The Senate’s Recent Grilling of a Catholic Nominee Raises Painful Jewish Memories

Jan. 18 2019

During the confirmation hearings for Brian Buescher, a nominee for a federal judgeship, Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono questioned his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and philanthropic organization. Hirono went so far as to propose that, if confirmed, Buescher should resign from the group “to avoid any appearance of bias” and “recuse [himself] from all cases [on] which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position.” Mitchell Rocklin explains why such notions should raise Jewish hackles:

Article VI of the Constitution guarantees that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This set America apart from Britain, which banned Jews from serving in Parliament until well into the 19th century, [and Catholics for nearly as long]. In the new country, Jews were able to hold government offices in ways that had been impossible in the Old World. This tradition should not be sacrificed simply because a few senators want to score political points. . . .

Indeed, the very first public Supreme Court nomination process, held in 1916, was an anti-Semitic spectacle in which various figures attempted to smear the high court’s first Jewish nominee, Louis Brandeis. A Boston politician called Brandeis “a slimy fellow” capable of using “his smoothness and intrigue, together with his Jewish instinct,” to attain power. The former president and future chief justice William Howard Taft called Brandeis “utterly unscrupulous” and “a man of infinite cunning,” warning that he “has adopted Zionism, favors the new Jerusalem, and has metaphorically been re-circumcised.”. . .

Senators Hirono and Harris ought to consider the words of Haym Solomon, the Jewish immigrant and Revolutionary War hero: “I am a Jew; it is my own nation; I do not despair that we shall obtain every other privilege that we aspire to enjoy along with our fellow citizens.”

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Read more at Los Angeles Times

More about: Anti-Semitism, Catholicism, Congress, Louis Brandeis, Politics & Current Affairs, Religion and politics, U.S. Politics

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians