Hillary Clinton Calls BDS Movement ‘Harmful’ On Eve of Vote in Her Methodist Church

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton addresses the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. in March 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton addresses the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. in March 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — On the eve of a bid to have her church divest from companies allegedly profiting from Israel’s control of the West Bank, Hillary Clinton reasserted that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was counterproductive to peace.

Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, responded on Sunday to an appeal from the Israel Action Network, an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America, ahead of the quadrennial United Methodist Church General Conference starting Tuesday in Portland, Ore.

In a two-page reply Clinton, who was raised and remains a practicing Methodist, does not directly mention the church, although it is the focal point of the letter to her from the Israel Action Network.

But she says: “I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict.”

The position is not new for Clinton; she rejected BDS most recently in a March speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. — Hillary Clinton

Clinton says her support for Israel dates back to the early 1980s, when she first visited the country as first lady with President Bill Clinton, and continued through her term as U.S. senator from New York from 2001 to 2009 and then as secretary of state in President Barack Obama’s first term.

“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority, and that we need to work together — across party lines and with a diverse array of voices — to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel,” Clinton’s letter says.

“I stand ready to be your partner as we engage all people of good faith — regardless of their political persuasion or their views on policy specifics — in explaining why the BDS campaign is counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike,” the letter concludes.

Among more than a thousand proposals, the Methodists will consider four resolutions calling for divestment from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise. They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

In January, the Methodists’ pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its investment portfolio, saying the investments were counter to its policies against investing in “high risk countries” and to remain committed to human rights.

BDS activists have scored a series of successes in recent years in advancing similar resolutions, most prominently the United Church of Christ in 2015 and the Presbyterian Church (USA) a year earlier.

They Voted Cruz, Now What?

Bruce Botwin voted for Cruz, but now says that Trump’s divisive rhetoric doesn’t bother him because he is simply “stating the facts.” (Photo courtesy Bruce Botwin)

Bruce Botwin voted for Cruz, but now says that Trump’s divisive rhetoric doesn’t bother him because he is simply “stating the facts.” (Photo courtesy Bruce Botwin)

Ted Cruz might be out of the presidential race, but Republican Jews who supported the tough talking Texas senator during the primary say they plan to vote according to their conscience in November by supporting the candidate who cares most about their core concerns: illegal immigration and national security. For them, that means supporting businessman and de facto nominee Donald Trump.

Trump’s path to the nomination became all but inevitable on May 4 after Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended their campaigns following Trump’s victory in the Indiana primary. The outcome has upset a number of Republicans throughout the country, even to the point of causing some to switch sides and pledge their support for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Cruz’s defeat in New York, where Trump won all 89 delegates, was particularly crippling due to the missed opportunity to capitalize on the bloc of Orthodox Jews who supported him, according to Cruz senior advisor Nick Muzin.

“Both from a voting perspective and people that were involved in the campaign, as far as people who provided moral support, Jews played a huge role,” he said. “A lot of our major supporters financially were Jewish.”

People don’t like change, they want the same old same old. This is what we need, a little kick in the pants to get things going. — Brad Botwin

Muzin, an Orthodox Jew and Silver Spring resident, said the campaign spent a good deal of time in synagogues reaching out to Jewish communities across the country. He also noted that Cruz had received awards in the past from pro-Israel groups such as the Endowment for Middle East Truth for his work in the Senate on pursuing justice for Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. He noted that Cruz has earned the reputation of the “foremost champion of Israel in the U.S. Senate.”

When asked if he planned to support Trump, Muzin said he has not taken a position, but hopes to first see the businessman bone up on foreign policy.

“I am open to supporting Mr. Trump, but would like to see an evolution on details and what his polices will be on Israel and on other issues in the Middle East,” he said.

Muzin’s wait-and-see attitude about Trump differs from that of Bethesda resident Gail Weiss, who said she is perfectly happy to support a candidate like Trump who will “upend the status quo.”

“He has shown a savant-like ability to get his message out and past the filter of the professional media, and certainly no Republican has been able to do that in my lifetime,” she said.

Weiss, an active member of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said she was undecided heading into the primary between Trump, Cruz and Kasich, but ultimately voted for Cruz because of his intelligence and experience of arguing cases before the Supreme Court before he became a senator.

“I thought all three candidates offered pluses and minuses, and then I asked myself, who seems the most presidential and who seems the smartest?” she said.

Despite her support for Cruz, Weiss acknowledged that she had reservations about his electability in the general election due to his strict pro-life stance on abortion.

“I think the laws should be clarified, but I think there should be a cutoff point where abortions are not legal except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother,” she said, adding that she did not agree with any of the candidates on 100 percent of the issues. “But certainly in the early stages of a pregnancy, I think women should be able to make that choice for themselves.”

Weiss said she is encouraged by Trump’s views on immigration and agrees that his temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States is reasonable given the number of international terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists.

