Monday, March 21, 2016

When Castro Came to Harlem

The Cuban leader’s last visit to the U.S. before the 1961 diplomatic fallout can tell us a lot about our present historic moment.


By Steven Cohen
The New Republic
March 21, 2016


On September 18, 1960, four months before the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba and 56 years before Barack Obama would become the first sitting American president in almost a century to step foot on Cuban soil, Fidel Castro arrived in New York City for the 15th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

"To understand what it means for Barack Obama to walk the streets of Havana after all these years, it’s worth recognizing what it meant for Fidel Castro to set up shop in Harlem."

Castro had taken in the Big Apple the previous year, fresh off the successful overthrow of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. He ate ice cream at the Bronx Zoo, and posed for smiling pictures with blond-haired children. Wherever he showed his scraggly bearded face, from Yankees Stadium to the New York Press Photographer’s Ball, the fatigue-clad prime minister was fawned over like a celebrity—even as animosities between his young revolutionary government and the great superpower to the north were already starting to reach a breaking point.

The reception that awaited him the following fall wasn’t nearly so warm. Castro and his bohemian entourage got off to a bad start with management at the elite Shelbourne Hotel, which allegedly demanded an exorbitant advance ahead of the Cuban delegation’s stay. Soon, New York tabloids were circulating reports that these “uncouth primitives” had “killed, plucked, and cooked chickens in their rooms at the Shelbourne and extinguished cigars on expensive carpets.” One subsequent Cuban defector later claimed that Castro had staged the drama. In any case, the Cubans left the Shelbourne, checking in instead at the Hotel Theresa, up past 124th Street in Harlem.

Castro’s decision to relocate his contingent to the heart of black New York quickened the falling out to come and presaged key pillars of Cuban foreign policy over the course of the next half-century: the explicit conflation of Cuban sovereignty with worldwide liberation struggles, particularly in Africa, and the strategic leveraging of U.S. moral hypocrisy in service of revolutionary ideology. Ploy or not, writes historian Brenda Gayle Plummer, the move “constituted a watershed” in U.S.-Cuban diplomacy, “not only because it coincided with a critical juncture in the history of U.S. race relations, but also because it marked a departure in conventional ways of perceiving, and prosecuting, the Cold War.”

To understand what it means for Barack Obama to walk the streets of Havana after all these years, it’s worth recognizing what it meant for Fidel Castro to set up shop in Harlem.

Harlem was a more gracious host to Castro than high-society Midtown had been. Crowds gathered outside the Hotel Theresa, as the honored guest held court in his room. He received official visits from foreign leaders—like Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru—as well as American civil rights figures, such as Malcolm X, New York NAACP President Joseph Overton, and, according to some reports, Jackie Robinson. Juan Almeida Bosque, the Afro-Cuban army commandante, became an instant icon, with throngs of people trailing behind him on the street.

Not everyone was thrilled about the Cubans’ presence. Some 500 Baptist ministers protested their stay. And despite his previous criticism of the U.S. stance toward Cuba, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the congressman for whom the Hotel Theresa’s cross street is now named, felt snubbed by Castro and upstaged by his theatrical visit, warning that Harlem residents were not “dupes” easily manipulated for public relations purposes.

But to the extent Castro’s visit was a calculated, self-serving production, that didn’t negate its deeper political significance. As Plummer, the historian, explains, “Attentions from foreign dignitaries affirmed Harlem’s positive identity at a time when only a few scholars and black nationalists appreciated its history.” Writing for the local Amsterdam News at the time, James L. Hicks commented that, “Though many Harlemites are far too smart to admit it publicly, Castro’s move to the Theresa and Khrushchev’s decision to visit him gave the Negroes of Harlem one of the biggest ‘lifts’ they have had in the cold racial war with the white man.”

This notion that Third World revolutionaries and American civil rights activists were allies in the same essential conflict—that racism and global capitalism were part and parcel of a single oppressive system, presided over by the United States—was a source of tremendous fear in Washington. And the last thing anyone needed was for radical blacks to start getting ideas directly from the Cuban guerrillas. The State Department, having allegedly blackballed them from much of the city’s establishments, took pains to find alternative accommodations for Castro and company once the Theresa had extended them its courtesy. “At that moment, as though by magic,” Castro would later quip, from the floor of the General Assembly, “hotels began appearing all over New York. Hotels which had previously refused lodgings to the Cuban delegation offered us rooms, even free of charge.”

Seventeen countries had joined the ranks of the United Nations that very year, most of them from Africa. Both the United States and Cuba were looking to reach out to these newly freed states, and both recognized racism to be an acute factor at play. In the longest speech ever delivered at the United Nations, Castro transitioned seamlessly from his hotel experience, to the discrimination faced by North American blacks, to the broader evils of “imperialist financial capital” and the “colonial yoke.” (Castro would later add substance to this attention-grabbing profession of solidarity when he sent Cuban troops to fight white supremacist forces backed by the CIA in Angola.) During the same session, the U.S. delegation lamented that “all the explaining and apologies in the world will not erase the injury to an African delegate who is turned away from a restaurant.”

The blatant contradictions of the United States’s position were not lost on American activists. When the embargo of Cuban sugar was offset by an increase in the import quota from Apartheid South Africa the following year, the American Negro Leadership Council on Africa—whose executive board included Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Height, and A. Philip Randolph—brought its objections directly to the secretary of state. Dorothy Day, Bayard Rustin, and Harlem’s own James Baldwin were among those to violate the United States’s ban on food and drug shipments to the Caribbean island. Once relations between the two countries had been frozen, Cuba’s delegate to the United Nations read a statement written by Robert F. Williams—a North Carolina NAACP leader who had visited Cuba and met with Castro in Harlem—demanding that the United States arm southern blacks.

