter to the United Nations urging the UN not to adopt the

the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism (the IHRA definition), Kenneth Stern--the lead drafter of the IHRA definition--praised the White House for not building its strategy around the IHRA definition in the letter's introduction to his examination of the IHRA definition's flaws and dangers.

Stern wrote that "despite the insistence [by some organizations] on IHRA as a veritable Swiss Army Knife for tackling antisemitism, it was mentioned just once in the [White House] strategy. It wasn’t even the only definition mentioned...

"The White House described antisemitism in words different from IHRA, didn’t mention the examples which are the heart of IHRA, interestingly used the past tense 'has embraced' [the IHRA definition] when it could have said, explicitly, that it was using it to define the strategy going forward, and mentioned not only the NEXUS definition but 'other such efforts,' with the active verbs 'welcomes and appreciates.' The U.S. government refused to be drawn into the definitional wars, and instead identified specific actions to confront antisemitism." This is the plan that Israel's president praised effusively.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) led a letter urging the UN to adopt a strategy similar to President Biden's strategy to fight antisemitism.

The Republican Party is the political home of antisemitism in America. Chauncey DeVega, noting that Donald Trump "railed against special counsel Jack Smith with racist and antisemitic tropes and stereotypes" and that "Trump's fundraising emails and other communications are also filled with antisemitic themes and threats that mirror the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other racist and white supremacist hate tracts," writes that "Donald Trump and other leading Republicans have associated with and given other aid and comfort to neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other antisemites."

For those keeping score at home, Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. The GOP nominated Trump for president in 2016 and 2020. Trump is the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination. The leader of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, is focused on fighting, not emboldening, antisemitism. But yeah, tell me about "both sides." Our GOP friends will try to change the subject but don't take the bait.

Jewish Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans to fight antisemitism. I wonder why. But what do Jews know? They are just the victims of antisemitism. According to polling released on Monday by the Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI), "widely considered the most consistent benchmark that gauges the feelings of Jewish-American voters," Jewish voters trust Democrats (57%) more than Republicans (22%) to fight antisemitism.

The poll, conducted between June 4 and June 11, found that Democrats are far more trusted than Republicans on all major issues and that Biden leads Trump 72%-22% in a presidential match-up. Trump is viewed unfavorably by 80% of Jewish voters, with Ron DeSantis (76% unfavorable), Kevin McCarthy (68% unfavorable), and the Republican Party (73% unfavorable) close behind. As is the case every two years, 2024 will not be the year Jews leave the Democratic Party. As one pollster quipped, the only problem Democrats have with Jewish voters is that there are not enough of them.

Speaking of polls, a Pew survey released on June 27 found that the United States and President Biden are more popular in Israel than almost anywhere else.

What is--and is not--going on with Iran? Returning to their unsuccessful 2015 playbook, Republicans are using their tried and true tactic of making stuff up, this time to poison a potential informal agreement to de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Since the U.S. and Iran have not reached any agreement or understanding, and if one was being negotiated the administration would not yet be able to disclose any details, Republicans are free to assume the worst about what they think might be in their imaginary agreement without fear of contradiction.

The State Department said on June 28 that "rumors about a nuclear deal, interim or otherwise, are false and misleading. And we’ll continue to remain focused on constraining Iran’s destabilizing behavior through diplomatic pressure, close coordination with our allies and partners, and de-escalation steps in the region as well...The Biden administration has been clear that we are prepared to take action to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon."

Laura Rozen reports that Secretary of State Antony Blinken separately said on June 28 that “there is no agreement in the offing, even as we continue to be willing to explore diplomatic paths.”

But if those diplomatic paths lead to a de-escalation of tensions via an informal agreement or understanding that pushes Iran further from nuclear weapons, we should welcome that result.

The U.S. Supreme Court is trampling on our rights instead of protecting them. Maybe someone should buy the Republican majority a legal dictionary so that they could look up "stare decisis." I doubt that the Republican justices would turn down a gift.

Last week, the Court ignored precedent and gutted affirmative action programs based on race. But don't worry--preferences for legacies, donors, employee families, and special recommendations are still allowed. The Court ignored precedent and allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBTQI+ Americans. And to cap off a week of malfeasance, the Court struck down Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan, blocking debt relief for millions of borrowers.

