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What you need to know about Dean Phillips, the Jewish congressman running for president

(JTA) — Dean Phillips is running for president. And he wants to talk.

Talking runs in the Jewish Minnesota congressman’s family — his grandmother is Dear Abby. And he’s friends with Ilhan Omar, despite their polar opposite views on a range of issues, including Israel, because they like to talk things through.

Now, Phillips, 54, is hoping that penchant for dialogue will fuel his latest endeavor — a long-shot bid to defeat Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary.

“The greatest challenge we face right now isn’t ideology, isn’t issue based, it’s conversation, the lack of conversation,” the Minnesota Democrat said in ads for his first congressional campaign for the House in 2018, which he reupped for his presidential campaign. “And the great intention of my campaign in my personal mandate is to get people to talk.”

Phillips doesn’t differ much from Biden on policy, and hasn’t garnered any meaningful support from other elected officials or in the polls. But so far, as primary season approaches, he’s refused to back down.

Here are six things to know about Phillips as he vies against odds to be the first Jewish U.S. president.

He has staked his campaign on Biden’s unpopularity. 

Phillips’ challenge boils down to one thing: Biden’s unpopularity. He says he likes the president and appreciates his performance, but that polls show Democrats need a different nominee next year.

Biden’s approval rating is 37% and has been lower than 50% for two years, according to Gallup. Election polls show him neck-and-neck with former President Donald Trump — with some showing Trump leading in several swing states.

“The numbers are horrifying,” Phillips told CBS in an October interview. “I love Joe Biden, I want to make that clear — a remarkable man. I think he saved our country. … But that’s not what the numbers are saying now. There is an exhausted majority in America that wants neither of these candidates.”

Phillips’ platform more or less mirrors Biden’s: spurring small business growth, favoring police reforms while praising those in uniform who do their jobs well, promoting gun control and action to combat climate change.

He did depart from Biden in December on healthcare, endorsing Medicare for All, a policy championed in recent years by Sen. Bernie Sanders which would provide government-run healthcare to all Americans. Biden has campaigned in the past on expanding healthcare coverage but has not endorsed Medicare for All.

The problem Phillips faces is that hardly anyone wants to listen to him. 

When pollsters pay attention to Phillips, he garners less than 5% against Biden and even trails Marianne Williamson, the Jewish self-help author. The president leads the polls by more than 60 points.

Polls aren’t Phillips’ only problem: His campaign has raised less than $1 million. The Democratic Party is canceling primaries in key states, including North Carolina and Florida. And colleagues who enjoyed his company are now shunning him, Axios reported this week.

Phillips, who was elected to an influential leadership position in his party just a year ago, is persona non grata among some House Democrats, a few of whom were willing to diss him on the record.

“Dean Phillips is not going to win any primary,” said Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the former majority leader. “I think he’s not helpful to the country.”

But Phillips is not ending his run, telling Axios that his party should have “a democracy of competition and not coronation.”

He was one of the first Jewish members of Congress to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

On Nov. 17, Phillips posted a statement that at first appeared to echo the Biden administration’s policy on Israel. It called Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel “despicable,” mourned “the resulting human tragedy in Gaza” and said “Israel has every right and expectation to target Hamas terrorists and dismantle their capability of destroying the state of Israel.”

But the statement added, “That response has taken an unacceptable toll on Palestinian civilians.” And it called for an “immediate and mutual ceasefire of large-scale military operations and indiscriminate terror” to be upheld by both sides.

The statement — which had several other provisions, including calling for a release of hostages, new Israeli elections and a multinational force to be stationed in Gaza — made Phillips one of the first Jewish members of Congress to call for a ceasefire.

On Dec. 11, he called for both Hamas and Netanyahu to lose power — and implicitly tied that call to his own presidential bid.

“Hamas is a clear & present danger to Israel, Palestinians, & peace, & must be destroyed,” he wrote. “Netanyahu is a clear & present danger to Israel, Palestinians, & peace, & must be democratically replaced. Earth needs a new generation of leaders to save itself.”

He has also echoed feelings of isolation felt by many Jews amid reports of rising antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“Being a Jewish member of Congress in the Democratic caucus is very difficult right now, you can imagine,” he told Bill Maher in November. “And there’s a seemingly a lack of progressive love when it comes to our doorstep. And it’s problematic.”