Cuba’s willingness to exploit the United States’s contradictory foreign policy position and domestic racial turmoil helped spur the White House to resort to terrorism and other illegal, covert reprisals against the island nation. It also reinforced the repressive instincts already being brought to bear against American blacks. Ten days after Martin Luther King, Jr. denounced the botched Bay of Pigs invasion as “a disservice … to the whole of humanity” and called on the United States to “join the revolution” against “colonialism, reactionary dictatorship, and systems of exploitation” the world over, the Senate convened a committee investigating Cuban influence on American blacks. As the historian Suzanna Reiss explains in We Sell Drugs, the “narrative of criminality” that would later serve as the foundation for Richard Nixon’s declaration of the War on Drugs simultaneously sought to cast drug abuse as a form of chemical warfare being deployed against the United States by foreign communist forces (and Cuban forces specifically) and to tie homegrown civil rights advocacy to drug use and anti-capitalist “subversion.”

Castro’s accusations of hypocrisy would grow less credible as the civil rights situation improved in the United States and worsened under his regime. But this dynamic never fully went away. America would be more credible in maintaining its posture if it were not, at the same time, supporting far more egregious examples of despotism elsewhere. It would help, too, for a country with the largest prison population of any on the planet, both proportionally and absolutely, to ease up on the pretense that it is targeting Cuba over its abuse of “human rights.” In 1961, reflecting on racial unrest and the deepening conflict with Cuba, Martin Luther King, Jr. predicted that a failure to embody the “revolutionary spirit that characterized the birth of our nation” would leave the United States “with no real moral voice to speak to the conscience of humanity.” Echoing his sentiment five decades later, a Cuban commentator wrote at the height of the 2014 Ferguson protests, “Now, as in times past, we can see the brutal segregation and abysmal inequality for blacks and immigrants, in housing, education, work, [and] public health, among other human rights violations in the so-called most democratic nation in the world.”

And you don’t have to sympathize with the Cuban revolution or its oppressive regime to understand how obstinate hostility towards it has become a diplomatic deadweight for the United States. More than a half-century after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the entire world is united in opposing the embargo. Even the Latin American right, for which the specter of a revolutionary domino effect was once sufficient grounds to perpetrate social cleansing, has come to see political isolation as a counterproductive strategy, undermining the very reforms the U.S. says it would like to see. Obama’s efforts to set relations on a more constructive path have been met with an outpouring of goodwill, for him and the country, but Congress will have to walk down it if the embargo is to be lifted. At this point, alienating Cuba only alienates the United States. Punishing its people damages the United States’s credibility more than the Cuban government’s.


Article Link to the New Republic:

Clinton Delights AIPAC with Blistering Attacks on Trump

By Brendan Bordelon
The National Review
March 21, 2016


Washington, D.C. — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is still technically running a primary campaign, but you wouldn’t know it from her Monday-morning appearance here at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. In a speech that made zero mention of nearly vanquished rival Bernie Sanders, Clinton repeatedly blasted Donald Trump to raucous cheers from the thousands of pro-Israeli activists in attendance.

“We need steady hands,” she told the crowd packed into Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center, “not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable. Well my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable!”

It was a clear dig at Trump, who’s promised to remain a “neutral” arbiter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Republican front-runner is slated to speak at AIPAC Monday evening. But if this morning’s session is any indication, he shouldn’t expect a warm welcome. Clinton’s anti-Trump jabs consistently delighted the crowd, triggering loud applause and multiple standing ovations.

The former secretary of state returned time and again to Trump, painting the specter of his presidency as a grave threat to the state of Israel and the Jewish people. “Tonight, you’ll hear from candidates with very different visions for American leadership in the region and around the world,” Clinton said. “You’ll get a glimpse at a potential U.S. foreign policy that would insult our allies, not engage them, and embolden our adversaries, not defeat them. For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader.”

Mindful of the historic discrimination Jews have experienced as a religious minority, she knocked Trump for “playing coy with white supremacists” and planning to deport millions of illegal immigrants. “We’ve had dark chapters in our history before,” Clinton said. “We remember the nearly 1,000 Jews aboard the St. Louis, who were refused entry in 1939 and sent back to Europe. But America should be better than this, and I believe it’s our responsibility as citizens to say so.”

“If you see bigotry oppose it!” she added. “If you see violence, condemn it! If you see a bully, stand up to him!”

There was a veiled critique of President Obama, her former boss, who has been a source of consternation among right-wing Israelis. “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House,” Clinton said, in a seeming reference to Obama’s snub of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Washington last year. The line drew a thunderous, ten-second standing ovation.

She also addressed the Iranian nuclear deal — a sore subject for most AIPAC attendees — promising that her administration wouldn’t hesitate to rip up the deal should Iran violate its terms. “The leaders of Iran will have no doubt that if we see any indication that they are violating their commitments not to seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons, the United States will act to stop it — and that we will do so with force, if necessary,” Clinton promised.

Even some of her critics acknowledge that the speech was pitch-perfect. Mel Aranoff, an AIPAC member from Van Nuys, California and a self-described conservative Republican, contrasts her address to Vice President Joe Biden’s “ham-fisted” speech last night, in which he promised that Iran would never get a nuclear weapon under the agreement. “She didn’t make that kind of over-the-top, ridiculous kind of statement,” Aranoff says. “So in that regard it was disciplined, it was focused, it hit the right issues.”

There is, of course, a caveat. “If this was a normal year, and you didn’t have somebody like Trump who was really an outlier and, I think, really contrary to much of the Republican positions, I think she might not have been as well received,” Aranoff admits.

