ein yiddisher shyster

Trump adviser falsely accuses Ocasio-Cortez of anti-Semitism
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Sep 22 2020

Boris Epshteyn, co-chair of Jewish Voices for Trump.
Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Boris Epshteyn, the new co-chair of Jewish Voices for Trump, has accused Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of “anti-Semitism.” The claim was based on Ocasio-Cortez having signed a June letter to Pompeo “asking him,” as Epshteyn put it, “to halt aid to Israel if it followed through with plans to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.” The authors of the letter to Pompeo argued that annexation “would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.” They warned that “Israel has stated it will not grant citizenship to Palestinians living in annexed territory” and is “formalizing in law the separate and unequal treatment of the two populations.” Claiming that Ocasio-Cortez’s support for equal rights is anti-Semitism is a dangerous sign of where today’s Republican Party stands on the human rights of Palestinians.

In addition to being co-chair of Jewish Voices for Trump, founded just last week to mobilize Jewish voters for the incumbent, Epshteyn is strategic adviser to Donald J Trump for President Inc. His voice matters in Republican circles. Epshteyn also has accused Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of “anti-Semitic attacks on Israel and Jewish Americans” without including details and without admitting that they are far more supportive of equal rights for Palestinians and Jews than he or the Trump administration. They are the only two Muslim women in the US Congress and have repeatedly faced Islamophobic attacks and death threats. Nor is this the first time Epshteyn has attacked Tlaib. He leveled a false charge of anti-Semitism against her in 2018, and seems to have a problem with a Palestinian American standing up for Palestinian rights and against Israeli oppression. His own anti-Palestinian racism has not yet been fully challenged on the national stage.

Activists Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory receive additional fire from Epshteyn as he accuses them, again despite also being much more clearly in support of equal rights for Palestinians and Jews than anyone in the Trump administration, of being “anti-Semites.” The double standards applied to them as opposed to white politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike who routinely deal with anti-Palestinian bigots, are staggering. Sarsour and Mallory have also gone farther than mainstream politicians in addressing criticisms as they seek to build a coalition capable of challenging all forms of bigotry while their critics are frequently not serious about addressing anti-Black racism. Unsurprisingly, the commentary from Epshteyn ran in the virulently anti-Palestinian opinion section of Newsweek magazine. The “debate” section there earlier this year came under the leadership of Josh Hammer, long-time campaigner against the rights of Palestinians who has recently inveighed against Black Lives Matter. The section he edits has also published an outrageous and racist birther claim against vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

Epshteyn bragged in the piece that Trump “moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” He claimed, wrongly:

While many hysterical ‘analysts’ predicted a wave of violence in response to President Trump keeping his word to the Jewish people and Israel, no such violence took place.

The US officially moved its embassy to Jerusalem on May 14 2018. Israel massacred more than 55 people in Gaza that same day. As The Electronic Intifada reported at the time:

While American officials and Israeli leaders celebrated the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, in violation of international law, occupation army snipers gunned down children, paramedics and journalists and its air force hit multiple sites across Gaza.

Does Epshteyn simply not bother to recall Israel’s killing of Palestinians or do Palestinian lives not matter to him? Alternatively, is he saying that more Palestinians needed to be killed to make him question the embassy move? Ironically, the Trump administration chose anti-Semitic pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee to deliver prayers at the embassy opening. Epshteyn will be joined on the advisory board of Jewish Voices for Trump by Sheldon Adelson, his wife Miriam, Wayne Berman and Julie Strauss Levin. Sheldon Adelson maintained in 2013 that the US should drop an atomic bomb on desert territory in Iran and threaten that Tehran will be next if it doesn’t “reverse” itself on nuclear issues. He said he would warn Iranian leaders:

You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position.

Such a genocidal approach, had it been carried out against Tehran, would have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or quite probably millions of Iranians. Many more in the region would have suffered the horrible consequences of the bomb’s fallout. The group he now advises, Jewish Voices for Trump, bills Trump, in Epshteyn’s words, as “a champion of the Jewish people and the greatest ally the State of Israel has ever had.” Epshteyn promotes Israel as an ethnonationalist state, saying at the Jewish Voices for Trump website:

President Trump has fought against anti-Semitism in America and throughout the world while continuing to ensure the long-term success and security of the Jewish state.

In fact, Trump has repeatedly promoted anti-Semites and expressed anti-Semitic views. Trump’s strategic adviser trumpets recent deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain without noting that the arrangements disregarding the rights of Palestinians would be akin to post-colonial states backing apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the American South. He speculates Saudi Arabia may soon reach an agreement with Israel as well. Trump, of course, looked the other way as MbS’ henchmen dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, so it will come as no surprise if the president actively encourages MbS to pursue Israel’s normalization of Palestinian inequality and the (further) dismemberment of Palestine prior to the November election. Yes, the recent accords are a short-term victory for Trump, but they are a setback for those who genuinely care about the rights and eventual freedom of Palestinians currently living under Israeli occupation and discriminatory law.

Israel makes hundreds of Palestinians homeless during pandemic
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Sep 23 2020

Palestinians look at the remains of a home demolished by Israel in the West Bank village
of Farasin, near Jenin, on Aug 11. Photo: Shadi Jarar’ah/APA

Israel has made hundreds more Palestinians homeless during the pandemic. Since March, when the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have demolished or confiscated almost 400 Palestinian structures. That’s almost 65 per month, the highest average in four years. So far this year, Israel has forcibly displaced about 700 Palestinians, most of them during the pandemic and half of them children. In August alone, Israel forced more than 200 Palestinians into homelessness. That’s “more than in any other single month since Jan 2017,” according to the UN OCHA. hose figures do not include the hundreds more whose livelihoods and ability to access services were also hampered by Israel’s demolition campaign. Palestinians often demolish their own homes to avoid being landed with the bill if Israel carries out the demolition. Demolitions were not restricted to Palestinian homes. IOF also destroyed or confiscated water, hygiene and agriculture structures, a further attack on Palestinians’ ability to respond to the pandemic.

