How Anti-Israel Politics Overtook Durham, North Carolina

Oct. 27 2020

In April of 2018, the Durham city council adopted, by unanimous vote, a statement opposing “international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training.” The statement concluded with some generic declarations about racial justice, clarifying that “Black lives matter.” But it began with a quotation from the municipal police chief stating clearly “there has been no effort while I have served as chief of police to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.” This disclaimer points to the origins of the statement in a petition from an offshoot of Jewish Voice for Peace, a particularly vicious anti-Israel group. In his speech in favor of the resolution, Durham’s mayor made the connection to the Jewish state clear, as Sean Cooper reports:

“I want to start [by] speaking to the folks from Jewish Voice for Peace. I really mainly want to speak to the Jews in the room, my fellow Jews,” Mayor Steve Schewel told the crowd [at the city-council meeting].

As it turned out, rewriting the JVP petition—[which originated on the local university] campus—into the city-council resolution was the mayor’s own doing. He himself had penned the final draft of the document.

“I’m a Jew and I am a Zionist,” he declared. “I believe in the existence of a Jewish state. I fear for its survival. But I know the terrible traumas visiting on us as a people, we are now visiting on others in Gaza and on the West Bank,” the mayor claimed, somehow turning the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust into a motive for the infliction by Israel . . . of equivalent horrors on Palestinians, a charge for which there is zero evidence.

Many of Durham’s Jewish citizens attended the city-council session to voice their dissatisfaction at the resolution, which had been pushed onto the agenda with unusual rapidity and possible procedural irregularity—but their efforts proved to be too little, too late. Cooper notes the comments of Deborah Friedman, one of the most dedicated opponents of the resolution:

Friedman’s concerns . . . centered on the fear that condemning the Jews would bring out acts of bigotry throughout the city. “If you do something anti-Semitic, it lets others fly their flags. It energizes them,” she said. She saw her fears come to fruition when Minister Rafiq Zaidi of the Nation of Islam came forward [to speak in favor of the resolution]. “I thank the council very deeply from my heart because the movement that you have made to approve this petition was one against forces that are unseen,” he said.

Lest his point be missed, Zaidi began by speaking of “the synagogue of Satan” and concluded with a reference to the “inordinate control that some Jews have over the political system in this city.”

With a look of wide satisfaction on his face for entering his own take on the malignancy of the Jewish threat into public record, Zaidi sat down. . . . Kathryn Wolf [noted] in a published letter that, two weeks following the public hearing, posters began appearing in downtown Durham. “One showed a man pointing a gun at a bearded man with a long nose and kippah, saying, ‘Your ancestors threw off foreign oppression, time for you as well.’”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish Voice for Peace, Nation of Islam, U.S. Politics

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations