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Rep. Rothman to Obama: Press Abbas to end incitement, resume talks

J Street objects to legislators’ call for Palestinian accountability as one-sided

 
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Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Steve Austria (R-Ohio) are calling on President Obama to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace negotiations and to end anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, J Street, the controversial pro-peace-process advocacy group, is blasting the congressmen’s effort as too single-issue focused and unfairly hard on Abbas.

Last week J Street released a statement objecting to a letter co-authored by the congressmen and soon to go out to President Obama. J Street contends that the letter, for which the congressmen are collecting signatures, focuses inordinately on incitement at the expense of other issues. In a telephone interview on Tuesday, J Street staffer Amy Spitalnick told The Jewish Standard that the organization disagrees with what the staffer characterized as the letter’s implicit blame of Abbas “in the context of this horrific Itamar massacre.”

The congressmen’s letter references the murders, earlier this month, of five members of the Fogel family, who lived in the west bank settlement of Itamar, and condemns the PA’s current refusal engage in peace talks and to cease incitement.

A draft of the letter, released by Rothman, reads, in part: “We are sure that you share our disappointment in President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to withdraw from peace talks in October of last year and his stubborn refusal to reengage as a willing partner for peace with Israel.… Unfortunately, we live in a time when [a group called] the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades [of Imad Mughniyeh] will rush to take credit for the horrific, inhuman, and brutal attack in Itamar against the Fogel family, including three of their children, an 11-year-old, 4-year-old, and 3-month-old. This must serve as a wakeup call that the current state of affairs is dangerous and unacceptable.”

Rothman, in a telephone interview with the Standard on Monday, said the goal of his and Austria’s letter is two-fold: to urge Obama to press Abbas to resume peace talks without preconditions and to end the culture of incitement, which he charges the PA has failed to do.

“The thrust of our letter … is to not only point out how libelous and vile we find the PA’s failures to confront incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis by members of the PA and their sympathizers, but also to condemn the PA’s refusal to come to the negotiating table to work out the terms for a two-state solution,” he said. Regarding J Street’s statement, Rothman added, “Curiously, J Street makes no mention of the PA’s failure to return to the negotiating table. I find that shocking and inexcusable, especially since J Street speaks of [wanting] a two-state resolution to the conflict.”

In its statement, J Street characterized the congressmen’s appeal as one-sided, disproportionately focused on incitement, and misleading.

The J Street statement reads, in part: “In our view, it is preferable for Congressional statements on the conflict to address the actions and words of both parties.… To frame the current impasse in the peace process as the result simply of instances of incitement by Palestinians ignores other actions that impede peace, specifically ongoing and intensifying Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territory.… J Street objects to the letter’s use of the horrifying murder of an Israeli family.… To highlight this act … and to do so without also mentioning President Abbas’ quick condemnation is misleading.”

J Street’s Spitalnick told the Standard that although J Street “is firmly opposed to incitement,” the organization felt Rothman’s letter was disproportionately focused on it.

“To make this issue of incitement the only issue undermining prospects for peace does a disservice to actually achieving a peace agreement,” she said. “Another important thing … is that the letter implicitly lays the blame on President Abbas, even in the context of this horrific Itamar massacre, for incitement. This is a leader that has been applauded in conjunction with Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad by Israeli and American security forces for work to root out violence.”

Rothman fired back against J Street’s defense of Abbas, saying, “Notwithstanding the fact Abbas publicly declared the murders in Itamar to be inhuman and without justification, he did not condemn his fellow Palestinians for taking credit for such a despicable and murderous act.”

Spitalnick responded, “Not that I’m defending Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — but then they said they didn’t take credit for it. So the facts are very iffy still.” (According to the Jerusalem Post, officials of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — which is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization — “denied that the attack came from within their ranks, telling Al Hayat that they are not connected to the Imad Mugniyeh group.”)

Spitalnick added that J Street supports another congressional letter, sent to Obama last week, that called for maintaining current levels of foreign aid to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority and for U.S. leadership in promoting a two-state solution. That letter, which had 116 signatories, was co-authored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

Rothman also spoke about the U.S. State Department’s recent, explicit condemnation of a March 13 ceremony in a town square in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, for Dalal Mughrabi. The square was named and a plaque dedicated in memory of Mughrabi, who directed the hijacking of two buses that resulted in the murders of 37 Israelis, including 13 children. Members of Abbas’ Fatah faction were reportedly on hand.

“In my opinion that’s just the latest in dozens of examples over past several years of the PA not taking sufficient action to publicly condemn or prevent the glorification and celebration of the murderers of Israeli men, women, and children,” Rothman said.

 

More on: Rep. Rothman to Obama: Press Abbas to end incitement, resume talks

 
 
 

Amid violence, pen pals in Congress focus on Israel

WASHINGTON – It happens almost like clockwork: Something happens in the Middle East, and it reverberates across the Atlantic with new letters from the U.S. Congress.

With so many relatively new members looking to establish their pro-Israel credentials, the reaction in Congress to the recent violence in Israel was particularly swift.

“American pressure needs to be exerted on the Palestinians, not the Israelis, to make steps toward achieving peace,” said a March 18 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from the Republican Study Committee, the conservative caucus of Republicans from the House of Representatives.

 
 
 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

 

Reality check

Author to discuss intergenerational ‘experiment’

Katie Hafner began her professional career writing for a small newspaper in Lake Tahoe.

That didn’t last for long, though. “I worked my way up,” said Ms. Hafner, who now writes on health care for the New York Times.

A seasoned journalist, Ms. Hafner was exceptionally well prepared to chronicle an experience in her own life that she calls both an “experiment in intergenerational living” and a “disaster.” Inviting her 77-year-old mother to live with her and her teenage daughter, Zoe, in San Francisco, Ms. Hafner learned that fairy-tale imaginings are no match for emotional truths.

(In her book, Ms. Hafner calls her mother Helen. That is not her real name; her mother requested anonymity, and Ms. Hafner honored the request.)

 

Self-defense or unnecessary danger?

Armed self-defense is a value strongly supported in Jewish law, according to a statement issued last week by a local Jewish gun club, which is urging two of the largest Orthodox organizations in the country to reconsider their positions on gun control.

On July 16, the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization representing Orthodox rabbis in the United States, issued a statement recognizing the rights of private citizens to own weapons and engage in violence for self-defense, but also calling for the restriction of “easy and unregulated access to weapons and ammunition,” and denounced “recreational activities that desensitize participants … or glorify war, killing, physical violence, and weapons….”

The RCA resolution came just over a year after the Orthodox Union issued a similar resolution citing its longtime commitment to “common sense gun safety legislation” and calling on U.S. senators to pass legislation to ensure “a safer and more secure American society.”

 

She’s a project-based fellow

Tikvah Wiener tapped by Joshua Venture Group

Tikvah Wiener of Teaneck describes herself as “passionate about project-based learning.”

As head of the English department at the Frisch School in Paramus, where she taught for 13 years, Ms. Wiener brought that innovative educational approach into the high school’s curriculum and extracurricular activities. “It’s a pedagogy where students engage in solving a complex real world problem and they create different products as a result of their learning,” she said.

The products could be a multimedia presentation, or a blog displaying students’ interpretations of Shakespeare. But it also could be a class-wide effort to study the problem of snow removal and offer suggestions for improvement — a project that would include math and science as well as civics and English.

This school year, Ms. Wiener has a new job: She is chief academic officer at the Magen David High School in Brooklyn. And she has just received a prestigious — and lucrative — award to help her promote project-based learning in Jewish day schools across the country.

 

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According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

 

Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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