WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Biden administration will base its relationship to Israel’s incoming government on the actions it takes, not the people installed in positions of power, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a speech Sunday.
Blinken’s speech, to the conference of the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group J Street, was notable because it offered the first official response to deepening questions about how the White House would work with a Israeli government that includes far-right parties. Until now, sources close to the administration had suggested that the White House could decline to meet with those parties’ leaders.
Blinken said the Biden administration would “continue to unequivocally oppose any acts that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution, including, but not limited to, settlement expansion; moves toward annexation of the West Bank; disruption to the historic status quo at holy sites; demolitions and evictions; and incitement to violence.”
The speech drew criticism from some J Street followers for stopping short of dealing firmly with an incoming Israeli government that they feel is taking aim at some of Israel’s core democratic principles.
“I had zero expectations for Blinken’s speech. And he couldn’t even meet those,” said Richard Goldwasser, a former J Street board member from Chicago, on Twitter. “Pablum on Xanax.”
The theme of J Street’s conference this year was battling anti-democratic forces in Israel and in the United States. Jeremy Ben-Ami, in his opening speech Saturday night, unveiled the group’s new motto, “Pro Israel, pro-peace, pro democracy”; the “pro-democracy” element was new. Ben-Ami drew a contrast with J Street’s main rival, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
AIPAC drew liberal Jewish criticism after its launch last year of political action committees that back an array of candidates, ranging from progressive to far right. It has also declined to comment on the likely inclusion in Netanyahu’s government of far right extremists, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, a disciple of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane.
“So rather than focusing on defeating the white nationalists and the election deniers, with whom most of Jewish America has nothing in common, they instead are spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat liberal and progressive candidates who may or may not have once in their lives uttered a critical word about Israeli policy,” Ben-Ami said. “Organizations that failed to call out the Ben-Gvirs and the [Bezalel] Smotriches of Israel while endorsing the Jim Jordans, the Andy Biggs, the Scott Perrys here in the U.S. do not speak for us.”
Perry of Pennsylvania, Biggs of Arizona and Jordan of Ohio have all to varying degrees endorsed the election lies by President Donald Trump that spurred the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
J Street’s conference was focused on democracy in the United States at times to the exclusion of the issue that founded the organization in 2008, Israeli-Palestinian peace. In a 30-minute keynote speech Saturday night, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Jewish Democratic congressman from Maryland known for his constitutional expertise, barely mentioned Israel.
“I know that you know what it means to be pro-Israel and pro-peace,” Raskin said. “And I want to just discuss for my time with you tonight what it means to be a pro-democracy American in 2022 in a rather frightful world where so many people have turned to propaganda and conspiracy theory and disinformation and fanaticism and authoritarianism.” He was interrupted multiple times by applause.
AIPAC mocked J Street for its absence of conventional pro-Israel content. “Not a word of praise for Israel,” the organization said in a tweet attached to a photo of Ben-Ami speaking at the conference. “Not a single recognition of Israel’s achievements or value. Not a single embrace of the Israeli people.”
Noa, the Israeli singer-songwriter, also appeared on Saturday night, singing songs that had been penned by Palestinian-Israelis. She likened the relationship of the Jewish Diaspora to Israel to that of a mother to a daughter, saying that mothers need to look out for the children, whatever tensions may arise.
“The Jewish people needs to help the maturing child,” she said, reflecting a theme that it repeated itself throughout the conference: that a voice like J Street was especially needed at a time of crisis in its democracy. “The worst thing we could do is walk away,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the director of T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights group.
Blinken did speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reflecting the pessimistic mood in the room but saying that he believed progress could still be achieved.
“I know that many people are disillusioned,” he said. “Many people are frustrated. We’ve been trying to get to a two-state solution for decades, and yet it seems that we’ve only gotten further away from that goal. But we cannot afford to give up hope. We cannot succumb to cynicism. We cannot give in to apathy. It’s precisely when times are difficult — when peace seems even further from reach — that we’ve simply got to work harder, that we must continue to pursue whatever openings we can to show that progress is still possible.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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