More than her unabashedly pro-Israeli rhetoric, it was Clinton’s criticism of Trump that seemed to fire up AIPAC members. “I think she’s dead on,” says Marc Hammer, an attendee from Kansas City who hopes Clinton’s “phenomenal” Monday-morning speech inspires AIPAC to stand up to Trump. “I think you’ve got to speak up, and she’s got the right approach,” he says.

And what about Clinton’s Democratic rival? Though Sanders is the only presidential candidate with Jewish heritage — he lived on a kibbutz for several months in the 1960s — the other Democratic candidate was not popular among the crowd so enthused by Clinton. Several in the audience expressed sadness over his decision not to attend the AIPAC conference. Others were angry.

“Anybody that’s gone to Israel in his youth like that and never returned, tells me something really serious about his real lack of support for Israel,” Aranoff says.

One had to leave the convention center and march outside, into the crowd of anti-AIPAC protesters, to find someone willing to say something nice about Sanders. “They are afraid of him, you know,” says Abid Omar, a 52-year-old Palestinian-born man who traveled from New York to protest AIPAC. “Hillary Clinton, she’s so deep in their pockets. Bernie doesn’t need them.”


Article Link to the National Review:

Democrats Tested on Iran Sanctions

By Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary Magazine
March 21, 2016


Last year, as the Iran nuclear deal was completed and then pushed toward implementation, the Obama administration and the Democrats pledged that the agreement would be rigorously enforced. But as Washington’s limp reaction to Iran’s missile tests has shown, fulfillment of that promise is off to a rocky start. The unwillingness of the international community to take Iran’s actions seriously is more than harbinger of future trouble. Though Iran has been replaced by other issues at the top of the Congressional agenda, a new issue has arisen which will put the Democrats resolve to hold Iran accountable to the test.

As I noted last week, with Russia backing them up, Iran has outmaneuvered the administration at the United Nations on the issue of its violations. Other developments are just as discouraging. The International Atomic Energy Agency is also signaling that it will back down on reporting about possible military dimensions of the nuclear program and a veritable gold rush is going on in Tehran as European and even some American companies rush to do business in Iran. That means the stage is now set not only for the Islamist regime to get a lot richer, but to be able to proceed on both the nuclear and ballistic missile fronts without any real fear that the West will lift a finger about anything they do.

It is true that the administration slapped some minimal sanctions on individuals that helped procure materials used in the missile build up. But that was a slap on the wrist that impressed no one in Tehran. In response, Senate Republicans have now proposed ramped up sanctions about the missiles. The new effort would target sections of the Iranian economy connected to the missile work rather than just a few individuals. The bill would aim at punishing the infrastructure set up by the Iranians to facilitate their missile program rather than just the network involved in procurement that can be easily replaced to evade the previous sanctions.

Enacting these sanctions wouldn’t invalidate the nuclear deal but it would annoy the regime, something that the Obama administration seems unwilling to do. But perhaps the real test here is not so much of the Iranians as it is of the many Democratic members of the House and the Senate that pledged last year that the nuclear deal would not be the end of the effort to restrain Iran’s quest for regional autonomy or to destroy Israel.

One of the key talking points from the administration last year as it sought to ram the deal down the throats of an unwilling Congress and American people was that it was the Republican opponents of the pact that were politicizing the issue. But the truth was just the opposite. Prior to 2015, there had been an impressive bipartisan consensus in Congress on Iran that was for imposing the kind of tough sanctions on the regime that would bring a complete halt to its oil sales and other economic activity. The sanctions effort was led as much by Democrats such as New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez as it was by the GOP. But once the president and his allies swung into action and treated any effort to increase sanctions or to oppose the deal as a litmus test of loyalty to the administration that consensus evaporated.

The dustup over the invitation of former House Speaker John Boehner to Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress was foolish precisely because it allowed the White House to brand the speech as an affront to the president and a plot by the Israelis to help the GOP fight the administration. Most of all it served to distract the country from what the Democrats were doing on the issue as their caucus was split on Iran. Yet in the ensuing months as formerly tough on Iran Democrats were peeled away by the president, they continued to pledge that they would never let the Iranians get away with violations.

Those promises were largely empty as they helped the president prevent Congress from voting to approve the deal. But now that the dust has settled on that battle, the missile tests provide an opportunity for Democrats to make good on their promises.

Earlier today, Hillary Clinton sounded a slightly more bellicose note toward Iran in her AIPAC address that seemed to be a clear departure from the détente-oriented policies of Obama and her successor John Kerry. That ought to give Senate Democrats an excuse to join in with the Republicans and pass a sanctions bill with some real teeth.

But due to politics, that may not happen. The principle co-sponsors of the sanctions bill are Kelly Ayotte and Mark Kirk, two GOP senators that are up for re-election in competitive races. No one in the Democratic minority that would like to be a majority wants to give either one of them or any Republican any credit on the issue. The Democrats will not only fail to support the legislation, the odds are, they’d filibuster it just like they did the bill to spike the Iran deal.

But if they don’t like Ayotte and Kirk’s bill, they should propose their own that would be just as tough. In the past, Menendez took the lead in making this a bipartisan issue, but he’s been effectively neutered since corruption charges were filed against him last year. Perhaps then this is the chance for Senator Chuck Schumer, the man who hopes to be majority leader next year, to start acting like he really is the shomer — Hebrew for guardian — of Israel in the Senate. Let him do as Menendez would have done and begin the process of rebuilding a coalition on Iran that stretches across the political aisle.

If he fails to do so, then we will know, as many suspected, that the Democrats’ promise to be tough on Iran even after the deal was completed, was just talk.


Article Link to Commentary:

The Obama Doctrine: Made for the '90s, Disastrous Today

The president is yielding to the dangerous currents that oppose the global status quo.