Israel’s intensifying demolition campaign mostly targets Palestinians in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that remains under full Israeli military control and includes Israel’s largest settlements. The rest are taking place in occupied East Jerusalem, barring a small number in Areas A and B, which are nominally under Palestinian Authority control. Palestinians in Area C have been left to fend for themselves during the pandemic while Israel continues to colonize their land. Israel’s pretext for most demolitions is that Palestinians build without permits from the occupation authorities despite owning the land. Israel refuses to permit virtually any Palestinian construction in Area C or in occupied East Jerusalem, forcing Palestinians to build without permits and live in constant fear of demolitions. This is part of Israel’s relentless effort to change the demographics in the area to ensure a Jewish majority. It is, in other words, ethnic cleansing.

For some Israeli lawmakers, occupation forces are not doing enough to force Palestinians off their land. Ayelet Shaked, a former minister who has promoted calls for genocide against Palestinians, proposed appointing a government official “whose entire objective would be to prevent the takeover of Area C.” This Orwellian language reverses Shaked’s true intention: She wants to ensure the takeover of Area C by Israeli settlers from its indigenous Palestinian population. Another far-right Israeli lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, author of a genocidal plan to expel Palestinians, has a different idea. Smotrich has suggested that Israeli settlements, whose construction is a war crime, be authorized to demolish Palestinian structures they deem “unlicensed,” according to Haaretz. Other Israeli ministers have likened Palestinian construction in Area C to “an exponential virus,” a “territorial terror” and “a cancer.” Such language demonizing a people living on its own land as a disease is reminiscent of the incitement that has in numerous times and places preceded ethnic cleansing or genocide. In August alone, Israel demolished or seized almost $11k worth of donor-funded structures, and more than $90k worth during the pandemic. The majority of donor-funded structures demolished or seized this year were funded by the EU. In 2019, Israel destroyed or seized half a million dollars worth of EU-funded projects, a 90% increase from 2018. Between 2001 and 2016, Israel caused an estimated $74m in destruction to EU-funded projects. That included $26m worth during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. But the EU does nothing to hold Israel accountable for its regular practice of demolishing EU-funded projects. Occasionally, the EU mission in the occupied West Bank issues statements of “concern.” Meanwhile, the EU maintains its high levels of financial, technological and political support for Israel, while sending public signals that further incentivize its behavior. Last month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi was army chief during Israel’s 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, a three-week massacre that killed some 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 300 children. Borrell congratulated Ashkenazi on Israel’s “normalization of relations with the UAE,” and reaffirmed that “the EU and Israel are ready to continue to work together.” After a follow-up call with Ashkenazi this month, Borrell affirmed the EU’s interest in “intensifying bilateral cooperation.” While Ashkenazi is all smiles when his European hosts welcome him, his mood is less friendly behind closed doors. In a Knesset meeting in July, Ashkenazi said he considered any European-funded project in Area C that “doesn’t honor Israeli construction-permit procedures” as a “European intervention in an attempt to define a border.” In other words, the EU must let Israel alone dictate where its borders are and must fully cooperate with its ethnic cleansing campaign. Ashkenazi reportedly threatened that any European-funded structures built in Area C without Israeli permission would face “consequences.” He added that Israel would reject any European “demand for payment of compensation for the demolishing or confiscation of the equipment.” According to the numbers, Israel’s bullying of the EU works. EU-funded projects have sharply decreased over the years, from 75 in 2015 to just 12 last year.

Jewish-only settlement of Nofei Nehemia built on Palestinian-owned land in the Salfit
area of the occupied West Bank, Aug 13. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ActiveStills)

Meanwhile, Israel’s settlements in Area C and occupied East Jerusalem continue to flourish. An Israeli court in Jerusalem gave the green light earlier this month to expel dozens of Palestinians from their homes and hand them to settler groups. The latter argued that the homes belonged to Jews before the Nakba. Israel’s 1950 Absentee Property Law allows Israel to seize land and property owned by Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled during and after the Nakba. Under a 1970 amendment to its law, Israel allowed Jews to reclaim Jerusalem properties they left in 1948, but did not allow the same right to Palestinians, a blatantly racist measure. The home in the Batan al-Hawa area of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem belongs to the al-Fatah Rajbi family, 26 of whom will be made homeless Haaretz reported. Now, the court is forcing the Palestinian family to hand over their home of 54 years to Ateret Cohanim, a settler organization that helps implement the Israeli government’s colonization of Palestinian properties in Jerusalem. The land was allegedly registered to a trust in the name of a rabbi under Ottoman rule. In 2001, Israel’s high court transferred the land to Ateret Cohanim. Since then, the settler group has sued 700 Palestinians living on land allegedly belonging to the trust in a bid to forcibly expel them. Israeli settler groups have no shortage of help. Newly exposed documents reveal that Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, has contributed more than $100m to Elad, another Israeli settler group that takes over Palestinian land and homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Abramovich is a Russian who took Israeli citizenship in 2018. Chelsea is known for the rampant racism and anti-Semitism of its fans.

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