“I think culturally, unfortunately, it’s ironic that Islam keeps claiming that the West is attacking them when in fact the reverse is true, they are attacking the West,” she said.

Weiss said she understands that terrorist groups only comprise a small percentage of Muslims, but that they must first “get the evil out of their own ranks” before she can feel comfortable.

Immigration is also a key issue for Rockville resident Brad Botwin, who said he supports the idea of the United States being a “melting pot,” but that illegal immigration has led to too many people coming into the country and not assimilating, making it closer to a “salad bowl.”

“As a Jew, my great-grandparents came over early 1900s legally into Ellis Island and I have always been interested in this issue,” he said.

Botwin, a government employee, grew up in a family of Democrats in New York and was a Democrat himself up until the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” approach to taking on the Soviets changed his ideology. He had been a Cruz supporter from the beginning, volunteering locally for the campaign and making small donations.

“When he announced he was going to run for president, I thought that was great,” he said.

Botwin now fully supports Trump and said the candidate’s divisive rhetoric doesn’t bother him because he is simply “stating the facts.”

“I don’t mind the brash talk,” Botwin said. “I’m from New York and that’s how people talk up there. Is he the most articulate guy? Neither am I. The only thing that he says is that he opposes illegal immigrants coming in here, so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.”

Botwin said he is concerned about immigration and homeland security, the latter of which he thinks could be improved by making the airport security process more selective.

“We’re not getting blown up by Australian visitors or Buddhist visitors. The terrorists by and large are Muslims. You need to focus on what the problems are,” he said. “Having traveled to Israel, they do a much better job of screening than we do.”

Botwin said the country has not had a president with Trump’s gumption since the days of Harry Truman, and that it may be time for such a leader.

“People don’t like change, they want the same old same old,” he said. “This is what we need, a little kick in the pants to get things going.”

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Orthodox Activists, Victims Ask N.Y. to Change Sex Abuse Reporting Laws

Orthodox activists, such as these protesting outside a Brooklyn yeshiva, are asking institutions to do more to report and investigate  allegations of child sexual and physical abuse. (Courtesy of Chaim Levin)

Orthodox activists, such as these protesting outside a Brooklyn yeshiva, are asking institutions to do more to report and investigate allegations of child sexual and physical abuse. (Courtesy of Chaim Levin)

NEW YORK — Advocates for sexual abuse victims in the Orthodox Jewish community descended on New York’s state capital on May 3 to lobby the legislature to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse offenses.

A bill to change the statute of limitations has languished for years in a state legislative committee, due in large part to opposition from the Catholic Church and Agudath Israel of America.

The bill, known as the Child Victims Act, would “completely eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse  offenses in the future,” according to SOL Reform, an advocacy group that sponsored a series of panels and news conferences May 3 and 4.

It would also suspend the civil statute of limitations for one year, during which time the accuser could bring a civil lawsuit against a private educational organization no matter how far back the alleged abuse dates.

While the bill passed the New York State Assembly, it has been blocked in the State Senate in the decade since it was introduced.

Agudah, which represents Haredi Orthodox schools and synagogues, says the bill would open up institutions to “ancient claims and capricious litigation,” as the group wrote in a 2009 statement it issued with the Haredi schools network Torah Umesorah.

“We do not oppose extending or even eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for cases of abuse,” Rabbi Avi Shafran, said an Agudah spokesman. “Our concern is simply protecting the economic viability of Jewish schools. Yeshivas operate on shoestring budgets.”

Advocates for abuse victims say opponents of the legislation are putting their institution’s  finances and reputations ahead of justice for abuse victims.

“They are most interested in keeping the civil lawsuits from happening because that is where all of the secrets and cover-ups come out,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law and an organizer of SOL Reform. It “is about image and power.”

Criminal cases focus narrowly on the perpetrator’s actions rather than institutions that may have protected him, she says.

“Only through a civil case can you document an institution’s negligence and the way it failed children. The problem is that they won’t fix their internal procedures unless there are civil claims because they don’t have to,” Hamilton said.

Among those advocating for the New York law are Chaim Levin, a Crown Heights resident who in 2013 was 23 when he won a $3.5 million civil judgment against an older cousin, Sholom Eichler, following accusations that Eichler had abused Levin when he was 8. Levin has not been able to collect any part of the judgment since Eichler fled to Israel.

Levin narrowly made it under the current statue of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit. According to Hamilton, studies show that most sex abuse victims do not come forward until they are in their 40s.

Other activists who made the trip to Albany on May 3 were Hamilton; Meyer Seewald of the Orthodox-run anti-sexual abuse organization Jewish Community Watch; and Manny Waks, CEO of the advocacy group Kol v’Oz.

More than a dozen Jewish groups were part of the lobbying delegation, and more than 150 rabbis and community leaders, some of them Orthodox, have signed a letter organized by Kol v’Oz and addressed to the state legislature urging passage of the legislation.