By James F. Jeffrey
The National Interest
March 21, 2016


Among the copious commentary on President Obama’s extraordinary foreign policy interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg (“The Obama Doctrine”), Paul Pillar’s approving piece in the National Interest stands out with its cogent summary of Obama’s thinking. Pillar sees in Obama’s views "Splendidly clear. . . realist principles,” to “deal with the world as it is” and “address specific problems. . . rather than subordinating everything under general labels.” Pillar notes that for the president, “not every troublesome dictator is a Hitler,” “solving a problem does not always mean it is the United States that should do most of the work” and “states have no permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests.”

From all this it is clear that the president sees the world as a continuation of the happy post–Cold War era, with his policies tailored to it. As he told Goldberg, he is generally optimistic about the world’s trajectory. The president’s mindset clearly is strongly influenced by the “realist” approach following the Cold War, associated with General Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor, whom Obama offers much praise. That mindset assumes that no one is challenging that trajectory—namely, the expanding dominance of the liberal, collective security, market-and-law-based international order. Given this, and the absence of existential military threat to either America (as Obama emphasized) or most other significant states, policy issues involving possible force, such as Kosovo, North Korea, Saddam in the 1990s, and Ukraine and Syria today, are to be viewed like other issues—refugees, climate, the financial crisis—as individual sui generis problems with which a state can chose to engage seriously, halfheartedly (Somalia, Syria) or not at all (Rwanda, Crimea).

In such a world, states make choices on the necessity of engagements based on assessing the individual issue’s cost and benefit. Realists such as Obama, and Generals Scowcroft and Colin Powell, peg costs particularly of military action high and question benefits. Liberal interventionists, symbolized by Madeline Albright, rate highly the benefits of humanitarian imperatives, defending values and keeping the global system as healthy as possible, and thus tend towards intervention. But both groups understand the basic system did not face an existential threat. Thus, each discrete policy decision is one of choice, not of necessity.

Obama, assuming this world continues today, and, as Pillar put it, viewing issues individually without “general labels,” made clear that he sees his decisions as choices. True to his realist roots, he repeatedly weighs costs, especially military intervention, as high and benefits as low, and thus eschews engagements.

There is a case for his approach if the trajectory of history is as he sees it, and thus no “correct” or “incorrect” exists between the realist or liberal interventionist approaches. One can conduct realist policy wisely, or blunder—as Clinton in his realist phase did in not intervening initially in Bosnia. The same applies to liberal interventionist policy, as seen in the 1991 Somalia operation. Given Obama’s views, plus the unhappy outcomes of his “interventionist” first-term moments—the Afghanistan surge, Libya bombing and chemical-weapons red line in Syria—as well as the mood of the American people after Iraq, Obama’s policies not only are understandable, but laudable in the world in which he sees us.

But what if we are not in 1989’s optimistic world of upward trajectory? In his December 2013 essay “The End of History Ends” in the American Interest, Walter Russell Mead argued that “a coalition of great powers” (he named Russia, China and Iran) “has long sought to overturn the Cold War Eurasian settlement that the United States and its allies imposed after 1990; in the second half of 2013 that coalition began to gain ground.” Certainly, subsequent developments—South China Sea militarized “islands,” Crimea, Ukraine, Syria—undergird his argument. This does not mean we are now back in that period of extreme danger, 1940–90, when all foreign policy decisions had to be taken in the context of a Manichean struggle. Neither China nor Russia has any intention of waging war against the United States or fully replacing the global order. But they certainly are, as Mead says, trying to overturn that order in areas of interest to them. The best analogy is the 1930s, when there was a risk that world order could collapse, but no such inevitability.

Under such circumstances, robust reactions to challenges to the system are not "choices," so much as obligations to protect system integrity, as challengers gain strength—and further temptation—by victories against the system's values, especially rule of law and collective security. Even in a world under challenge, you can’t defend everywhere (see Tibet), and applying global priorities to individual problems can fail (Vietnam). But you also cannot react to assaults on places like Crimea or Aleppo, or the Sudetenland, Manchuria and Abyssinia, solely on the basis of their “intrinsic value.” In a collective security system, security has to be nearly indivisible, applying most everywhere, and the values that justify action universal. In such a world, the attitudes Pillar ascribes to Obama, from no permanent friends to avoiding general labels when dealing with individual problems to letting others solve them, can be deadly. You defend a collective security system with the allies and friends you have, not the ones you want; if you are the strongest, you lead, because anything less risks failure; you value “credibility,” a concept Obama repeatedly dismissed, because it is crucial to allies’ trust and system predictability.

That is arguably where we need to be today, even acknowledged by Obama in his September 2015 UN address: “The United States… [built] an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict… [but] dangerous currents risk pulling back into a darker, more disordered world.” But with Goldberg, and with his actions, Obama seems to have forgotten his wise words. By throwing up his hands because Russia cares more about the Ukraine, or wanting Saudi Arabia to “share” the Middle East with Iran, he is not reconciling ancient animosities with no objective right or wrong; he is yielding to those “dangerous currents” that oppose the global status quo. That is the path to catastrophe.


Article Link to the National Interest:

Will the Islamic State survive 2016?

The Islamic State's loss of territory has some experts predicting its demise, but are we sure?


Al-Monitor
March 22, 2016


Following spectacular combat gains for two years, the Islamic State (IS) is on the defensive in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, IS lost 14% of the territory it once controlled. It has lost another 8% in just the first three months of this year, according to a new study from IHS Jane's 360.

If IS continues to lose territory at the same pace, some people believe the year 2016 could well be its last. But experts are maintaining a cautious optimism in agreeing with this prediction, which is frequently voiced by Iraqi decision-makers.

Jacob Zen of the Jamestown Foundation, which closely follows IS activities in the Middle East and Eurasia, says IS might make it to the end of 2016, but most likely only as a shadow of its current self.

