Posted on March 23, 2017 in Countdown

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If Dershowitz is Leaving the Party, He's Arriving at Mar-a-Lago

We know that Alan Dershowitz is often on television decidedly arguing against justice, but this week we are left scratching our heads wondering what in the world he's doing. Just last month the Democratic Party was up in arms about the potential of losing Alan Dershowitz's vote, but this month the lawyer is advising the Democrats arch-nemesis President Trump who is apparently in an open competition to woo Dershowitz into voting for his reelection in 2020. Dershowitz's sparkling TV personality probably appeals to our reality-tv-star-in-chief, particularly when the lawyer gave President Trump rare positive press when he made an argument in defense of Trump's Muslim Ban 2.0. Next thing we knew, Dershowitz was down in Mar-a-Lago chit-chatting with the President on a whole array of topics, not surprisingly including Israel policy. It's an unusual, but not ridiculous move for someone like Dershowitz who has long propagated some of the most anti-Palestinian policies. And it's also not unusual for President Trump to attract a cast of ardent pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian, pro-fear-mongering political advisors into his orbit. It's no less alarming to all of us who support peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis to see the White House grow its cast of "insiders" who seemingly have no balance, no awareness of U.S. interests, no care for U.S. values of justice and freedom, and no sense of how negotiations can be successful. With friends and ends like these, Dershowitz and Trump might just be a good, but terrifying, match. We'll be watching.

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White House Welcomes (More) Fringe Bigotry

This week in the (non-winter) White House hate watch, notorious Islamophobe and President of a hate group Brigitte Gabriel was welcomed (but not invited, reportedly) to the White House to discuss her group's anti-Muslim agenda with administration officials. Gabriel has not been shy about bragging on her connection to the Trump campaign and now to the White House - likely through the now former NSA chief Michael Flynn who serves on the ACT! board - but this time Gabriel's boasting has drawn a whole lot of scrutiny and caused a bit of a stir for the administration. Things got weird when the White House at first refused to confirm that she was even invited, despite Facebook and Twitter photos she posted showing her inside the White House going over papers (likely hateful) with White House staffer Paul Teller (who has his own history). It's a little strange that a White House pretty darn comfortable with anti-Muslim activists would balk at Gabriel's presence. Nonetheless, it's absolutely outrageous that someone who so publicly propagates hate has any access at all to serious policymakers let alone to the office of the President of the United States. But again, how can we be surprised when the Trump White House gave us the Muslim ban—twice so far? The access and influence of Gabriel or her ideas in the White House is just one more reason to fight with all we've got to protect Arab Americans and American Muslims. That takes legal challenges and it takes organizing. Join with us, here's how.

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Congress Screens Hate Group's Hate-Film

The White House isn't the only venue for bigotry these days. Congress played host this week to a congressional screening of a film that was produced and promoted by another known hate group, the Clarion Project. We're not sure why any member of Congress would want to give a venue to a group with a biased film pushing biased, discriminatory, anti-Muslim ideas. But indeed there were a small number of Congressmen who put their name on this craziness, and AAI let all of them know we're not happy and why. Lest we forget that U.S. taxpayer dollars fund Congress and all of it's activities, including this film fest of hate. It’s ironic that in the context of such a congressional briefing and the current environment here that Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-2) had this to say: “I will tell you that unless those that are capable stand between the innocent and the malevolent, then humanity is lost…. In the final analysis, this whole battle, this whole thing, is about this foundational concept that spawned America, that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all of us are created.” Members Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1) also spoke endorsing the gathering—and with thoughtful remarks from what we heard. So why would members of Congress who declaratively side with equality for all associate themselves with a well-known hate group? It it not right or proper for members of Congress to allow groups like the Clarion Project to normalize their hate by giving them the credibility of Congress. We all deserve - and need - better. 

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Trump's 68-Nation Plan to Defeat ISIS is Neither Secret nor New

Despite nearly two years of promising to reveal a secret plan to "knock the hell out of ISIS," the Trump Administration seems bound and determined to take their time crafting a military plan (rather than unveiling it) and equally determined to do it in full view of the entire world. Sacrificing the element of surprise, Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Mattis welcomed leaders from 68 nations to Washington, D.C. this week to hammer out a counter-ISIS strategy. Upon arrival, our counter-ISIS coalition seems to be utterly confused about what the U.S. vision/strategy is, exactly, and their biggest hope for this world summit is to get some hints about what it will entail. Secretary Tillerson apparently thinks he can answer that question with a grade school comeback trying to shift blame to the under-performing nations in the coalition, and not by talking specifics. It's a little less than inspiring to call 68 nations to D.C. to keep the secret plan as opaque as possible and then blame your partners for not being supportive enough of the U.S.-led effort. The one concrete detail that has so far been squeezed out of Sec. Tillerson - on top of his generalities that suggest the Obama strategy will stay in place - was that the Trump Admin is not backing away from its prioritization of creating "interim zones of stability" for refugees to use. No word on how, when, or to what end. Maybe that's the secret?

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Occupation Overlords: Both Here & There

The U.S. and it's special ally Israel have always been very good at sharing "best worst practices" on a number of scores. Look at the TSA Spot program that was modeled off Israel's airport screening procedures or just internalize the fact that many police departments in the U.S. train with the Israeli military. But the shared hatred of the BDS movement and apparent love of travel bans have brought Israel and the U.S. even closer this week. Israel recently passed a law banning the entrance of foreigners who publicly support BDS into their county. It's no #MuslimBan, but it is clearly a ban on freedom of speech and there's no concept of how the government is even going to make this law work in practice. Despite a strong reaction from U.S. civil society, one Israeli lawmaker is looking to take the Israeli ban on foreigners even further by creating a database of all BDS activists in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Our brave State Department only whimpered a response that shyly acknowledged the U.S.'s "value" of freedom of expression. We will take a whimper since it's not like the U.S. hasn't tried to ban BDS and create blacklists of BDS supporters in its own legislative bodies. In fact, 16 states have passed laws that attack BDS and its supporters, many of which call for the creation of a blacklist of known proponents. The joint U.S.-Israel effort to snuff out BDS - which, at least in America, is a constitutionally protected form of political speech - is pulling no punches. It's just the latest in the democracy poison that the occupation has bred in both Israeli and American politics.