Among the Orthodox leaders who signed it are Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, a theologian and former president of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation; Chaim Steinmetz, senior rabbi of New York’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun; and Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, principal of the modern Orthodox SAR High School in Riverdale, N.Y.

The lobbying push in Albany came amid allegations of abuse leveled against Haredi-run schools, including a March  article in Newsweek titled “Child Abuse Allegations Plague the Hasidic Community.” The article alleged that a prominent Chabad yeshiva, Oholei Torah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, had ignored or downplayed reports of physical and sexual abuse against students.

Following the Newsweek  report, Oholei Torah’s top  administrator, Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld, wrote a letter to parents saying, “I can categorically assure you that there is absolutely no abuse taking place in Oholei Torah that we know of — neither sexual abuse, nor physical abuse, nor verbal abuse.”

Administrators at Oholei Torah did not respond to multiple phone messages and emails.

Mechoulam Talks Cannabis Research, Medical Uses

Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam spoke about medical cannabis in Baltimore on April 14. (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam spoke about medical cannabis in Baltimore on April 14. (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

Raphael Mechoulam, a pioneering Israeli cannabis researcher, spoke at MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, in Baltimore on April 14 about his research, medical uses for cannabis and what the future of research may hold.

Dr. Dan Morhaim, a District 11 delegate and longtime proponent of medical cannabis, began by asking, “Why is this plant different from other plants?” ahead of the Passover holiday, pointing out that while most medicines come from plants, medicines derived from cannabis have been slow to develop due to the War on Drugs.

Mechoulam kicked off his talk, which was co-sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council, by telling the story of how materials for his early experiments were acquired — that is he obtained 5 kilograms of Lebanese hashish from a contact at Israeli police. While he didn’t go to prison, he did have to apologize to the Minister of Health.

In 1963, Mechoulam discovered CBD, or cannabidiol, which has shown promise in a variety of medical applications. In 1964, he discovered THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component in THC.

“I believe we should have pure cannabidiol investigated.”
— Raphael Mechoulam

“One thing was missing, and it is how do these compounds act?” Mechoulam said.

About two decades later, Mechoulam mapped out the brain’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in appetite, pain-sensation,mood and memory and is affected by the compounds in cannabis.

Mechoulam discussed what his research has shown over the years — promise in using cannabis to treat the side effects of chemotherapy; to improve sleep and decrease nightmares in soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder; to treat inflammation in Crohn’s disease; to reduce anxiety; and to help control Type 1 diabetes and epilepsy.
He spoke about his frustration with the slow movement of research in the United States, especially the slow development of CBD medicines, which have shown to drastically reduce frequency of seizures in pediatric epilepsy.

“Even today, I’m not very happy with what’s going on,” he said. “I believe we should have pure cannabidiol investigated.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

No Experience Necessary: Meet the Orthodox Lawyer Advising Trump on Israel

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's top real estate lawyer and an  Orthodox Jew, is now the Republican presidential candidate’s  top adviser on Israel. (Uriel Heilman/JTA)

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump’s top real estate lawyer and an Orthodox Jew, is now the Republican presidential candidate’s top adviser on Israel. (Uriel Heilman/JTA)

NEW YORK — If Donald Trump wins the White House, he’ll probably be the first president whose top adviser on  Israel used to do guard duty at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank armed with an  M-16 assault weapon.

The adviser, Jason Dov Greenblatt, currently works for Trump as a real estate attorney. Trump identified Greenblatt last week as one of two Jewish lawyers who would be his top Israel advisers; the other is bankruptcy expert David M. Friedman of the Kasowitz law firm.

“I do rely on him as a consultant on Israel,” Trump said of Greenblatt at an April 14 meeting with Jewish reporters. “He’s a person who truly loves Israel. I love to get advice from people who know Israel, and especially from people who truly love Israel.”

Greenblatt, 49, has an unusual resumé for a prospective presidential adviser on Middle East affairs. An Orthodox Jewish father of six from Teaneck, N.J., who wears his yarmulke at work, Greenblatt has worked for Trump for the last 19 years dealing exclusively with real estate and company matters. His titles are executive vice president and chief legal officer. He has self-published three travel books, one about a  family trip to Israel, and runs a blog about family travel,  Realfamilytrips.com.

Asked about his expertise on Israel and what he reads and who he consults to stay  informed, Greenblatt said his main sources of information are daily email alerts, American Israel Public Affairs Committee materials and a weekly Jewish radio program featuring Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“I also speak to people who I would say are involved in the Israeli government at certain levels and hear their thoughts,” Greenblatt said. “There’s just a tremendous amount of literature out there, emails and all that, so I read all of those as often as I can.”