“I expect IS will be able to still hold out at Mosul and Raqqa in 2016, because the attention of international and Syrian counter-insurgency forces is primarily devoted to resolving other issues, such as in northwestern Syria, where Afrin province is hotly contested. But at some point in the near future — perhaps next year in 2017 — I expect that a range of international forces, and Iraqi and possibly also Syrian forces, will finally commit to removing IS from Raqqa and Mosul. At that time, I do not think IS will have the power to defend those cities, even if its militants are able to put up a strong defense,” he told Al-Monitor.

“The loss of these two cities will likely lead to some IS members defecting back to al-Qaeda" as they realize that the latter was correct in predicting that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the IS caliphate prematurely, before IS was strong enough to sustain the territory. Defectors might conclude that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's gradual approach "is the more effective way to create a sustainable caliphate,” he added.

What do field developments show? IS, without putting up much resistance, has pulled back to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor by resorting to a flexible defense of low-intensity clashes instead of fighting in the towns. But IS aims to maintain its dominance without abandoning more territory. However, by relying on vehicle-borne suicide attacks and counterattacks, IS is clashing seriously with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria while it seeks to gain some time without major combat.

Although IS has lost the bulk of the personnel, logistics and financial support it had been getting via Turkey and Jordan, it has a strong Sunni base in Syria and Iraq. Despite its losses of territory, IS still rules over a lot of land and a population of about 6 million.

Whether IS will still be around at the end of 2016 depends on the combat strategy it will have to confront. As the Jamestown Foundation's Zen stressed, terminating IS requires determining the most vital issue of any anti-insurgency. Will combating IS in 2016 be enemy-centric, sort of swatting at mosquitoes, or population-centric, which means draining the swamp? Is the idea to dislodge IS from cities such as Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria and Mosul in Iraq with high-paced offensives and eliminate its physical presence, or is it to isolate these towns with tight sieges and wait for their population to distance themselves from IS over time and thus break the will of IS to continue with its struggle? The answer to this vital question is not yet visible on the ground.

If the first option is selected, the short-term outcome could be positive. But if the post-IS reconstruction and political integration is not properly handled, an IS 2.0 could emerge and the entire world could pay heavily for it. This is why eroding the popular support for IS over two or three years could be more effective. Here, of course, the question is whether the main players such as the United States and Russia have the strategic patience for such a long-term approach.

Then there are the increasing fissures within IS.

The main fissure is between those advocating spreading the struggle globally to overcome the pressures IS is under in Iraq and Syria, and those preferring a localist approach of standing firm in Syria and Iraq. This fissure is bound to widen as IS comes under heavier pressure in Iraq and Syria. The IS attack Jan. 12 against German tourists in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet and the March 19 suicide attack against Israeli tourists at Istanbul’s Taksim could well be interpreted as a move toward the globalist approach, to spill the clashes over to Turkey. By telling Turkey, "If you get tough against us, you will pay the price," IS is also trying to divert attention from Iraq and Syria.

To sum up, it could be misleading to apply a pass-fail criteria based on loss of territory. The approach to IS should be a population-centric strategy that aims to slowly erode its popular support, which may take years. The endgame of this struggle should be reintegration of Sunni bodies to political processes in Iraq and Syria, first at local and then at national levels. This is what the current situation in the field, Iraq’s experience of the past 10 years and Syria’s crisis of the past five years tell us.

This is why in 2016 we may face an IS that lost some of its prowess as a war machine and has shrunk as a quasi-state organization. Similarly, the formidable propaganda power of IS will lose some of its effectiveness. But IS’ ghost will continue to exist in the region as a mentality. Such a ghost may always find new life in any part of the Muslim world where religious and sectarian fault lines prevail. It may still resort to spectacular operations, especially in Europe and Turkey, to be able to boast, "We are still formidable."

This is why it is not wise to predict the demise of IS so soon. A more realistic approach would be to forecast a years-long struggle of the international community with IS.


Article Link to Al-Monitor:

The man who stopped Bibi from attacking Iran

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan passed away this week at the age of 71. He was a man of fearless combat who leaves a legacy of reaching out to Israel's neighbors while promoting a regional arrangement.


Al-Monitor
March 22, 2016


Late Mossad Chief Meir Dagan was a killer. Throughout the entire history of the Israel Defense Forces, there was just a handful of people who shared his same self-control and complete lack of fear. These included former Chief of Staff Rafael (''Raful'') Eitan, legendary paratroop commando Meir Har-Zion and Brig. Gen. (ret.) and former Knesset member Avigdor Kahalani, who almost singlehandedly saved the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Dagan, who died March 17, belongs to that exclusive group of courageous warriors who were raised on the sword, who breathed war and whose bodies bore the scars of the struggle between Jews and Arabs in the Land of Israel, a struggle that has lasted well over a century.

No matter where life took Dagan, he always carried a photo of his elderly grandfather pleading with the Nazis for his life, just seconds before he was shot. As a second-generation survivor of the Holocaust and an icon of Israeli-Jewish rebirth and renewal, Dagan swore that the Holocaust would never happen again and dedicated his life to Israel’s security. From a very young age, he mastered the art of knife fighting and developed unique, blood-curdling skills in everything to do with knife fighting. He used these skills as late as the 1970s, when the Chief of the Southern Command (late Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon ordered him to create the Rimon commando unit. Its purpose was to hunt down and destroy the emerging terrorist cells in the Gaza Strip, where there were already signs of unrest.

