Posted on November 13, 2015 in Countdown

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What 'Progressive Except on Palestine' Looks Like

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came back to Washington, DC this week to patch up the destruction he caused while he was lobbying against President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. Since Bibi so forthrightly aligned himself with Republicans against the Democratic Party on his last visit – a little kiss and make up tour was planned to reinstate the once unchallenged bipartisan allegiance to Israel. And boy were there a few too many eager Dems ready to welcome the Prime Minister back into the good graces of the Party this week. Remember the letter Hillary Clinton sent earlier this year to mega donor Haim Saban in which she basically said the BDS movement is anti-Semitic? Well, Clinton wrote another letter of sorts that was published in The Forward a few days ahead of Bibi’s trip this week. Her op-ed was a sweeping, emotional denunciation of President Obama’s handling of Israel, and goes to ridiculous lengths to pledge her allegiance not just to the US-Israel relationship but to the Israeli narrative. It’s actually quite dumbfounding considering that the former Secretary of State knows better – an argument eloquently articulated by a young Palestinian American woman. What’s more is that the leader of the Clinton-aligned universe of Democratic institutions – the Center for American Progress (CAP) – provided a platform for Netanyahu despite internal dissent and external backlash. Progressive groups covering a range of issues went public to say that CAP is undeniably “progressive except on Palestine." Despite assurances from CAP’s President that she would challenge Bibi on areas of disagreement, the Prime Minister was given a full hour to hit all of his favorite talking points and went unchallenged when he lied and lied and lied.  The Clinton-aligned universe ought to pay attention to the very real, very vocal, and now united in opposition movement of genuine progressives who see through the election year pandering and Netanyahu’s lies. We want more from all U.S. politicians and political parties when it comes to Palestine, but progressive political think tanks should be helping us in that fight – not undermining it.


Clearer Talk from Turkey on Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutgolu, fresh off a sweeping and somewhat controversial election victory for his and President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), is ready to step up his country’s involvement in Syria not only diplomatically but in support of air and land campaigns against ISIL. He called the alleged downing of the Russian passenger jet over the Sinai “an attack against all of us.” Davutgolu stressed the need for Assad to leave power, in an apparent correction of President Erdogan’s previously stated position that Assad be phased out in a transitional period, as some Western leaders have also suggested. The prime minister, in a message directed at European leaders, said “I don’t think any refugees will go back.” The Turkish PM’s words serve as a reminder to his European counterparts that until a comprehensive solution is reached the hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing war to Europe will remain in their countries for the foreseeable future. As some previously welcoming countries begin to tighten border controls perhaps more European governments will be motivated to push for the comprehensive resolution the Syrian people so desperately need. The United States should step up as well and advocate very clearly for a comprehensive solution to the conflict.


Action for Immigrants

Nearly a year ago to the day, President Obama announced that he would take executive action to reform immigration policy. In an effort to protect 4.3 million people from deportation, Obama said immigrants will be able to apply for a three-year work permit if they “arrived in the US before 2010… under the age of 16” or “arrived in the US before 2010, and have at least one child who is a US citizen or legal resident.” On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit denied the new reforms, saying “the president had exceeded his authority,” forcing him to appeal to the Supreme Court. The lawsuit was brought forward by Texas and 25 other states that would “have alleged an injury” by incurring “millions of dollars in costs to issue drivers' licenses to those covered by Obama's orders.” However, supporters of Obama’s actions say that the economic benefits of issuing legal work permits would outweigh the costs. The Court ruled that Obama “had exceeded his authority” in initiating these reforms, causing conservative Congressmen, particularly Republican presidential candidates, to criticize the President and explain their own views on immigration. Obama faces opposition in Congress—and now Court decisions—for actions taken because Congress did not act. 


A Misuse of Bipartisanship

Bipartisan work on Capitol Hill is a very rare occurrence in today’s political climate except on one issue. As you likely guessed nothing makes our sometimes divided lawmakers come together like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Just last week, 369 members of Congress, approximately 85% of the chamber, signed a letter to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, blaming the recent wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians on Palestine alone and calling on the Palestinian leadership to ensure that further violence is avoided. Despite a recent Reuters report that found that 69 Palestinians, most of whom were teenagers, have been killed by Israeli forces in the recent violence, the letter focuses only on Palestinian incitement. It represents yet another example of how a bipartisan majority in Congress perceives the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a myopic lens. This refrain of “Palestinian incitement” is merely the latest in a series of deflections. This congressional letter reflects the same failure to understand the realities of the conflict. This isn’t a matter of addressing incitement from either side. There needs to be leadership to reverse the disastrous status quo that has developed over decades for the Palestinian people in which they must live without rights, face arbitrary detention, have their homes destroyed, or suffer the wrath of the IDF or worse—Israeli settlers that have maimed, kidnapped, and murdered with impunity. There is no justification for violence and it should always be condemned, as should Israel’s devastating, sustained occupation of Palestine. 


NSA tapping out, but just for now

A federal judge has ruled in favor of privacy by ordering the National Security Agency to halt the collection of phone records in an anti-surveillance lawsuit. Following leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden on the Agency’s potentially unconstitutional collection of phone records, the Senate responded by voting against the collection of those records. Changes to the NSA program are set to take place on November 29 and they include allowing the NSA to search phone companies’ databases for call records only with a warrant. But, Judge Richard Leon’s ruling has limited impact, his ruling only applies to unique plaintiffs, and not the original disputed suit that helped transform the Patriot Act. More importantly, Leon’s ruling only has a lifespan of two weeks before the NSA program’s federally-mandated changes come into effect….