Though he would help a President Trump navigate the complexities of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, Greenblatt has no Palestinian contacts. In fact, Greenblatt said he hasn’t met any Palestinians since he was a yeshiva student in the mid-1980s at Yeshivat Har  Etzion, in a West Bank settlement bloc near Jerusalem, when he had some casual interactions with Palestinian laborers, gardeners and shopkeepers. (That was also when Greenblatt, like all students at the yeshiva, did occasional armed guard duty.)

As Trump’s campaign for president has intensified, the  Republican front-runner occasionally has tapped Greenblatt on Israel-related matters. Greenblatt says he was among those who helped Trump prepare his speech to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington in March. And when asked several days ago for a surrogate to write an op-ed in support of the candidate, the Trump campaign turned to Greenblatt.

A consultant to Trump on a variety of issues, Greenblatt could end up playing a crucial role in a Trump presidency.

“I certainly will tell him my thoughts on something where I think I need to,” Greenblatt said in a wide-ranging, 90-minute interview at Trump headquarters in Manhattan last week. “He’s very much open to listening. But people should recognize that Donald is his own person. An adviser is no more than someone who gives him context. He’s the one making the decisions.”

Greenblatt’s positions on  Israel are similar to those of his boss. Like Trump, Greenblatt supports a two-state solution, so long as it is reached by the  parties themselves and not  imposed by an outside body like the United Nations. He does not believe Jewish settlements in the West Bank are a core part of the problem. He says Trump, an “incredible  facilitator,” should try to restart peace talks.

“We kind of need to roll up our sleeves and try to attack it again and see what we can  accomplish,” Greenblatt said.

To get the Palestinians to the negotiating table, Greenblatt suggests threatening to withhold some U.S. funding from the Palestinian Authority.

U.S. negotiators “need to lay down the law and explain that the [Palestinians are] not going to get the benefits they get from the United States  unless they come to the table,” Greenblatt said. “I think they need to say: ‘Over the course of the next period of time, we will continue to provide funding, but in order to do that you need to do X, Y and Z, set concrete goals, and if you don’t we need to start tapering off the funding,’ and see what happens.”

Also like Trump, Greenblatt believes Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can be handled similarly to Trump’s real estate negotiations, with money as a main incentive.

“If you take out the emotional part of it and the historical part of it, it is a business transaction. Land is going to be negotiated, water rights are going to be  negotiated, security issues are going to be negotiated,” Greenblatt said. “So you need to say to them, ‘Listen, we want to discuss these two issues in this quarter, and then you’ll get your check, and these two  issues in this quarter, and then you’ll get your check. At the end of the day you want to  resolve all the issues. I think it isn’t a good idea to do partial negotiations and then hope for the best.”

On Syria, Greenblatt said the United States should create safe havens for civilians fleeing the war, possibly by “borrowing land” from nearby Turkey and Jordan. On ISIS, he says the U.S. should marshal a worldwide coalition to address the problem.

Asked how the Iran nuclear deal should be handled, Greenblatt says it’s too late simply to tear it up and that he’s not sure how to proceed.

“I’m not an expert on it to answer that question adequately,” he said.

This would be Greenblatt’s first real foray into politics. He said he hasn’t voted in primary elections and only registered as a Republican this year. He says he’s more liberal than Trump on immigration, and though he didn’t vote for Barack Obama, Greenblatt was excited by his election in 2008 as the nation’s first African-American president. He voted for John McCain in ’08 and Mitt Romney in ’12; he said he couldn’t remember whether he had voted for Bill Clinton for president.

When Trump identified Greenblatt last week as his top presidential adviser on Israel, it appeared to be a spur-of-the-moment decision.

“I knew that he was relying on me for certain aspects of Israel, but I didn’t know I was his top adviser,” Greenblatt said. “I feel fortunate he said it.”

Partway through a meeting with Orthodox Jewish reporters, Trump noted that he had plenty of Jewish friends and then asked his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to bring Greenblatt and another Orthodox Jewish employee to the room. Shortly after they arrived, Trump was asked about his views on the West Bank. He punted the question to Greenblatt.

“I think the settlements should stay, but I think they have to work something out so that both sides are able to live in peace and safety,” Greenblatt said.

It was in an answer to a follow-up question that Trump said Greenblatt would be his go-to man on Israel.

“I don’t think I can find better,” Trump said.

Greenblatt later said he didn’t even know that a meeting with Jewish reporters was scheduled; he simply came to the room when summoned.

Raised in an Orthodox neighborhood of Queens, Greenblatt is a product of Orthodox Jewish day schools. He went to Yeshiva University’s high school for boys, the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy and then to Yeshiva College after a year  of study in the West Bank yeshiva. He obtained his law degree from New York University and worked for a law firm doing real estate transactional work — and tried to launch a startup cappuccino company — until a recruiter brought him to Trump.

Greenblatt said Trump has been hugely understanding about his religious needs (Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, converted to Judaism before marrying husband Jared Kushner, and the family is involved in Orthodox  observance). Greenblatt recalled the time he was leading a complex negotiation when he sheepishly told Trump he had to stop everything for a three-day Jewish holiday.