President Biden quickly responded to the affirmative action, student debt, and LGBTQI+ decisions. Later on Friday, Biden announced new actions to provide debt relief and support for student loan borrowers.

Ron Kampeas noted that this language by Gorsuch in the web designer v. LGBTQI+ case spells trouble for anti-BDS laws. “The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands,” Gorsuch wrote. But this Court does not worry about precedent or consistency, so don't get your hopes up.

The foundational legal principle undergirding these decisions was "we just feel like it." This Supreme Court is a corrupt court with little respect for legal norms, packed with justices appointed under questionable circumstances who are destroying respect for our judicial branch. The solution is to unpack the Supreme Court by expanding it or, as Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) recommends, changing the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and creating a 13-judge multi-circuit panel to hear cases where the United States or a federal agency is a party.

July 4 will be hard in Highland Park, Illinois. On July 4, 2022, seven people were murdered at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade and more than 40 people were wounded by bullets and shrapnel, all fired by a lone gunman with an assault weapon. I lived in Highland Park for more than 25 years and supported Highland Park's assault weapons ban in 2013.

But city and state assault weapons bans are insufficient. We need a national ban on assault weapons and much more. So far in 2023, we've experienced at least 332 mass shootings and 21,038 gun violence deaths. Republican control of the House means zero chance for meaningful gun legislation. If you want to save lives, work to elect a Democratic House and at least 51 Democratic senators who support gun legislation and abolishing the filibuster. I won't say that if you vote Republican you have blood on your hands because some might consider that offensive. I will say that if you vote Republican you are guaranteeing that Congress will never pass meaningful gun legislation. I'll leave it to you to connect the dots.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced a resolution remembering the lives lost and honoring the survivors one year after the July 4 shooting in Highland Park. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the companion resolution in the Senate.


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:

  • Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), joined by 18 of his colleagues, urged the administration to ensure equal treatment of all U.S. citizens, irrespective of ethnicity, national origin, and religion, within the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as the administration considers Israel’s candidacy to join the program. The VWP allows the citizens and nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business up to 90 days with no visa, while allowing Americans reciprocal privileges when traveling to countries in the VWP. I would love for Israel to be part of the VWP, and Israel can be part of the VWP if it first meets the requirements that other countries in the program are required to meet. This letter is nothing but common sense. Ben Samuels has more details and reports that the Biden administration has a September 30 deadline before the clock resets on Israel’s efforts to enter the VWP.

Word of the Week. Bidenomics.

Tweets of the Week. Jeremy Slevin (and the thread he commented on) and Learning the alphabet with Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Twitter Thread of the Week. Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL).

Video Clip of the Week. From the Big Lebowski. Never gets old.

Upcoming Event. Politics with Dana and Steve was the first Jewish group in the Chicago area to back Elissa Slotkin when she initially ran for Congress in Michigan after working for the CIA as a Middle East analyst, serving three tours in Iraq, and holding defense and intelligence positions under President Bush and President Obama. Other groups said "no" or "maybe later" or "we're not sure if she's viable." But we knew she would never be viable unless someone gave her a chance. She beat the odds, she won, and now she is running for the U.S. Senate.

Join Dana Gordon, Steve Sheffey, and our amazing co-chairs for an in-person and on Zoom event with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) in support of her Senate campaign in Highland Park, Illinois, on Monday, July 24 at 6:00 pm CTYou must RSVP to attend. This Senate race will be competitive, expensive, and critical to our efforts to hold the Senate. Early money is important because it allows Elissa’s team to hire staff, develop strategy, and buy advertising at discounted rates.

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.

My most popular Times of Israel posts are How Not To Define Antisemitism and Pro-Israel Or Pro-Bibi? I periodically update my Medium posts on why Democrats are better than Republicans on Israel and antisemitism. You can read my most recent effort to define "pro-Israel" here (it's a work in progress, as am I).

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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 of any length--send me a transcript if it's that important. 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 2023 Steve Sheffey. All rights reserved.