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Education Department nominee Ken Marcus: a case study of the new anti-Semitism

Photo: Louis D. Brandeis Center

When I was a child, having been born in the 1950s under the shadow of the Holocaust, I had naively thought anti-Semitism was mostly a thing of the past that vanished in the gas chambers and ovens of Auschwitz. Yet within the past few decades, I have witnessed anti-Semitism blossom into a socially acceptable hatred that has managed to make its way into the corridors of polite society in a fashion that is as overt, obvious and unconcealed as it is alarming.

It has migrated not only into college classrooms and campuses, but actually into the most respectable chambers of the U.S. Senate, in the very committees whose mandate is to authorize and appropriate taxpayer-funded programs to eliminate racism and anti-Semitism as well as other hatreds, and to appoint professionals within those agencies.

Recently, much of this anti-Semitic invective has been directed against a colleague of mine, Ken Marcus, who has been nominated to serve as assistant secretary of education for civil rights within the Department of Education. For reasons I will explain, Marcus has been the victim of an ugly and disgusting smear campaign.

Marcus served in a similar capacity from 2004-2008 under President George W. Bush, as assistant secretary of education for civil rights and later as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He monitored and investigated complaints against minority groups such as African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. A firm believer in free speech rights under the First Amendment, Marcus has always expressed the view that hate speech is protected speech under the Constitution, and that the best antidote for hate speech is more speech.

The standard for protected speech within an educational setting, however, is a bit more complex.  When a student is subjected to physical/verbal harassment, vandalism or intimidation to the degree that it interferes with that student’s ability to learn—creating “hostile environment harassment”—it might very well cross the line.

During the past few years, when it comes to Jewish students, it seems that the line has been constantly crossed. A recent report from the Anti-Defamation League indicates that there was an alarming 67-percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017. Most alarmingly, the greatest increase were in our nation’s schools, which saw an increase of 107 percent in anti-Semitic incidents experienced by Jewish students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses, meanwhile, rose 63 percent during that period.

It was precisely because of this trend that in 2012, Marcus founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, whose mission is “to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” Marcus simply wants Jewish students to enjoy the same civil rights and protections that the law provides to other minorities.

Since Marcus’s institution serves to advance the civil rights of Jewish students, the flood of complaints against his nomination have come in at a frenetic velocity from some predictable sources.

On Jan. 10, Dima Khalidi published a scurrilous piece in The Nation entitled “Students Beware: This Trump Nominee Doesn’t believe in Your Civil Rights.” Notably, Khalidi fails to mention the fact that she heads Palestine Legal, a group that routinely works to undermine efforts to combat anti-Semitism on college and university campuses. She argues that Marcus, as the leader of LDB, “has made a practice through his work at the center of targeting the First Amendment rights of students who are critical of Israeli policies and advocate for Palestinian rights.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout Marcus’s extensive career, he has consistently demonstrated uncompromising and objective support for the civil rights of all minority groups, and unflinching appreciation of everyone’s First Amendment rights.

As Jennifer Braceras—a former head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, whose service overlapped with Marcus’s time at the agency, wrote in a recent article, “Marcus has never argued that speaking out against Israel is, in and of itself, sufficient to trigger federal civil rights law. To the contrary, he has expressly stated that skepticism of Israel’s ‘status quo’ is often wrongly characterized as anti-Semitic, when it ‘may well reflect only the concern, shared by some in the liberal Jewish American community, that Israel’s current policy toward Palestinian Arabs is unsustainable in light of gathering international pressure.’”

Perhaps Khalidi is unaware that Marcus, on behalf of LDB, has sent several letters to university officials decrying racism against Muslims and African-Americans on their campuses. In November 2015, Marcus penned a letter to Dr. Elliot Hirshman, president of San Diego State University (SDSU), expressing concern regarding an attack on a Muslim student. He wrote, “While our organization primarily addresses the rights of Jewish college students, we support the right of all students to be free from invidious discrimination.”

