Posted on February 22, 2019 in Countdown

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Rhetoric has consequences

This week, we learned that a Coast Guard lieutenant and self-styled “white nationalist” had stockpiled a cache of weapons and compiled a hitlist of prominent politicians and journalists. His apparent intent: “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.” This is a terrifying and disturbing too-real instance where we are seeing in real time the violent consequences of the Trump Administration’s failure to sufficiently combat the threats posed by white supremacist groups. Federal prosecutors have labeled him a “domestic terrorist,” and one he appears. As this case transpires, anticipate calls for new authorities and resources to investigate and prosecute under this label. But watch out, as the history of U.S. counterterrorism suggests that such enhancements will not be used against people like this guy, but the very Americans he was targeting.

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Too far, even for the zealots

From shooting unarmed protesters to demolishing Palestinian homes, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained zealous support for his policies from “pro-Israel” quarters, no matter how horrific. But it looks like Bibi has finally been able to locate the depths to which these groups are willing to sink, because he has finally gone too far for them. He has invited the extremist Otzma Yehudit to join his coalition. What’s Otzma Yehudit? That’s the political party formed by followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who proposed revoking the citizenship of non-Jewish Israelis, and the expulsion of all Palestinians from Jerusalem. Kahane was one of the founders of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), identified by the FBI as a terrorist organization back in 1985, and the group likely responsible for the murder of Arab American activist Alex Odeh. Another follower of Kahane murdered 29 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque. So now, even the very groups that smear US politicians who criticize Israel find Bibi’s overtures to Otzma Yehudit indefensible, and “pro-Israel” hacks are giving themselves a pat on the back for daring to speak out against Israel’s most rabid fanatics. But this is low-hanging fruit, guys. People of principle would choose to criticize all discrimination and violence against Palestinians, which spreads far beyond Otzma Yehudit and into mainstream Israeli governments that have long been in power.

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The real headline on hate crime? Underreporting.

While the media freaks out over the Jussie Smollett case, comparatively scant attention has been afforded to arguably more pressing concerns. Last week in Indianapolis, a man was shot dead in an apparent xenophobic, anti-Muslim hate crime that was initially reported as an incident of road rage. Indiana does not have a hate crime statute, and despite a groundswell of legislative advocacy, recent action in the state senate suggests there is yet more work to be done. Our Executive Director Maya Berry called it: "A high-profile case riddled with controversy is the exception. The more common problem, and one that should demand the attention of law enforcement, more headlines and should be the lead in our never-ending social media feeds, is the undisputed problem of underreporting of hate crimes."

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Mulling Mueller

If you have any exposure to mainstream news, you’ve probably heard (or rather, haven’t stopped hearing) by now that the highly anticipated report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to be completed any day now. Most reports suggest that the completion of the report will precede Rod Rosenstein’s departure from DOJ. But what will it say? Who will it implicate? Will there be consequences? These are just some of the crucial questions swirling in the mediascape ahead of the report’s release. Perhaps the subject of the most speculation is the question, who gets to read it? Will the public even be able to access it? AG William Barr has suggested that the office will simultaneously release separate classified and unclassified versions. We’re hanging cliffside waiting for answers too, but we are also left wondering about a more pernicious hypothetical: in a landscape as polarized as the current one, will the report be regarded as the thoughtful work of government officers committed to serving the Constitution, or will the dangerous soapboxing of the administration further obfuscate fact vs. fiction?

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Palestinians May Have Their Day in Court... In D.C.

Earlier this week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit allowed a 2016 lawsuit by 18 Palestinians and Palestinian Americans to move forward. In the dispute, a group of individuals and companies, including Sheldon Adelson and two Israeli banks, are accused of conspiring to expel non-Jews from the West Bank, a claimed violation of US and international law. The Court of Appeals ruled that the question as to whether genocide is occurring in the West Bank can be decided by the courts, and that there are international legal standards for genocide and war crimes. The 3-0 panel decision signals that the merits of the case may be argued in federal court. But more hurdles remain: one of the underlying statutory bases for the suit, the Alien Tort Statute, was severely constrained by the Supreme Court last year in Jesner v. Arab Bank, a 5-4 decision. Nonetheless, this marks an important opportunity to demonstrate the ongoing treatment of Palestinians, and a creative attempt to hold accountable those who facilitate, and profit from, such injustice.