“He said, ‘Go home, go pray, be with your family, and we’ll pick it up after the holiday,’” Greenblatt said of Trump. “He didn’t just not make an issue of it; he made me feel great about it.”

As a manager, Greenblatt has more free time these days than he did as a young lawyer. He and his wife, a full-time psychiatrist, take their family on two 10- to 14-day trips every year. He teaches a weekly real estate class at the Y.U.’s Sy Syms School of Business, and he’s on advisory boards connected to Y.U., the Orthodox Union’s youth organization and Frisch, the northern New Jersey Jewish day school that his 17-year-old triplets attend.

Greenblatt said he considers himself very lucky that he may get the chance to play a  historic role helping Israel.

“I’m in this unique, amazing position where I might be able to help a country like Israel that I love so deeply by being where I am,” Greenblatt said. “When Donald negotiates deals in the White House, I know how he thinks, I know how to get his bidding done, so I could be useful. And I’d love to help change this country for the better.”

Biden, Kerry Defend Administration’s Legacy at J Street Event

Vice President Joe Biden received applause at the J Street Gala when he asserted that Israeli settlement expansion is “counterproductive to Israel’s security.” (Moshe Zusman Photography Studio)

Vice President Joe Biden received applause at the J Street Gala when he asserted that Israeli settlement expansion is “counterproductive to Israel’s security.” (Moshe Zusman Photography Studio)

Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration’s Middle East legacy Monday night in front of a pro-Israel audience of about 800 at the J Street Gala.

Biden was booed at last month’s AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. In contrast, the more liberal J Street audience, meeting at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., applauded the vice president when he asserted that  Israeli settlement expansion is “counterproductive to Israel’s security. They’re moving us and they’re moving Israel in the wrong direction,” he said. “They’re moving us toward a one-state reality, and that reality is dangerous.”

Biden and Kerry both  defended the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal. Each enumerated the terms and conditions Iran agreed to as part of the agreement such as the removal of two-thirds of its centrifuges, the shutdown of the Arak nuclear reactor and the removal of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

You recognize that  diplomacy should always be exhausted before we ask  our treasury to go to war,  especially when a solution which is thought out and verifiable can be enforced.” — Secretary of State John Kerry

 

“We’re doing no more than we promised we’d do and no less than we promised we’d do,” Biden said.  “By raising the cost of Iran’s intransigence … we significantly [reduced] the threat of Iran’s long-range missiles.”

Biden praised J Street for backing the deal, which he said had broad support from the American Jewish community and several Israeli security  experts.

“You all stood up and your voices were heard throughout the community and beyond,” he said. “The deal is working exactly as it should.”

Kerry’s sought to dispel the notion that Iran had received $155 billion from the United States as a result of the agreement, saying that it had  received $3 billion. Kerry also emphasized that the international community gaining  access to Iran’s nuclear facilities was key in preventing them from building a weapon.

“The country that was two months away from the potential of breaking out is now a year away. And we have the capacity to know what they are doing,” he said. “You recognize that diplomacy should always be exhausted before we ask our treasury to go to war,  especially when a solution which is thought out and  verifiable can be enforced.”

Biden and Kerry both took a moment to condemn Monday’s bus explosion in Jerusalem that injured 21 and was called a  terrorist attack by the Israeli government. Kerry said the attack underscores the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“These outrages are intended solely to instill fear,” he said. “They will never succeed in  intimidating the Israeli people.”

Biden praised J Street leaders for their support of a two-state solution in resolving the conflict and said that the creation of a Palestinian state is the only way for Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state.

He went on to praise the  renewed 10-year memorandum of understanding on defense matters being negotiated  between the United States and Israel.

“We see to it that Israel has the best weapons, the best technologies that are available,” Biden said. “Our assistance is tailored to meet specific threats that Israel faces, and they face many.”

Biden said despite frustrations the administration has had in working with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the obligation of the United States should be to “push  as hard as we can” for a two-state solution, while being a “guarantor of their security.”

“Were there no Israel, we’d have to invent one to secure our own interest in the  region,” he said.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Clinton — Bill, That Is — Stumps at Leisure World

With the Maryland primary two weeks away, former president Bill Clinton touts the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as best qualified to be president to a crowd at Leisure World. (Photo by Daniel Schere)

With the Maryland primary two weeks away, former president Bill Clinton touts the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as best qualified to be president to a crowd at Leisure World. (Photo by Daniel Schere)

Former President Bill Clinton was in his element Wednesday, shaking hands with more than 300 residents at the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring and urging them to vote for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“You live in the highest voting precinct in the entire state of Maryland,” he said. “The first thing I want to ask you to do is not to break your record down, but break it up.”