Does this sound like the sentiment of a racist or an Islamophobe?

Yet while I was recently talking about Marcus with a senior policy adviser to the Democratic ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the adviser interrupted me with the response, “We do not care about anti-Semitism in this office.”

If I were an African-American speaking about a black civil rights organization, would the adviser have ever thought to utter similar words?

Perhaps Marcus’s crime is how he has recognized that, along with other minority groups, Jewish students in America need protection. If that is the case, then we have gone a long way from the halcyon days of my youth.

Originally published at: http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2018/1/16/education-department-nominee-ken-marcus-a-case-study-of-the-new-anti-semitism#.WmDGJCOZO9Z=

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No more Nedas: Will Iran’s regime again unleash immense brutality against protesters?

In 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama entered office, millions of people rose up against the ruling theocratic regime of Iran. The demonstrations began in response to the disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had been favored by the ruling mullahs. The election had taken place on June 12, 2009, and two hours after the polls had closed, the results were announced, causing people to immediately take to the streets. By the next day, the peaceful demonstrators were met with the club-wielding Basij, a pro-government paramilitary group.

By June 19, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the election a “divine assessment” and declared that protests would no longer be tolerated. By June 22, video footage of a beautiful young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, who had been fatally shot by the Basij while demonstrating, quickly spread throughout the internet and grabbed international attention.

Unfortunately, there were many more anonymous Nedas. The government used this time to purge the opposition party as well as to conduct arbitrary arrests of journalists and human rights activists. The Basij came out on horseback and began to trample on demonstrators. Hospitals were prohibited from reporting the amount of casualties. Many of the demonstrators had been carted off to the notorious Evin Prison to be tortured and raped. Many have never been seen or heard from again.

In the midst of all of this, freedom-loving dissidents throughout Iran were holding up signs saying “down with the dictatorship” and “Obama, where are you?”

The leader of the free world was silent during the initial days of the protests, and when he finally did speak, President Obama’s words were, at best, muted. He said, “It is up to the Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be.”

These people were looking towards the U.S. as the moral leader of the world, and one word from the president might have made a critical difference.

One cannot help but contrast this to the words of President Donald Trump regarding the new anti-regime protests in Iran. On Sunday, he tweeted, “Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

One has to marvel at the amazing courage of today’s demonstrators in Iran, who are able to protest despite the known brutality of the regime. Today’s Iranian protesters took to the streets because of government corruption, inflation and lack of economic opportunity. They are puzzled that their regime received $150 billion in unfrozen assets due to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, yet none of this has trickled down to the common man. They are probably disgusted that most of the key sectors of the economy are controlled by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

We have no way of confirming this, but we are hopeful that the demonstrators might also be  motivated by disgust over the regime’s foreign policy; its aggressive behavior and meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza; and its support for terrorist entities such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

We know that at the time I am writing this, the demonstrations have spread to seven cities, and that they are robust and impressive in size.

There is a lot more, however, that we do not know. We do not know whether or not the regime will once again unleash its immense brutality against the demonstrators. We do not know whether or not these demonstrations might blossom into a genuine threat to the regime.

What we do know is that most of Iran’s current population has been born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and that more than half of Iranians are younger than 35. Many of them despise the country’s oppressive and brutal theocracy, and would love to experience the beautiful taste of Western liberties.

We hope that just as we used Radio Free Europe to overthrow the chokehold of the former Soviet Union, we are also using Voice of America in Farsi to support the Iranian demonstrators. We hope that the CIA is on the ground doing whatever it can to support the legitimate voice of the opposition. We hope that we are using cyber technology to enable the demonstrators to break through the obstacles that the mullahs are imposing on social media and other methods of communication. We hope that the Iranian regime knows that if the outcome is at all similar to the unfortunate result in 2009, both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. will not hesitate to come together and impose crippling sanctions against Iran for its human rights violations.

We hope for the stability of the region and the world, but mostly for the Iranian people, that this odious regime can be overthrown. But in the meantime, we hope that there will be no more Nedas.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, which describes itself as an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.