Dagan fulfilled his orders to the letter. Instead of sending in fighters, whether in uniform or disguised as Arabs, Dagan led his troops there himself. After disguising himself in the most creative ways, he would ambush the fedayeen (militia) terrorists himself. He was determined, lethal and armed with a knife. The Rimon unit’s activities managed to destroy the terrorist nests and restored relative calm to the Gaza Strip. Like all the lulls that preceded it, however, this calm did not last long. It gave way to more seething discontent, which ultimately deteriorated into the current situation. Gaza is now a fortified terrorist outpost, armed with thousands of rockets and dozens of terrorist tunnels. In the latter part of his life, Dagan, as others, came to realize that people cannot live by the knife alone, nor can policy be based on the sword only. “Might” alone will not solve anything in the long term, without “mind” to back it up. Dagan recognized that Israel had to defend itself. It had to fight, but it also had to extend a hand in peace and seek fresh opportunities.

Upon his release from the army with the rank of major general, Dagan spent a brief time in politics. His old friend Ariel Sharon appointed him to manage the Likud’s election day in 2001. The election resulted in Sharon defeating Prime Minister Ehud Barak and bringing the Likud back to power. Dagan’s reward should have been the job of his life, a position that Dagan dreamed of every day throughout his entire career. He would be appointed head of the Mossad. But Sharon had second thoughts and spent a long time considering his options before he finally appointed Dagan. The problem was that Dagan had a reputation as an adventurer, eager to jump into any fray without giving it a second thought. Appointing someone like that as director of the Mossad was just asking for trouble.

As Israel’s leading espionage agency, the Mossad can get entangled in an international incident at any given moment, all in the course of its extensive, round-the-clock activities in hostile countries. The director of the Mossad holds one of the most sensitive positions in Israel’s security apparatus. It is also one of the most volatile positions. Officially, he reports directly to the prime minister, but a clever and experienced Mossad chief can obtain the prime minister’s permission for just about any operation, provided he presents it to the boss in the right way.

Yet despite his reservations, Sharon appointed Dagan to the position in 2002. All across the Middle East — and in the West as well — preparations were underway for the worst possible scenario. Sharon already had a reputation for “gobbling up Arabs for breakfast.” Now Dagan was joining him at the top. Nothing good could come of that.

The reality was very different. Dagan turned out to be one of the greatest leaders the Mossad had ever seen in Israel’s history. He upgraded its operational capacities, bringing it into the modern, digital era, with an emphasis on SIGINT (signals intelligence) and cyberwarfare. At the same time, he also took it to unprecedented new heights of operational capacities.

His term was one of the longest in all of Israel’s history. It was eight dizzying years of operations, most of which will never be made public. Operations that did make the news restored the Mossad to its glory days as an organization capable of just about anything. According to foreign press reports, it was the Mossad that first found out about the Syrian nuclear plant being built by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Deir ez-Zor. According to foreign reports, Mossad agents even broke into the personal computer of the head of the Syrian nuclear project while it was in his hotel room in Vienna, Austria, in 2007.

Foreign sources also claim that it was the Mossad, together with the CIA, that assassinated Imad Mughniyeh, the brains behind Hezbollah, who had been hunted for years. He was killed in 2008 in the bustling heart of Damascus in a sophisticated operation taken straight from James Bond films.

Foreign reports claim that the Mossad first uncovered the intelligence that led to the assassination of Brig. Gen. Mohammed Suleiman, President Assad’s closest confidante, while he was vacationing at his seaside villa in the Syrian town of Tartous. Snipers operating from the sea shot him from a vast distance.

But Dagan didn’t just focus on the use of force. His years in the Mossad effectively made him Israel’s shadow foreign minister, maintaining a vast network of clandestine relationships with many countries that did not have formal relations with Israel. As one senior minister and member of the Israeli Security Cabinet told Al-Monitor this week on condition of anonymity, “He [Dagan] has more friends in Saudi Arabia than in Israel.”

Dagan recognized the region’s potential and was one of the first people to speak in terms of a “regional arrangement.” He realized that power has its limits and believed that Israel should take advantage of diplomatic opportunities as they presented themselves, rather than fortifying itself behind walls and keeping a distance from its surroundings.

After serving under Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, with whom he formed a bold friendship, Dagan found himself under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009. The relationship between these two men deteriorated rapidly, devolving into a very public clash.

Dagan headed the Israeli “task force” to stop the Iranian nuclear program. This task force included the Mossad, Military Intelligence units and other branches of the Israeli security forces. Because of its clandestine operations (according to foreign sources), the Mossad was able to delay the Iranian nuclear project significantly, but it became obvious that it would be impossible to block Iran’s progress over the long term. Together with the other heads of Israel’s security forces (then Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, then Director of the Shin Bet Yuval Diskin and then Chief of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin), Dagan stood up to the political leadership, led by Netanyahu and then Defense Minister Ehud Barak, by categorically opposing an Israeli military assault on Iran.

Upon his retirement, Dagan tried, but failed, to unite Israel’s competing political forces in an effort to remove Netanyahu from the prime minister’s office. By then his body was already ravaged by cancer. A liver transplant that he underwent in Belarus in 2012 succeeded in extending his life by a few years, but by then it was already clear to him and his friends that he was “playing with time.” “Pretty soon, I will no longer be here,” he told me during one of our last conversations. “I am leaving this world worried. I never feared for the fate of Israel before. I was sure it would survive. Now I am not so sure. The direction the state is taking is dangerous, and I fear for its fate.”


Article Link to Al-Monitor:

Monday, March 21, Night Wall Street Roundup: Wall St. ends flat as recent rally spurs caution

NEW YORK | BY LAILA KEARNEY

Reuters
March 21, 2016



Wall Street closed little changed on Monday as investors searched for fresh catalysts and showed concerns about fully-extended share prices after a five-week rally.