During his 35-minute speech, Clinton spoke about his wife’s work in politics and in other capacities, such as with the Children’s Defense Fund in the 1970s. He called her “the best change-maker I’ve ever known.”

Clinton also praised his wife for bringing the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngster (HIPPY) literacy program to Arkansas, where he was governor, and ultimately to 26 states in the 1980s.

“She said, ‘I’ve heard about this program in Israel for immigrants whose parents don’t speak Hebrew or English, who can’t read, write or count, and they teach the parents right with the kids. … And the kids are doing great, they caught up almost overnight,’” he recounted.

 

We can put up all the walls you want. You can put up great sea walls on both oceans. You could stop letting planes land here, but you couldn’t keep out the social media.
— Former president Bill Clinton

 

“I said, ‘That’s great. How are we going to build on it, that’s Israel?’ She said, ‘Oh, I did it. I called the woman who founded the program in Israel. She’ll be here in 10 days. The next thing I knew, I was being dragged around to all these little preschool graduations.”

Clinton said HIPPY has helped “thousands” of people become literate since its implementation 30 years ago.

Clinton’s appearance came 13 days before Maryland’s April 26 Democratic primary and after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the last seven Democratic primaries.

On Wednesday, Clinton did not mention any candidates by name, but he took a shot at Sanders’ proposal of implementing a single-payer health care system. The former president acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act “isn’t perfect” but that it would be a mistake to “go from zero to 100 with a single-payer system rather than to go from 90 to 100 with the law we’ve got.”

Clinton said among the elements of the ACA his wife hopes to improve is the high cost of insurance for small businesses and the lack of regulation of drug prices.

He also indirectly criticized businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s suggestion of temporarily barring Muslims from immigrating to the United States. Clinton noted that the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shooting last year became radicalized online while living in the United States.

“We can put up all the walls you want. You can put up great sea walls on both oceans. You could stop letting planes land here, [but] you couldn’t keep out the social media,” he said.

Throughout the speech, Clinton emphasized that his wife’s experience — she is a former secretary of state and senator — makes her the best qualified person to be president and someone who can unite the two parties.

“We need a president who understands that the only economy that works in a free society is one where there is shared prosperity. Where there is a shared sense of community. Where we share political responsibilities instead of fighting with each other all the time.”

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Edwards’ Emily’s List Support Rankles Van Hollen Backers

Rep. Donna Edwards (left) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen ( Photo credits: donnaedwardsforsenate.com; vanhollen.org)

Rep. Donna Edwards (left) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen ( Photo credits: donnaedwardsforsenate.com; vanhollen.org)

Members of America’s Jewish community, by and large, are some of the most progressive voters there are. They consistently back pro-choice Democrats, in some cases by a margin greater than 2-1, and other candidates who advocate increased public expenditures for social service projects and education.

But they’re also staunchly pro-Israel, a fact that has many in Montgomery County scratching their heads over a decision by the progressive political action committee Emily’s List — which backs Democratic women running for Congress — to throw its financial support, some of it raised from local Jewish voters, behind Rep. Donna Edwards in her primary fight against Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Both want to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

“It’s unfortunate that they’re going against one of the good guys,” said state Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-District 17), a Van Hollen backer, a member of Montgomery County’s Jewish community and an Emily’s List supporter, of the push for Edwards over Van Hollen. She said, “And now they have less money to spend in Pennsylvania, California, New York and other key races around the country.”

And at the top of the political heap nationwide stands former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who finds herself in a narrowing race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Emily’s List has “an opportunity to elect the first woman president of the United States,” said Kagan. “It seems to me like that would be a really important use of their time.”

(Emily’s List is on record as supporting Clinton in the primary race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but its super PAC, Women Vote!, has spent more than $2 million on behalf of Edwards, who currently represents the Fourth Congressional District. Van Hollen represents the Eighth District.)

The controversy surrounding Edwards’ ties to Emily’s List played out onstage Monday night during an often contentious debate between the two candidates at Goucher College. When Baltimore Sun opinion editor Andy Green asked Edwards about her contributions from the PAC, she asserted she was “proud” to have its support.

“Emily’s List doesn’t hide who it is,” she said. “They support pro-choice Democratic women because we need to expand the number of women in the Senate and in all of our legislative bodies. On the other hand, Mr. Van Hollen, who was swearing off dark money, is now being supported by [the] Realtors PAC putting almost $1 million into his campaign.”

Van Hollen retorted that Edwards had taken $25,000 in PAC money from Realtors over the last two election cycles.

“Look, if you’re against Citizens United, you don’t get to pick and choose which super PAC you like and which one you don’t like,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court decision several years ago that affirmed the use of so-called “soft money” in federal campaigns.

Van Hollen went on to challenge television ads being run by Emily’s List that assert that she is not tied to big business.

“When you see their ads running that say Congresswoman Edwards doesn’t take any money from Wall Street, guess what? The overwhelming majority of the money for that super PAC, Women Vote! comes from people on Wall Street,” he said. “Hedge fund managers.”