Article originally published at: http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2018/1/2/no-more-nedas-will-irans-regime-again-unleash-immense-brutality-against-protesters#.Wk0J4t-nHIU=

 

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Thank You, Nikki Haley

The United Nations was founded on lofty principles in the wake of the atrocities of World War II. Sadly, with two votes last week – the first in the Security Council on Monday and the second in an emergency session of the General Assembly – we witnessed just how far the institution has fallen.

The U.S. is a sovereign, democratic nation that lives by the rule of law. One of those laws, the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, was passed in 1995, by a solid, bipartisan majority of 93 to 5 in the Senate and 374 to 37 in the House. A sovereign nation has the right to choose where to place its embassies. And yet, on Dec. 6, when U.S. President Donald Trump called for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the call was met with such hysteria in this venerable institution that one might think he had called for genocide.

These two U.N. votes, condemning Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, contradict the very foundations on which the U.N. was established. Article 2 (7) of the United Nations Charter specifically states that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” This, however, did not prevent the frenzy against the U.S. for supporting its one democratic ally in the Middle East.

Before Thursday’s vote in the General Assembly, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley valiantly said: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in this assembly. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the U.N., and when other member nations ask Washington to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

There is nothing in the U.N. Charter that obligates the U.S. to be so generous with its taxpayer dollars. Nothing obligates one country out of 193 member nations to pay 22% of the U.N. budget – billions of dollars more than any other nation.

Judging from the reaction of the international community, one could mistake the world’s nations for a bunch of babies. The largest tantrum came from the paragon of democracy, Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, expressed hope that “the United States will be taught a lesson.”

“Mr. Trump, You cannot buy Turkey’s democratic will with dollars. Our decision is clear. I call upon the whole world: Don’t you dare sell your democratic struggle and your will for petty dollars,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan has a very loose definition of the word “democracy.” The Turkish president is a thug, who arbitrarily arrests opposition politicians, journalists, academics and anyone perceived as a threat to his iron rule. He has displaced approximately 400,000 Kurds from their homes. He has accepted billions of euros from the European Union to house Syrian refugees, but none of that money has reached actual refugees. Instead, it is lining his pockets and those of his cronies as he threatens to unleash these refugees and flood the EU with them.

Seeing as 20 of the 26 General Assembly votes in 2016 were directed against Israel – a full 77% – with only three on Syria, and one each on Iran, North Korea and Crimea, it came as no surprise that on Thursday, the General Assembly rejected Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by an overwhelming majority of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions and 21 no-shows.

The reason for this is the presence within the U.N. of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – the largest body inside the U.N. and a powerful force against Israel. It is beyond ironic that nations with the glorious human rights records of Syria, Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia are lecturing the United States on democracy.

Thank you, Nikki Haley for finally putting an end to the notion that nations can continue to insult the U.S. and its single democratic ally in the Middle East and then expect a free ride at the American taxpayers’ expense.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.‎

Originally Published at: http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/thank-you-nikki-haley/

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Trump delivers a sorely needed dose of reality therapy

Dec. 6, 2017, will be forever remembered as a day when a historic wrong had been righted. When President Donald Trump made his long-anticipated announcement that the U.S. not only recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but that he will take steps towards moving the American embassy there, he accomplished something remarkable—he brought some sorely needed reality therapy to the Palestinians.

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Raqqa Report Highlights the UN’s Illogical Double Standard Against Israel

By Sarah Stern and Jennifer Dekel

The United Nations (U.N.) was founded in 1945 upon the loftiest of principles. The U.N. Charter, among other things, resolves to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”

However, anyone who has observed the behavior of the U.N. is aware that the institution has descended far from these magnificent goals. There is one small nation, Israel, which is constantly singled out for excessive and disproportionate condemnation.

