Posted on December 15, 2017 in Countdown

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Bigotry Dealt Another Blow

A unicorn, an intelligent alien on Mars, and a Democratic US Senator in Alabama -- Can you guess which of these three is real? Nope, you guessed wrong, it’s actually the Democratic Senator from Alabama. But believe it or not, the story isn’t about Alabama electing a Democratic senator for the first time in 25 years, but about the fact that bigotry was dealt yet another blow on Tuesday, when accused sexual predator and proven raging bigot Roy Moore lost the election, despite an endorsement from Donald Trump himself. But unlike the November victories for diversity and inclusion, the loser in this case is having a hard time letting go. Was that too cryptic? Let’s rephrase: Roy Moore refuses to concede the race, and has backed that refusal up with a apocalyptic rambling about America’s future (don’t worry, Moore, we’ll manage without you in the Senate). Republican and Democratic candidates would do well to pay attention to this emerging trend in US politics.


Jerusalem Shenanigans

For decades, US presidents have signed waivers to ignore a silly law passed by Congress that requires the US to recognize an “undivided” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to move the US embassy there. But unlike presidents who abandon provocative campaign posturing and become responsible leaders once they’re in office, Trump became the first US president in office to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin the process of moving the embassy there. But in a pathetic attempt to have it both ways, Trump also signed the waiver that allows him to ignore the congressional order. He was warned this recognition would escalate tensions and possibly violence, and sure enough, people around the world protested, and the Israel cracked down on Palestinian protesters, causing injury and death. Trump insists that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was mere acknowledgment of reality. But guess what: East Jerusalem is Palestinian land that was illegally annexed by Israel, and the only reason reality doesn’t have East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital is because Israel is preventing this from happening at the point of a gun, in violation of international law and to the condemnation of every major human rights organization. But now that the US has disqualified itself as a mediator of talks by becoming an active participant in Israel’s assault on Palestinian rights, where do we go from here?


How Are those Nominees Coming?

We all know Trump has made some terrible appointments to key government positions. Unlike the many that have sailed through, this week was a good one for those who are hoping qualified candidates and saneness should prevail. Three nominees seemed to have been stopped or delayed this week, including district court nominees for Alabama and Texas, respectively Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer, and nominee to head the civil rights division at the Department of Education Kenneth Marcus. For the federal bench nominees, let’s just say people had their reservations, including the American Bar Association, which handed Talley a unanimous “not qualified” rating, given that the 36-year-old has never tried a case. Oh, not to mention his bigoted views about Muslims and that he committed himself “financially, politically, and intellectually” to the NRA in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, which happened five years ago this week. And Mateer? He’s no better, seeing as he called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan” and supports conversion therapy. Yep, that’s a lot but because we know that Marcus has made a career out of trying to silence pro-Palestinian justice advocacy on campuses, and because he genuinely holds disturbing views on other civil rights issues, we focused on Marcus. We just didn’t think it cool that an opponent of civil rights should head a civil rights office, especially one he will use to deny the rights of others. So, in addition to trying to change the definition of anti-Semitism on college campuses to include criticism of Israel, Marcus’ track record is really something. To share, we made a video about him speaking before at an anti-LGBTQ hate group’s conference on Capitol Hill in opposition to including the LGBTQ Community in hate crime protections and so much more. We also sent a letter to the senate committee opposing his nomination, and encouraged others to do the same. While Marcus’ fate is not clear, he did not pass the committee on Wednesday as his name was pulled from consideration for this particular markup. So, if you’re keeping score, Talley and Mateer out, Marcus out for now.  While we stay on top of all this, we can’t help but seriously wonder: who picked these guys? Oh, right.


What America and the Middle East Think

A couple of new polls of note: The first deals with public opinion in America, and we’re happy to report that for the first time in many years, American public opinion of Arab Americans and American Muslims has actually become more positive. As crazy at sounds, it’s true! The Trump effect may have increased hate-crimes towards our communities, but they’ve also created a counter-current opposing bigotry (you can watch our full panel discussion on the poll results, hosted at the El-Hibri Foundation and featuring Jim Zogby and Maya Berry of AAI, Sabrina Saddiqui of the Guardian, and Joyce Karam of Al-Hayat,  here). The second poll was about public opinion in the Middle East, and boy were the results interesting, from regional support for separation of religion from politics, to Palestinian abandonment of the 2-state solution for the first time, after 25 years of failed efforts that only entrenched Israel’s occupation.  The results of this poll were discussed in a panel at the Middle East Institute, and also featured our Jim Zogby, in addition to Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council, and Gönül Tol and Paul Salem of MEI. You can watch that full panel discussion here.


Beneath the Office of President

When you think of stupid, reckless tweets, you may also think of Donald Trump, especially after the recent retweets of those fake anti-Muslim videos. But just when you think it’s hard for the President to shock us with new tweets, he manages to do it (his resourcefulness in offensive content is impressive, we have to concede). He’s managed to outrage the political world yet again, when he tweeted that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand used to come to his office “begging” for money, and offer to “do anything” to get it. The disturbing sexual innuendo wasn’t missed on anyone, which triggered widespread condemnation, though the White House denied this was the intent. One condemnation of the President was itself shocking: The USA Today editorial board responded to Trump’s tweet by saying A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.”  Outrage is now being expressed at the USA Today editorial board for going too far. For the record, we agree that it is absolutely disturbing that we live in an America where a mainstream, centrist, popular news outlet would demean the office of president in this fashion. We just can’t help but blame the one person responsible for bringing that office down to this level. Tough times all around, America.