The session, which closed slightly higher and opened slightly lower, followed a market-friendly move by the U.S. Federal Reserve last week that pushed the S&P 500 and Dow into positive territory for the year.

"I think people are starting to become concerned about valuation here," said Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco. "Given the rally that we've had over last few weeks, stocks are extended and susceptible to bad news."

The Fed's decision to cut the number of expected rate hikes this year to two was among several recent measures by central banks to support growth and calm turmoil in global financial markets.

While the U.S. economy could continue to recover moderately, the market would react to negative surprises in European and Chinese data in coming weeks, said Lisa Kop, head of traditional investments at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed up 21.57 points, or 0.12 percent, to 17,623.87, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 2.02 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,051.6 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC had added 13.23 points, or 0.28 percent, to 4,808.87.

Crude prices edged up as data showed a drawdown at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S. crude and ahead of front-month contract expiry in U.S. crude futures.

Valeant (VRX.N) shares closed up 7.4 percent to $28.98 after it announced the departure of its chief executive officer, and said billionaire investor Bill Ackman had joined its board, as it tries to cleans up accounting problems and save its business. U.S.-listed shares of the beleaguered drugmaker were one of the day's most actively traded.

Apple (AAPL.O) stock ended flat at $105.91. The company unveiled a smaller, cheaper iPhone.

Sherwin-Williams (SHW.N) fell 5.3 percent to $273.29 after it agreed to buy rival U.S. paint company Valspar (VAL.N). Valspar shares jumped 23.1 percent at $103.22.

Shares of Starwood (HOT.N) rose 4.5 percent at $84.19 after the Sheraton hotel owner accepted a higher offer from Marriott (MAR.O) that beat an all-cash offer by a group led by China's Anbang Insurance Group. Marriott dropped 1.2 percent at $72.30.

IHS (IHS.N) climbed 10.3 percent at $122.09 after the U.S. business research provider said it would buy London-based Markit (MRKT.O) in an all-stock deal valued at about $5.9 billion. Markit's Nasdaq-listed shares rose 13.6 percent at $33.51.

About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 8.2 billion average over the last 20 sessions.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,521 to 1,493, for a 1.02-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,445 issues rose and 1,368 fell for a 1.06-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 39 new highs and 13 new lows.


U.S. existing home sales tumble in warning sign for housing market

Reuters
March 21, 2016


U.S. home resales fell sharply in February in a potentially troubling sign for America's economy which has otherwise looked resilient to the global economic slowdown.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales dropped 7.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.08 million units, the lowest level since November.

Sales have been volatile and prone to big swings up and down in recent months following the introduction in October of new mortgage regulations, which are intended to help homebuyers understand their loan options and shop around for loans best suited to their financial circumstances.

February's decline weighed on investor sentiment, with the S&P 500 stock index falling after the data was released.

Sales fell across the country, including a 17.1 percent plunge in the U.S. Northeast.

Economists had forecast home resales decreasing 2.8 percent to a pace of 5.32 million units last month. Sales were up 2.2 percent from a year ago.

The median price for a previously owned home increased 4.4 percent from a year ago to $210,800.

The housing report runs counter to data showing strong job growth and a stabilization of factory output, which had taken a hit from weaker demand overseas and a strong U.S. dollar.

Housing continues to be supported by a tightening labor market, which is starting to push up wage growth, boosting household formation. But a relative dearth of properties available for sale remains a challenge.

"Finding the right property at an affordable price is burdening many potential buyers," said NAR economist Lawrence Yun.

In February, the number of unsold homes on the market rose 3.3 percent from January to 1.88 million units, but was down 1.1 percent from a year ago.

At February's sales pace, it would take 4.4 months to clear the stock of houses on the market, up from 4.0 months in January. A six-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.


Article Link to Reuters:

Apple hopes small is big again as iPhone SE debuts

CUPERTINO, CALIF. | BY JULIA LOVE AND NOEL RANDEWICH


Reuters
March 21, 2016


Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Monday launched its least expensive iPhone, the $399 iPhone SE, filling a hole in its product lineup with a small-screen model that targets new customers in emerging markets and fans of smaller phones as the company tries to reverse falling phone sales.

The low-key launch, held at the technology company's Cupertino, California campus rather than its traditional splash at a much larger venue in San Francisco, did not wow tech experts or investors.

But the new mid-range model was seen as necessary to counter the dominance of cheaper phones running Google's Android system.

"There are people who want that smaller screen size," said Bob O'Donnell of TECHnalysis Research. "You do a price cut when you need to drive the market a bit more," though he questioned if the price was low enough to generate significant demand.

Apple is hoping the cheaper model will stimulate overall iPhone sales, which it expects to decline this quarter for the first time since it essentially created the smartphone market nine years ago.

The new model did not allay investor concerns that Apple, which celebrates its 40th birthday on April 1, has no obvious blockbusters in its pipeline.

“Apple is so big now that nothing seems to be earth-shaking anymore, and the strategy seems to be turning to offering complementary products like watch bands so they can maintain their sales momentum,” said Skip Aylesworth, portfolio manager of the Hennessy Technology Fund.

The company showed off new wristbands for the Apple Watch and a new iPad Pro tablet at Monday's event, and a robot called Liam to take apart old iPhones and reuse the materials.

But none of those moves generated much excitement among investors.

Apple shares fell in the afternoon and were down about $0.15 at $105.77. The stock is down 20 percent from its all-time high closing price of $133 in February 2015.

The iPhone SE's 4-inch screen is the same size as the iPhone 5C, which fizzled and is no longer available on Apple's online store. The iPhone 6S, which previously had the smallest screen of the sixth-generation line-up, is 4.7 inches.

The new phone has a 12-megapixel camera and starts at $399 for 16 GB of memory.

