Posted on May 25, 2018 in Countdown

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DREAMers Countdown: It’s been 261 days since President Trump moved to end DACA. The courts did step in to block the move, but Congress has yet to provide a permanent fix. TWEET THIS

Nope, Criticism of Israel is Still Not Anti-Semitism

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2018 was introduced in Congress this week. And yes, we’ve been down this road before: an almost identical bill was introduced back in 2016, but never became law because of the members of the House of Representatives who love our First Amendment. In short, the bill masquerades as an effort to combat anti-Semitism while actually attempting to shield Israel from criticism on American college and university campuses. If passed, the bill would unconstitutionally hinder legitimate political expression with respect to criticism of one foreign government (Israel) and would do nothing to combat actual hate in our classrooms (here’s our analysis of the bill and the letter we sent to every member of Congress yesterday). Want to do something about it? Here you go.

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Don’t Mess with Students

You know the average college student’s daily routine: roll out of bed five minutes before class, show up to lecture in pajamas, attend five club meetings, eat ice cream for dinner, then sue the Governor. Well, at least that’s the daily routine as of late for many Florida college students. On Tuesday, students at the University of Florida and Florida State University joined the League of Women Voters of Florida to sue Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and strike down a ban on early voting at public buildings on state university campuses. The prohibition took effect years ago when the state denied a request to use UF’s Reitz Union building as an early voting center. There was pushback then; there is pushback now. Ol’ Ricky has a pretty shady record with voting rights, trying in the past to delay restoration of voting rights for former felons, ban remote drop-off sites for mail ballots, and refuse extending voter registration deadlines during Hurricane Matthew (not cool, dude). Scott’s spokesman said this lawsuit is particularly “frivolous,” but something tells us that students in Florida are not ones to back down so easily.

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Going to the ICC for Justice

After decades of relying on the US to deliver justice from Israel’s occupation, the Palestinian leadership is finally looking elsewhere, asking prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel’s crimes, from settlement building in the West Bank to the gunning down of protesters in Gaza. Of course, Israel is not a member of the ICC, so it hopes to avoid accountability by claiming the court lacks jurisdiction to investigate its atrocities. Meanwhile, Israel’s Michael Oren says that the Palestinians committed a “war-like act of aggression” by going to the ICC, saying Israel must strike back. But what if Israel retaliates by occupying Palestine, usurping Palestinian lands, demolishing Palestinian homes, stealing Palestinian water, and killing Palestinian protesters? Oh wait…

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International Religious Freedom (to Discriminate)

In the U.S., we have two competing definitions of religious freedom: one protects individuals from persecution on account of their faith; the other, from prosecution, when individuals discriminate in defense of their faith. When you consider the Muslim Ban, an increase in religious-based hate crimes, and the recent appointment of Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), it seems the latter definition has “trumped” the former. About Perkins and Bauer: both men have led the Family Research Council, an SPLC-designated hate group, and have spent their careers advocating against the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people and religious minorities, including American Muslims. Despite their legacies of anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim activism, Perkins and Bauer will now be charged with defending the universal right to freedom of religion around the world. It is worth questioning whether their intolerant ideologies will undermine the work of USCIRF, seeing as they contradict the ideals of the Commission itself. But then again, our current Ambassador-at-Large to International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, is not that much better on some of these same issues. The former Kansas governor has a disastrous record on LGBTQ rights and championed anti-Muslim legislation. Under the Trump Administration, Perkins and Bauer fit the part.

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Apocalyptic Photo-Op

Know that extremist dream to demolish the Golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and replace it with a Jewish temple? Surely no U.S. official would ever flirt with such madness, right? Well, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was gifted a poster depicting as much, and he was even pictured smiling with the deranged poster. The U.S. embassy is trying to walk-back the photo, claiming the Ambassador was not aware of the image when he was caught smiling with it. But an Israeli news site claimed the Ambassador had “reacted positively” to the poster. So who are we going to believe? That’s an easy one, actually: Surely the guy who called Obama an anti-Semite, who implied Muslims are responsible for Middle East violence by saying,  “It's no less than blasphemous to suggest that any Jew or Christian is against peace," who called J Street “worse than kapos,” and who denies there is an occupation would never do anything insensitive or distasteful, right?

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