Posted on August 06, 2015 in Countdown

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Too High a Price

Late last week the media was awash with coverage of the deadly arson attack in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma. Jewish settlers are strongly suspected in the firebombing  given that "revenge" was scrawled in Hebrew on the wall of the torched home, hallmarks of the extremist settler movement's 'price tag' attacks. The 'logic,' if one can call it that, behind the gruesome attack in which a Palestinian toddler was burned alive, was that this was the settlers' response to the Israeli government's dismantlement of two apartment blocks in the settlement of Beit El. Israel approved 300 new homes in Beit El, along with an additional 413 units in East Jerusalem, but none of that was enough. These attacks will continue unabated until something is done to curb the expansion of settlements and the impunity with which settlers are able to savagely attack Palestinians in the West Bank. Everyone, from Israel to the U.S. State Department referred to the attack as 'terrorism' but when will those empty words be turned into action against the underlying context in which the attacks are being carried out? The U.S. has an important role to play in pressuring Israel to curb the flagrant violations of Palestinians' human rights that are carried out daily by the presence and expansion of settlements and the disgusting and frequent acts of violence carried out by settlers against innocent Palestinians.

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The Young, the Dems, and the AIPAC

No one would expect the College Democrats of America (CDA) to be anything less than democratic, right? Well the chaos last week at the annual CDA conference has us worried. CDA President Natasha McKenzie came under serious fire over the weekend – and was impeached shortly thereafter – when several members of the national board penned a letter demanding her resignation for “intimidation, corruption, chaos, and other concerns” over the course of the conference. McKenzie stands accused of threatening a candidate to withdraw, and certifying election results even though most of the delegates abstained because of the drama. Democracy ain’t so pretty after all, huh? McKenzie also decided to present AIPAC an award at the conference (which by the way apparently wasn’t on the schedule or publicized), and has also come under fire for the audacity of awarding a lobbying group that is spending MILLIONS of dollars to defeat President Obama’s Iran deal. It does seems a rather inopportune time to award a group that has the Democratic Party’s leader in its cross hairs. Predictably, the story about the young peoples' arm of the Democratic Party not supporting their Democratic President, was used by some to speculate that the Democratic Party is becoming increasingly hostile to Israel. This is obviously complete nonsense if you do a quick whip count on Congressional votes, a quick standing ovation count on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, or a quick dollar count on military aid the Democratic President has given to Israel over his term. 

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Koch Addiction

GOP presidential candidates assembled last weekend at a fundraising summit hosted by the conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch. The brothers and a confederation of like-minded donors watched as the candidates groveled for the money and support of the powerful Koch network. The candidates took two separate approaches to proving their worth and loyalty to the Koch’s brand of small government conservatism. Some, including Carly Fiorina, sought to increase their bona-fides by attacking Hillary Clinton, continuing to question her use of an email server during her time as Secretary of State. Others courted campaign dollars by heaping praise on the Kochs and their donors for their patriotism and support of Republican efforts to retake a congressional majority. The brothers tested the candidates on a variety of issues, most memorably their grilling of Scott Walker, who scrambled to defend his honor when asked how he could support using taxpayer money for an NBA stadium co-owned by a Clinton supporter. Walker argued that the team in question provides over $6.5 million each season to Wisconsin tax revenue, turning what could have been a major gaffe into a minor hiccup. Notably absent from the summit was Donald Trump, who is using his own personal wealth to finance his campaign. He denounced the attendees as “puppets,” stating “I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers.” While the Koch Network has denied that it will officially endorse any of the candidates, the financial backing of the Kochs is an indication of implicit support that would invite other mega-donors to follow suit. In a race where money means everything, kneeling before the kings of cash is part of the process.

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Detain, Deport, Repeat.

Denying entry to Americans of Palestinian descent is nothing new for Israeli authorities, but lately it appears that Israel is rounding up American travelers at an increasing rate. In separate instances late last month, novelist Susan Abulhawa and language professor George Khoury were each detained at Ben Gurion Airport for extended periods, treated harshly (to say the least) by border security, and then forced to return to the states. They simply wanted to visit the homeland of their relatives and ancestors. But these offensive incidents do not happen to Jewish Americans… or do they? In what must have been a bizarre rush of paranoia, Israeli authorities detained two Black Jewish Americans last month for nearly 48 hours in a holding cell before sending them home as well. And this is not the first such case of American Jews being denied. Last year, Julia Carmel was blocked from entering Israel, presumably because she is an anti-occupation activist. Apparently, one must not only be Jewish, but fit a certain mold of what a Jewish American “looks like” or “thinks like” in order to enter Israel without difficulty. Over the summer vacation season we invite anyone else that has experienced any border harassment to share their story with us.

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Bills, Bill, Bills

Just when we thought we had heard it all – new long-shot legislation proposed on Capitol Hill leaves us scratching our heads in disbelief. Rep. Rohrabacher introduced a bill that would authorize President Obama to detain Iranian officials until the three American prisoners are released by the Iranian government. Critics of the deal have called for any agreement to be tied to the release of Americans in Iran. The Obama Administration has made it evident that while they are working for the release of the prisoners, they believe the Iran Nuclear Agreement was not the appropriate mechanism to address the issue. We have to give some credit to Rep. Rohrabacher for such a creative idea – it’s not just insane, it’s pretty radical to detain government officials to use as leverage. Rep. Babin of Texas proposed another equally shameful, not-going-anywhere bill that would put an immediate halt to allowing refugees into the United States. The radical bill seeks to “give an opportunity to examine potential national security issues” related to entry and resettlement of refugees. With attention given to the expanded resettlement of Syrian Refugees in the United States, it’s appalling to see such a transparent proposal from our elected officials. It is a stark contrast to the efforts of Senate Democrats who called for an increase in the amount of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. We believe the latter of the two is more fitting with the “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses” spirit of America.