Some in the Washington Jewish community, such as Helane Goldstein of Chevy Chase, dislike Edwards due to her voting record on foreign affairs, in particular a vote in which more than 400 members of the House of Representatives, including Van Hollen, backed a 2013 bill supporting sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Edwards was one of 21 members who voted against it.

“She has played her hand dozens of times where she has showed us she’s not a supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, because legislatively she’s been on the other side of the fence of the House,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein, a supporter of Emily’s List, feels pay equity along with other women’s issues are important in the race, but she said that one should not vote solely based on gender.

“We don’t back Jewish candidates just because we’re Jewish,” she explained. “We have to be moral, and we have to be strategic. And we have to delve into what’s right and what’s wrong for us. I’m not going to support a candidate just because she’s a female.”

Edwards’ record on Israel has also been a source of concern for Washington attorney Behnam Dayanim, who wrote an op-ed last month for supporting Van Hollen. In an interview, Dayanim said he thinks Edwards has been “distinctively unsympathetic” toward Israel by not standing with other members of the House on votes such one on the Goldstone Report in 2009 — a United Nations-commissioned report that accused the Israel Defense Forces of human rights violations in the Gaza war and whose conclusions were later disputed by the lead author of the report. Van Hollen voted with the majority of Congress in denouncing it.

“On a consistent basis when it comes to issues that are important to Israel, Chris Van Hollen has been there and Donna Edwards has not,” Dayanim said. “That’s the kind of unhelpfulness and the lack of Israeli support that we’ve seen from her, and that contrasts with what we’ve seen from Chris.”

Dayanim added that Emily’s List’s decision to invest so much money to Edwards’ campaign shows a “lack of sensitivity” for Jewish voters in Maryland who care about Israel and thinks the organization ought to consider whether there is “anything about the candidate who might raise concerns within the constituency upon which they are running” when considering where it should spend its money.

“I think it raises a lot of questions about how Emily’s List prioritizes the candidates its support,” he said.

In a race in which Edwards has positioned herself as the standard-bearer of women’s issues, Kagan pointed out that Van Hollen is fervently pro-choice and has a record of supporting working families. She characterized Emily’s List’s stance as putting money into a “race against an ally.”

“Fundamentally, we shouldn’t be electing people because of gender. I didn’t ask people to vote for me because I was a woman,” said Kagan, who has known Van Hollen since the 1990s, when they both served in Maryland’s House of Delegates. “I thought I could be most effective and a lot more consistent in my advocacy than my opponents. I would love to have a woman as Barbara Mikulski’s successor, but more important than that, I want an effective leader for the state of Maryland in the U.S. Senate, and hands down, that candidate is Chris Van Hollen.”

Personal ties to Van Hollen are key for Bethesda resident and former Democratic National Committee vice chair Susan Turnbull, who has known Van Hollen since the early 1980s. Turnbull said everyone she knows has contributed to the Van Hollen campaign, including those who regularly give to Emily’s List.

“Emily’s List has as its sole mission the election of pro-choice Democratic women, and so I believe that they had no choice in the matter,” she said. “However, I believe that the long-term impact will be negligible among those who are paying attention to this race.”

One Jewish voter said he’d be happy with either.

Ken Feinberg, a Washington lawyer who was chief of staff for the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, would be happy with either Edwards or Van Hollen.

He said, “Not with any regard to any specific candidate, I think more women should be in government.”

For her part, Edwards sees Emily’s List support as a logical step in a legacy that reaches back to the PAC’s support for Mikulski during her first run for the Senate in 1986.

“Thirty years later,” said Edwards campaign spokesman Benjamin Gerdes, “we’re proud to have their support and the support of working women all across Maryland and around the country.”

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Hitler’s Personal Copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ Sells for $20K

One of Hitler’s personal copies of “Mein Kampf.” (provided)

One of Hitler’s personal copies of “Mein Kampf.” (provided)

A Maryland auction house sold one of Adolf Hitler’s personal copies of “Mein Kampf” for $20,655 on Friday, March 18.

The book, which lays out Hitler’s manifesto, was sold by Chesapeake City-based Alexander Historical Auctions to an American buyer.  No other information about the buyer was available.

“It’s a pretty powerful relic, and I’ve had some pretty awful stuff,” said Bill Panagopulos, the company’s owner and auctioneer. “It is not a commercially available copy of ‘Mein Kampf.’”

The front flyleaf, the book’s blank front page, bears the signatures of 11 members of the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry, who were among the first to get into Munich, where the Nazi Party’s headquarters were located and Hitler had an apartment. The 11 officers were members of field artillery units.

“The inscription reads, ‘from Adolph — spelled with a “ph” — from Adolph Hitler’s apartment in Munich May 2, 1945,’ and it’s signed by John Grueber, Lt. Col. FA,” Panagopulos said.