His grandmother was famous — and declared that he would be a Democrat.

When Phillips was born in 1969 his father, Artie Pfefer, was deployed to Vietnam and was killed six months later, never having met his son. When Phillips was an adult, he learned that his parents kept in touch through audiotapes. In one, Pfefer said, “I really love you so much and little baby Dean. I’m just getting a feeling for you and those pictures and, you know, his voice and everything. I’d really like to give him a big, big fat kiss.”

When he was 3, his mother DeeDee remarried, and Eddie Phillips, who also was Jewish, adopted Dean. Eddie’s mom was Pauline Phillips, better known as the advice columnist Dear Abby.

Phillips likes to recount that when he was 10 or so and tracking the 1980 presidential race, independent candidate John Anderson visited his school.

“We were having a family dinner, and my grandma asked about my day and said, ‘Before you continue, are you a Democrat or Republican?’ I didn’t know. And she said, ‘You’re a Democrat.’ So she anointed me a Democrat when I was 11 years old,” he told Roll Call last year.

“Nine years later, I was having dinner with her again, and she asked what I was going to do that summer as a junior in college,” he said. “She knew [Democratic Vermont Sen.] Patrick Leahy a bit and said I should apply for an internship on Capitol Hill. So I did, and that became the greatest summer of my life until joining Congress myself in 2019.”

His Jewish identity revolves around philanthropy, and his business career centers on gelato and coffee.

Phillips likes to cite his Minsk-born great-grandfather, Jay Phillips, as a model: He suffered antisemitism and poverty as a child in Minnesota, but would set aside pennies he earned as a newspaper delivery boy to pay for bread for the homeless.

Jay Phillips founded a distillery empire (launching, among other things, the first American-made schnapps) and helped establish Mt. Sinai hospital in Minneapolis, among other philanthropic endeavors.

Dean Phillips for a time ran the distillery, but he said his great-grandfather’s charitable work was his real calling. He has served as co-chairman of the Phillips Family Foundation.

“Our true family business is the foundation, and philanthropy is the thread that is woven through the generations,” he told TC Jewfolk, a local Jewish outlet. “My Jewishness begins with that, and the philanthropy begins with our Jewish heritage and Jay’s story of sharing the pennies.”

He quit the distillery in 2012 to run Talenti Gelato, selling it in 2014 to Unilever. He then opened two coffee shops in the Minneapolis area named Penny’s.

“We thought combining crepes with coffee was similar to gelato, which was this elevation of a product that people enjoy when they traveled to Europe and had a fondness for, but wasn’t really available widely in the U.S..” he told Forbes. “So it’s not the café; I’d like to position it more as an escape, and it just happens to serve coffee and crepes.”

That venture was not so successful: The coffee shops shuttered in 2022.

His first taste of politics was in a synagogue.

Phillips was on the board of Temple Israel, the oldest synagogue in Minneapolis, which, he told TC Jewfolk, was his “first foray into governance.” He made it sound daunting, but also portrayed it as a useful learning experience.

“It was enlightening because when people with great passion and different perspectives are all looking to the same end and see the means differently, that is analogous to Congress, and it requires patience and listening and conversation and the willingness to participate,” he said.

He believes in talking before condemning.

Phillips’s neighboring district is represented by Ilhan Omar, the firebrand Somali-American Muslim congresswoman who has drawn criticism for rhetoric some Jewish critics call antisemitic.

They occupy opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum: he has been a leading member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which brings Republicans and Democrats together to seek bipartisan compromise. She is a member of the far-left “Squad”. He is unapologetically pro-Israel; she is a fierce critic of Israel. He is all about spurring business-friendly legislation; she is allied with the Democratic Socialists of America.

Phillips has not held back when he thinks Omar deserves criticism: He was one of four Jewish Democrats who in 2021 accused her and other Squad members of echoing antisemitism for using words like “apartheid” and “terrorist” to describe Israel’s government.

But he also considers Omar a friend, according to a lengthy 2019 profile of their unlikely relationship in Politico Magazine. Just after Omar made perhaps her most notorious statement, saying support for Israel in Congress was “all about the Benjamins,” he sought her out for a face-to-face chat before issuing his own statement, despite the talk causing a delay that he said irked fellow Jewish Democrats.