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Three-Dimensional Chess, Middle East Style

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri recently shocked the international community by announcing his resignation. Hariri, a Sunni political leader, made this announcement from Saudi Arabia, where some speculate that he is being held under house arrest, while others believe he is there on his own accord because he fears for his very life. These fears are not unfounded. In 2005, his father, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was assassinated by a car bomb that is believed to have been planted by Hezbollah.

The Middle East is a mysterious region where suspicion hangs heavily in the air—under normal conditions. But the entire region, as of late, is mired in extraordinary circumstances. Since the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015, Iran has been vastly emboldened, empowered and enriched. The Iranians have been on the march throughout the region, sowing acts of aggression in Sana’a, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. They are attempting to establish a Shi’a crescent stretching from Tehran throughout the Middle East.

Lebanon has become a puppet state of Iran, and the Lebanese Armed Forces has now become dominated by Hezbollah. An important fact that many people do not know is that we still have a line item in the U.S. Defense Appropriations budget for $100 million towards Lebanon’s military.

There is no doubt that under today’s circumstances, that earmark falls, whether directly or indirectly, into the hands of Hezbollah. Unless and until Lebanon could rid itself of the presence of Hezbollah, American taxpayers’ dollars will be going into the hands of an organization that has been listed by our own State Department as a terrorist group.

Saad Harari knows how to read the tea leaves. The same week of his surprise announcement, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a missile that had been aimed to land at King Khalid National Airport near the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The missile was intercepted by Saudi-owned U.S. Patriot batteries.

Nov. 4, meanwhile, marked the most aggressive Saudi shakedown in recent memory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, 32, purged the government of 11 members of the Saudi royal family and other business elites—in what he described as a “corruption crackdown,” but which may well be a rouse to consolidate his power and quash his political rivals, many of whom are in his own family. As Reuters reported, the Riyadh Ritz Carlton has been turned into a temporary—albeit luxurious—prison.

Adding to the intrigue, a day after the crown prince announced his palace purge, a helicopter carrying Prince Mansour bin Muqrin mysteriously crashed, killing a potential rival to the crown prince’s power.

The aggressive and ambitious young Saudi prince is not taking Iranian aggression in the region lightly. Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon. This sends a somewhat ominous message. In fact, on Nov. 6, Saudi Arabia’s minister of Gulf affairs wrote that Lebanon “has declared war on Riyadh.”

Some feel that this might be an indicator of a new war emerging between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims—the latest chapter in a 14-century-old dispute as to who will carry the mantle of Islam. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at fighting proxy wars on someone else’s soil. As a joke that is making its rounds around Beirut goes, “The Saudis are willing to fight the Iranians, down to the very last Lebanese.”

In the meantime, there are at least 100,000 missiles staring down Israel from the Jewish state’s north. On Nov. 11, the Israeli Air Force intercepted a drone that fell on the demilitarized zone just north of the Golan Heights. A day earlier, the BBC reported that Iran has established a new  military base just south of Damascus.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated unequivocally last Saturday, “We will not allow the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria as an operating base.”

Watch this space. In the Middle East, one cannot play checkers or chess. The game is three-dimensional chess, where the loss of a pawn on one board affects the positioning of the knights, queens and kings on two other boards.

Originally published at JNS.org.

Photo credit: State Department

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State Dept. Undermining Kurds, Our Long Time Allies

“The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in September.

The United States State Department says what the State Department says, but what they say is usually wrong.

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The Enemies of Kurdistan are the Enemies of the US

“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains,” goes a traditional Kurdish saying. No friends but the mountains and Israel would be more accurate.

Israel stood alone when its political leadership embraced the Kurdish quest for self-determination. A “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Kurds. The deep affinity is mutual. Israeli flags were raised during pro-independence rallies in the Kurdistan region, the US and across Europe.

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Has America Helped to Arm the Iranian Beast?

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1698, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bill authored by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, that will sanction Iranian and foreign companies, banks and individuals that support Iran’s illicit ballistic missiles program. The bill, which was passed by an overwhelming vote of 423-2, also prohibits entry to the United States of those who have supported Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

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