While reactions from the Jewish community and community-at-large are unsurprisingly mixed when Nazi relics are up for sale, one expert looks at this particular object as a sign of victory.

“I think in some ways they’re an interesting reminder of the ally defeat of Nazi Germany,” said Steve Luckert, senior program curator at the Levine Family Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial  Museum. “We have some flags that were taken by GIs, swastikas they took from German buildings, and they signed those as well,  so this is kind of a symbol of allied triumph over Nazism.”

Neo-Nazis don’t buy this stuff. They’re too poor and stupid. — Bill Panagopulos, Alexander Historical Auctions

Luckert said there are concerns about the ideas of “Mein Kampf” spreading, especially with the rise of anti-Semitism and xenophobia around the world, but he believes it’s best to confront those ideas.

“I think it can be a tool to educate people,” he said. “It has never been banned in the U.S. Even during the war, people were encouraged to read it so they could learn something about Nazism.”

Panagopulos said he got a bit of pushback from a couple of Jewish  organizations but defended his auctioning of the book. His wife’s mother is an Orthodox Jew, and his wife works at his company, which also has several Jewish employees. He said his father’s hometown was also “wiped out in a German act of  retaliation [against] Greek guerillas.”

“I’m not a profiteer is what I’m trying to get across,” he said.

His company does auction Nazi regalia when it comes up, but he has also sold letters written by David Ben Gurion, George Washington and Mother Theresa. He once sold the journals of Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz doctor, to a Jewish doctor in  Detroit, which earned him a “thank you” from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The doctor was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who witnessed Mengele performing selections.

Panagopulos said he believes in preserving these types of artifacts as evidence. On the possibility that this could fall into the hands of a neo-Nazi, he proudly pointed to what he told German newspaper Der Spiegel: “Neo-Nazis don’t buy this stuff. They’re too poor and stupid.”

Ahead of the auction, Panagopulos spoke about his hope for the item.

“I hope someone buys it and gives it to Yad Vashem or the Holocaust Museum,” he said.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Clinton Pledges Support for ‘Strong’ Israel in AIPAC Speech

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday told close to 18,000 Israel supporters at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., that if elected, she would “never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us.”

Speaking at the Verizon Center, the former senator and secretary of state eliminated any daylight between a Clinton administration and Israel.

The turmoil in the Middle East presents “enormous challenge and complexity,” but “walking away is not an option,” she said. “America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle shared challenges and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace.”

She outlined three evolving threats the United States and Israel must combat: “Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism and the growing effort to delegitimize Israel on the world stage.”

As Clinton spoke about Iran, she echoed AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr, who on Sunday night called the Islamic state the lobby’s top priority.

“This remains an extremist regime that threatens to annihilate Israel,” she said. Regarding the Iran nuclear agreement, Clinton said, “It’s not good enough to trust and verify. Our approach has to be distrust and verify. … We cannot forget that Tehran’s fingerprints are on every conflict across the Middle East.”

She noted that Iran continues to fund terrorists, including Hezbollah. The next president, she said, must impose consequences for “even the smallest violation” of the agreement.

The United States will act to stop Iranian violations of the agreement “with force if necessary,” she said.

She called for more sanctions on Iran in response to its recent missile tests. And she said the United States should continue to demand the safe return of Robert Levinson and other imprisoned Americans, an appeal that drew light applause.

Turning to U.S.-Israel relations, Clinton said she hopes the two allies will conclude negotiations over a 10-year defense memorandum of understanding as soon as possible. An agreement will “send a clear message to Israel’s enemies” that the two countries are united.

She added, the United States should provide Israel with the most “sophisticated defense technologies.”

Clinton condemned the wave of Palestinian violence in Israel and the territories. “Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear.”

She received loud applause when she spoke about Taylor Force, an American who was fatally stabbed in Jaffa on March 8. “These attacks must end immediately, and Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence,” Clinton said.

She took aim at the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, calling it anti-Semitic. “At the time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the world … we must repudiate efforts to malign and undermine the Jewish people.”

Clinton said BDS has even extended to demonizing Israeli scientists and college students. At the mention of students, the audience stood.

All these efforts depend on electing a president committed to preserving Israel as a Jewish state and America as a world leader. “The alternative is unthinkable,” she said.

Also unthinkable — and unmentionable by name — was Donald Trump, the leading Republican contender for president.

He is “neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday,” she said, and dismissed Trump’s statement that he would be neutral on Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

“My friends. Israel’s security is non-negotiable!” she said to loud applause.

“We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods … when bombers target the innocent. Some things are not negotiable. And anybody who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.”

Later, she again knocked Trump without mentioning his name, for his call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. Clinton likened it to America’s sending Jews back to Europe during the Holocaust.

She urged the Israel activists, “If you see a bully, stand up to him!”

David Holzel contributed to this article.