“That’s how I wish more people would conduct themselves — let’s share it face to face,” Phillips told Politico. “You know, a little more talking, a little less tweeting. It’s the tweeting that gets us into trouble.”

In a fiery floor speech in February, he defended his friend when Republicans ousted her from the Foreign Affairs Committee, saying they “share a belief in debate, deliberation and reconciliation.” Then, to whoops and cheers from members of the Squad, who sat behind him as he delivered his speech, he laid into far-right Republicans for members of their conference who “encouraged an insurrection.”

The same day, Omar joined Phillips in cosponsoring a pro-Israel resolution “recognizing Israel as America’s legitimnate and democratic ally.”

The post What you need to know about Dean Phillips, the Jewish congressman running for president appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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The detailed plans for a Canadian law that regulates hate speech online are seen as a ‘good start’ by Jewish groups

Jewish groups and others concerned about the rise of hate speech online welcomed the introduction of a new government bill on Feb. 26. And while the parliamentary process for it to become law is only beginning, it’s a good start according to advocacy groups who have called for the government to regulate certain types of […]

The post The detailed plans for a Canadian law that regulates hate speech online are seen as a ‘good start’ by Jewish groups appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘You Jew!’: UC Berkeley Mob Attacks Jews During Event With IDF Soldier, University Pledges Investigation

Mob of anti-Zionists attempting to infiltrate event with Ran Bar-Yoshafat at University of California, Berkeley on February 27, 2024. Photo: Screenshot/Twitter

A mob of hundreds pro-Palestinian students and non-students shut down an event Monday evening at University of California-Berkeley featuring an Israeli soldier, forcing Jewish students to flee to a secret safe room as the protestors overwhelmed campus police

Footage of the incident shared by the outlet shows a serried mass of anti-Zionist agitators banging on the doors of the Zellerbach Library while an event featuring Israeli reservist Ran Bar-Yoshafat —who visited the university to discuss his military service during Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 — took place inside. The mob then stormed the building — breaking glass windows in the process, according reports in the Daily Wire — and forced school officials to evacuate Jewish students to a secret safe-room.

“What happened last night was deeply concerning and a violation of some of our most important rules and values as a university, including freedom of speech, respect for diversity, and the ties that bind us together as a community,” UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor for communications and public affairs Dan Mogulof told The Algemeiner on Tuesday during a phone interview. “What we saw last night has no recent precedent. More than an estimated 200 protesters showed up at the venue and gained unauthorized entry into the building. There has never been anything like what occurred last night.”

Mogulof pledged that the university will launch an investigation into the incident.

“We do not and will not ignore violations of our rules and values,” he said. “When we have events like this, we always have two priorities. One, to do everything in our power so the event goes forward and the other is to do everything in our power to protect the safety and well being of our students and members of the public, and given the size of the crowd, and the violence of the crowd, we were unable to do both, even with 20 police officers. The event had to be cancelled, so that we could evacuate the building and support the safety of the students.”

During the infiltration of Zellerbach, one of the mob — which was assembled by Bears for Palestine, which had earlier proclaimed its intention to cancel the event — spit on a Jewish student and called him a “Jew,” pejoratively.

“You know what I was screamed at? ‘Jew, you Jew, you Jew,’ literally right to my face,” the student who was attacked said to a friend. “Some woman — then she spit at me.”

Shaya Keyvanfar, a student, told The Algemeiner that her sister was spit and that the incident was unlike any she had ever witnessed.

“Once the doors were closed, the protesters somehow found a side door and pushed it open, and a few of them managed to get in, and once they did, they tried to open the door for the rest of them,” Keyvanfar said. “It was really scary. They were pounding on the windows outside — they broke one — they spit at my sister and others. They called someone a dirty Jew. It was eerie.”

Keyvanfar added that it may be difficult to identify the culprits because anti-Zionists activists wear masks to conceal their identities.

Security concerns plagued the event all week, according to the Daily Wire, and after arriving on campus Bar-Yoshafat was required to conceal his identity. Prior to that, the location of the event was changed to various locations to prevent violence.

“I just felt really bad for these kids because they were scared,” Bar-Yoshafat told Daily Wire. “Girls were crying from being attacked, and I think the kid that was spat on was just so shocked. I don’t think the students anticipated so many people being violent, they thought they would just chant outside.”

During Tuesday’s interview with The Algemeiner Mogulof stressed that the university “understands now that we are in new territory” and called the incident a “black mark” on its reputation. He also explained that UC Berkeley launched an antisemitism awareness program in 2019, which included panels and talks with esteemed scholars of Jewish history such as Deborah Lipstadt, because it takes the issue of campus antisemitism seriously.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Prominent Pro-Hamas Activist in Australia Arrested on Kidnapping and Torture Charges

Australian pro-Hamas activist Laura Allam. Photo: X/Twitter

Australian police on Monday announced the arrest of a prominent pro-Hamas advocate accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and torture of a man whose perceived offense was to work for a Jewish employer.

Melbourne resident Laura Allam was charged with kidnapping, armed robbery, illegal detention, assault and battery against the 31-year-old man, who has not been named by authorities. Working with an accomplice who has also been arrested and charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, armed robbery, threats to kill, intention to cause injury, recklessly causing injury, unlawful assault and assault with weapon, the 28-year-old Allam is  understood to have targeted the man solely because his employer is Jewish.

According to a statement from police in the State of Victoria, the brutal assault occurred on the night of Feb. 16 in the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans. “It’s alleged a man was pulled from a car near the intersection of Gladstone and Cleveland streets about 9.30pm,” the statement noted. “He was then allegedly placed in another car and assaulted and robbed before being released in Braybrook.” The victim required extensive treatment in hospital for injuries sustained in the “horrific kidnapping and torture.”

Allam is a prominent member of Australia’s large Lebanese community and the CEO of the Al Jannah Foundation, which bills itself as an Islamic humanitarian organization. While Allam’s social media profiles specify that she is still running the organization, an entry on the Australian register of companies notes that the foundation ceased operations in July 2023, less than three years after it was formally incorporated. The foundation’s website additionally lists a number of projects that it is raising money for — including addressing food shortages in Lebanon and child health challenges — that apparently remain unfunded.

In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel, Allam dedicated most of her time to attacking Israel on social media as well as spreading false information on her TikTok account, which had 20,000 followers before being closed down, as well as X/Twitter and Instagram. One post on Feb. 5 promoted the fabricated claim that a British Royal Navy warship dispatched to the Gulf to combat attacks on shipping by Houthi terrorists in Yemen had “broken down off the coasts of England.”

Her barbs against Israel on social media included a post that declared “good riddance” over an image of four Israeli soldiers killed while serving in Gaza. On Oct. 8 — the day after the Hamas pogrom which resulted in the murder of more than 1,200 people and the kidnapping of over 200 amid atrocities that included mass rape and bodily mutilation — Allam told her followers that she had “woken up to some great news from our beloved Palestine.” Other posts spoke of “a jihad of martyrdom or victory” and lauded attempts to “avenge the martyrs in Jenin and Gaza.”

Allam discussed her arrest in her final post on her Instagram account before it was closed down. Reproduced on the pro-Israel blog Israellycool, Allam’s post boasted of her “selflessness” and her commitment to “remaining quiet — for now,” going on to declare that “[T]here are words that burn the wildest flames in the deepest pits of my heart and will only ever be extinguished when Allah takes the ‘haqq’ (truth) from every single oppressor to walk this earth.”

“This seems to be an admission as to her involvement, yet amazingly no apology for her actions,” Israellycool observed in an accompanying commentary. “In fact, she speaks as if the incident somehow passively ‘occurred’ – as opposed to her actively doing something terrible.”

In its coverage of Allam’s arrest on Monday, Melbourne’s Herald Sun news outlet reported on “an extraordinary suppression order relating to her case prevents the Herald Sun from running Ms Allam’s image, referencing some ethnic groups or providing certain detail about her advocacy activities.” However, several posts on X/Twitter shared her photograph, her name and her other affiliations.

Allam made the news earlier this month after she spoke at a pro-Hamas protest at the Australian parliament in Canberra alongside three senators from the left-wing Green Party. Responding to the event, Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt highlighted Allam’s Islamist loyalties, saying, “[T]hat’s one of the people now sharing a stage with the Greens. The Greens may not have known of Allam’s past, but this is who they find next to them in their gutter.”

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