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Plan gains to recognize campus harassment of Jewish students as a Civil Rights violation

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)—The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praises U.S. Reps. Michael E. McMahon (D-NY) and Gary C. Peters (D-MI) for urging the Department of Education to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation. 

In a letter sent Monday, August 9,  to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Reps. McMahon and Peters joined three dozen other Members of Congress in supporting the ZOA’s long-held position that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be enforced to protect Jewish students, consistent with policy statements issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights in 2004.  Title VI requires recipients of federal funding to ensure that their programs and activities are free from racial and ethnic discrimination. 

In July 2010, 36 Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary Duncan, urging that Jewish students be protected from harassment and intimidation under Title VI. 

The two congressional letters to Secretary Duncan followed from a well-attended June 2010 congressional briefing convened by U.S Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL), co-chair of the Congressional Taskforce on Anti-Semitism.  Susan Tuchman, Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, and representatives from three other organizations, briefed congressional staffers on anti-Semitic harassment on U.S. college campuses and the federal government’s role in addressing these incidents. 

In addition to Rep. Klein, the July letter to Secretary Duncan was signed by the other co-chairs of the Congressional Taskforce on Anti-Semitism — Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ ) – and by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Shelley Berkley (D-NV); Gary Ackerman (D-NY); Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL); Ted Deutch (D-FL): Keith Ellison (D-MN); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Kendrick Meek (D-FL); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Allyson Schwartz (D-PA); Henry Waxman (D-CA); John Adler (D-NJ); Alan Grayson (D-FL); Kathy Castor (D-FL); Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Rush Holt (D-NJ); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Steve Israel (D-NY); Steve Kagen (D-WI); Doug Lamborn (R-CO); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Jared Polis (D-CO); Michele Bachmann (R-MN); Anthony Weiner (D-NY); Sander Levin (D-MI); Steve Rothman (D-NJ); Buck McKeon (R-CA); John Yarmuth (D-KY); Adam Schiff (D-CA); and Howard L. Berman (D-CA).

Their letter stated:  “We believe that enforcing Title VI to protect Jewish students who, in rare but highly significant situations, face harassment, intimidation or discrimination based on their ancestral or ethnic characteristics – including when it is manifested as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist sentiment that crosses the line into anti-Semitism – would help ensure that we’re preserving the integrity of our higher education system by affording the same protection to all ethnic and racial groups on our college campuses.” 

Endorsing this congressional letter “in its entirety,” Reps. McMahon and Peters said in their letter to Secretary Duncan, “It is critical that our civil rights laws be enforced as broadly as possible to make sure that all students can obtain their education in an environment that is tolerant, respectful, physically and emotionally safe, and conducive to learning.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein praised Reps. McMahon and Peters for calling on the Department of Education to provide Jewish students with the same legal protections that other ethnic and racial groups are already afforded: 

“We know from our work on college campuses that Jewish students have been threatened and physically assaulted.  Some students are even afraid for their physical safety because of the hateful speakers and programs that demonize Jews and Israel.  The ZOA thanks Congressmen McMahon and Peters for joining their colleagues in the House in supporting these students and affirming their legal right to a campus environment free from anti-Semitic hostility and Israel-bashing.”

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Preceding provided by Zionist Organization of America

Two ‘big deals’ for U.S. Jews

April 10, 2010 7 comments

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA (Press Release)–American Jews were treated to two Biden-style “big deals” – one good for the Jews, one not so good.

Most Jews probably cheered President Obama’s words when he signed the historic health-care bill into law: “The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see.”

Yet many of these same Jews were enraged and apprehensive later the same day when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered the White House for what must have been a let’s-have-it-out confrontation with our president.

Welcome to the unwanted netherworld of dual loyalty. Most American Jews feel fortunate to be both, American and Jewish. We love our country and our people, and in the past few weeks two monumental issues reached parallel boiling points. We can love President Obama for leading the drive for health-care reform, and we can be infuriated with our president for his administration’s abrasive reproach of Netanyahu over an irrelevant sideshow.

The vast majority of American Jews do not favor Israel’s interests over America’s interests. They never needed to decide between the two. They usually vote for Democrats or moderate Republicans who press for a progressive agenda while supporting Israel. They had the best of both worlds.

Some Jews vote for conservative candidates who would reduce services for the poor, lower taxes for the wealthy and launch questionable wars like Iraq, while bolstering even the most hawkish Israeli governments. They represent a minority of Jews here. A check of voting patterns shows that 75 to 80 percent of Jews vote for Democratic candidates each presidential election. Why would the majority of Jews favor the invasion of Iraq or tax breaks for the rich if they voted for Gore, Kerry and Obama?

True, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts voted for the Iraq war, but the alternative in 2004 was President Bush. Clearly, Kerry staunchly backs a progressive domestic agenda.

Obama’s 2008 campaign presented Jews with a potential dilemma. Obama’s plans for health care and other issues conformed with most Jewish attitudes, but his view of Israel was at best confusing. These conflicting concerns recently came to a head at the same time.

On Tuesday afternoon, March 23, the president made health-care reform the law of the land when he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Vice President Biden contributed a profanity-laced pronouncement that threatens to go down in history with White House proclamations like “Day of infamy” and “Ask what you can do for your country”: “This is a big (you-know-what) deal.”

Like other humane citizens, most Jews are pleased that more Americans will benefit from affordable health care, including the nation’s estimated 5.1 million Jews.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the subdued and astute congressman whose district covers Malibu, Beverly Hills and other obscenely rich areas, linked Jewish religious beliefs to health care, saying, “The meaning of the seder (at Passover) is that no one should be left behind. It means that everyone should have a seat at the table, that everyone should partake in the afikomen of freedom. On the secular level, that is what the health care bill means to millions of Americans.”

As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman was one of three committee chairs who influenced the shaping and movement of the legislation, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The organized Jewish community could benefit from wealthy donors whose charitable contributions were threatened by a proposed cut in tax deductions; the reduction did not go through. JTA reported that this might mean a windfall for 120 Jewish nursing homes, 145 Jewish family service agencies and 15 to 20 Jewish hospitals supported by the Federation system.

Another big darned deal was created on March 9 when an Israeli minister announced the construction of 1,600 housing units in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. Biden was in Israel when he learned of it and twice publicly condemned the announcement. The vice president considered it a humiliating experience.

This should have been too petty a matter to bother Biden. This was Jerusalem, not the West Bank, which is necessary to create a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu apologized for the timing of the announcement, but on Friday, March 12, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu and spent 43 minutes berating him.

Interestingly, they all converged on Washington, D.C., a week later when both Clinton and Netanyahu addressed the premier pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where Clinton declared that condemning the construction announcement was necessary to maintain “an atmosphere of trust.” Clinton’s statement prompts this pointed question: How does building housing units in a Jewish neighborhood spoil trust?

Netanyahu responded that evening with this memorable statement: “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.” The next day, Netanyahu engaged in tense talks with Obama’s team at the White House where the president made some unspecified demands. The prime minister left Washington without reaching an agreement.

Obama has some understandable concerns because Israeli cooperation could help improve America’s image in the Arab world. Bush’s policies – especially the invasion of Iraq – left Obama with a massive clean-up job of Arab attitudes toward America.

The president needs to understand that in the long run the Israeli/Arab situation will make no practical difference in other Arab nations. Reasonable steps by Israel would contribute to an upgraded perception, but Obama expects Netanyahu to go further.

After all, Netanyahu suspended expansion of West Bank settlements, but that was not enough for Arab leaders. This move emboldened them to demand elimination of construction in East Jerusalem before they would negotiate. Why? They are probably pressuring Israeli leaders to capitulate to a demand that they have yet to justify.

It is a positive step that Obama and Netanyahu attempted to compromise on their approach to the conflict, but they have not yet reached an agreement. Now Obama is reported to consider an American proposal for a peace settlement. Is this intended as a suggestion or a demand?

Quite a crazy making conundrum for moderate to liberal Jews who are tempted to seek an alternative to Obama. Bear in mind that the younger Bush eliminated Saddam Hussein as a counterweight to Iran, which now threatens to annihilate Israel with a nuclear device.

Obama is reported to be well aware that he needs the Jewish vote for his political health. He has a strange way of showing it.

Bruce S. Ticker is a freelance writer in Philadelphia. He can be contacted at Bticker@comcast.net.

Congresswoman Susan Davis Attends Jerusalem Forum on Middle East Issue

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

ATTENDED FORUM—From left Nita Lowey, Ted Kaufman, Joseph         Lieberman, Binyamin Netanyahu, Henry Waxman, Lindsey Graham,
Howard Berman and Susan Davis
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WASHINGTON, D.C  (Press Release)– Congresswoman Susan Davis of San Diego recently attended the 2009 Saban Forum in Israel which brought together leading policymakers from America and Israel to discuss U.S.-Israel relations and the critical issues facing the Middle East.

The U.S delegation also included former President Bill Clinton, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Democratic Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware, and Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey of New York and fellow Democratic Congress members from California Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, and Jane Harman.

The Israeli participants were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Yuval Diskin and Director of Military Intelligence General Amos Yadlin.

“This was an incredible opportunity to engage in a dialogue on issues that are critical to the national security of both the United States and Israel,” said Davis, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  “It is these dialogues that will help lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East.”

The issues discussed ranged from the Iranian threat to Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Part of the three-day conference was a trip to Ramallah on the West Bank for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.  The delegation witnessed the progress being made on the economic and infrastructure developments and improved security in Ramallah.

The conference was sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  Founded in 2004, the center works to promote policy dialogue between Israel and the U.S.

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Preceding provided by Congresswoman Susan Davis

Israel dedicates monument to U.S. 9/11 victims

November 17, 2009 4 comments

JERUSALEM (Press Release)– On Thursday, November 12,  Israel took another step in the country’s long history of solidarity with the United States and global victims of terror as international diplomats, U.S. and Israeli politicians and religious leaders unveiled a monument dedicated to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Commissioned and built by the Jewish National Fund-USA/Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF-USA/KKL), the memorial depicts the World Trade Center and Pentagon through sculpture and landscape architecture.  Designed by award-winning Israeli artist E. Weishoff, a 30-foot high bronze sculpture is composed of a waving American flag transformed into a memorial flame.  It rests on a gray granite base, part of which is from the original Twin Towers.  The sculpture is surrounded by a circular, crater-like plaza and reflection area tiled in stone.  The Jerusalem monument is one of the first major international memorials to 9/11 and the only site outside of New York to recognize the names of every victim of the attack.

The vast plaza which includes the names of those fallen as well as amphitheater-style benches along the interior that provide visitors with space for viewing and reflection was funded by the Bronka Stavsky Rabin Weintraub Trust. “This poignant Living Memorial on behalf of the victims of 9/11 helps demonstrate the shared commitment of two great democracies that battle terrorism – Israel and the United States,” said Carmi Schwartz, nephew of Ms. Stavsky Rabin Weintraub.  “This testament to the solidarity shared by the U.S. and Israel goes beyond lip service to unite these nations and their allies in the global fight against the destructive forces of humanity.”

“My wife died just a few days before 9/11,” related Edward Blank, New York resident and donor of the bronze American flag sculpture, “and then the whole world was sent reeling by the events of that day.  I was looking for a meritorious way to recognize the many feelings I was having, and this memorial was the perfect fit.”

Dignitaries from Israel and around the world attended the dedication ceremony at Arazim Park in Jerusalem, including U.S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham, ambassadors and diplomats of other nations whose citizens fell victim to 9/11, including Canada, Mexico, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, U.S. Congressmen Henry Waxman and Erik Paulsen, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli cabinet minister Benny Begin, families affected by 9/11 and other distinguished guests including well over 100 Americans that made the journey especially for the ceremony.

IDF Brig. General (Ret.)Dov Shefi, whose 34-year-old son Hagay was murdered on 9/11 while addressing a conference of bankers at the Windows of the World restaurant on the 106th Floor of Tower 1, addressed the ceremony.  “Since September 11th, 2001 not only the entire world has changed but the lives of 3000 families have been changed from white to dark-black. We lost our joy and we have never stopped mourning our loved ones,” he said.   “Today’s inauguration ceremony of this important memorial symbolizes the identification of the State of Israel, of J.N.F. and the donors, with the thousands of families of the victims of September 11th throughout the world, with the United States and with the City of New York.”

“Set against the magnificent backdrop of Jerusalem, the Living Memorial will be a moving site from which to mourn the victims of 9/11 as well as consider the thousands of victims of terrorism worldwide,” said Russell F. Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of JNF. “This should be a place for visiting dignitaries – presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors, and citizens of the world – to come together to remember, reflect and heal. More than anything we hope that this Living Memorial will remind us to reaffirm our commitment to tolerance, the unity of mankind and democracy.  “Jerusalem is a battleground of civilization but also a place of hope,” continued Robinson. “The memorial is situated in Jerusalem’s green belt; what better place to show that civilization won?”

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Preceding provided by Jewish National Fund