The model represents Apple's second bid for the crowded mid-tier market after an unsuccessful foray three years ago. Orders start on Thursday, and the phone will be available next week.

The starting price is well below the $649 for the current top iPhone model without a contract, which is beyond the reach of many. With Apple's vaunted A9 chip, the new phone is twice as fast as Apple's previous attempt at an entry-level phone, launched in 2013. It also runs Apple Pay and comes in the wildly popular rose gold color.

The more compact phone design comes after Apple expanded the size of the screens in its high-end iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones in 2014 to as large as 5.5 inches. That was broadly seen as an attempt to match rival Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) with its large-screen Galaxy phones.

Apple is still expected to introduce a top-of-the-line, large-screen iPhone 7 late this year. The company now appears to be following a two-pronged approach to attack the top and the middle of the smartphone market.

“If these smaller phones are a gateway into the Apple ecosystem then over the long term it improves Apple’s chances of growing at a comfortable rate," said David Meier, a fund manager with Motley Fool Funds.

Reaction to the multi-model strategy was mixed on social media.

"So what's Apple's line-up next year? iPhone 7, 6s and a new SE?" tweeted Benedict Evans, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He also posted an image of several iPad models with the caption: "Please tell me this is getting cleaned up."

COOK DEFENDS PRIVACY STANCE


Before the launch, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook played up the company's role as a staunch defender of its customers' data and as a good corporate citizen with announcements of a new recycling effort and software for mobile apps that help people manage health conditions.

He repeated his refusal to comply with a U.S. court order to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in a December attack in San Bernardino, California.

Apple has a responsibility to protect customers' data and privacy, Cook said, adding that Apple "will not shrink from that responsibility." His statement was greeted by applause from the audience.

The tech company's dispute with the U.S. government has become a lightning rod for a broader debate on data privacy in the United States. The company is set to square off against the U.S. government at a court hearing on Tuesday, likely the first round in a long legal fight to avoid being forced to decrypt the iPhone.


Article Link to Reuters:

NXT-ID (Stock Symbol NXTD) is now finally in Buying range for today -- Pick up NXTD @ $.525; +/- .015

Thats an easy 10%+ gain on TWER, sell it @ $.175; +/- .0075

I like Towerstream Corp -- Symbol #TWER -- as a quick Buy @ $.145; +/- .01

SunEdison is unlikely to stay below $2.00/share for long -- pick up SUNE Intraday @ $1.98; +/- .04

Eclipse Resources has returned a nice 5-8% profit -- Sell ECR @ $1.43; +/- .02

Stick with what you know -- LinnCo should rebound nicely Intraday and is a Buy @ $.51; +/- .02

Heat Bio. (HTBX) is recovering from Friday and on the move -- Buy HTBX Intraday @ $.715; +/- .025

Aeropostale -- Symbol ARO -- is an Intraday Buy @ $.22; +/- .015

Shortened trading week, lets begin with Eclipse Resources -- Symbol ECR -- is an Intraday Buy @ $1.315; +/- .03

Two Stocks Today To Watch Closely: MannKind (MNKD) and NXT-ID (NXTD)

How Trump Helps ISIS

By Carl M. Cannon
Real Clear Politics
March 20, 2016

The fruits of Donald Trump’s rhetorical excess at the expense of Muslims and immigrants was brought home, literally, to Abdullah Antepli earlier this year. It left his teenage daughter in tears—and worried about her status in the only nation she has ever called home.

Abdullah Antepli is a college professor and imam-in-residence at Duke University. A naturalized American citizen who lives in Durham, N.C., with his wife and two children, Antepli emigrated from Turkey. Not his kids. They are “natural-born” citizens of the United States, to use the phrase Trump uses like a cudgel against Ted Cruz.

The oldest, 14-year-old Zainab, roots for the Duke Blue Devils and dreams of being on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her hometown is Cleveland, Ohio, the American heartland city where Trump plans to be crowned the 2016 Republican presidential nominee in July.

It seems that Zainab Antepli was in a quarrel with a friend at school—typical teenage politics—when her friend upped the ante. “I hope Trump wins and you disappear,” she told Zainab.

Successful national political candidates in this country deliberately avoid stoking racial, ethnic, or sectarian hatreds for just this reason. They know that their audience includes impressionable young Americans not yet of voting age. Trump’s vocabulary illustrates the problem perfectly: His infelicitous descriptions of those he disfavors—Muslims, Mexican immigrants, journalists, Democrats, his fellow Republican candidates—is the language of the schoolyard bully.

Such talk causes real damage, and not only to the feelings of vulnerable first-generation American kids or the overall cause of civil discourse in this country. Trump’s talk directly aids and abets terrorists. How do we know this? Because the terrorists say so themselves.

In “Terror in the Name of God,” a scholarly book I’d recommend to Donald Trump—and our current commander-in-chief, for that matter—Boston University professor Jessica Stern documents why jihadists launch terrorist attacks against innocents in the U.S. and Europe. One reason is to make moderate Muslims living in the West—a vast swath of the world community that ISIS leaders term the “gray zone”—feel afraid. Another is to fuel the kind of backlash represented by Trump and his followers.

“They want to make Muslims in the West feel unsafe,” she said. “They also want to increase prejudice against Muslims in the West.”

Professor Stern made these remarks at the Faith Angle Forum, a seminar being held in Miami Beach on the day Trump was swamping Marco Rubio’s own presidential hopes in Florida while also winning three of the four other states on the primary calendar. The bi-annual conference on religion’s role in American public life, organized by the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, is also where Abdullah Antepli related his poignant story about his daughter.

Neither Stern nor Antepli are apologists for Muslim terrorists; far from it: Stern termed ISIS an “apocalyptic cult.” Antepli says it makes him “uncomfortable” when President Obama—and George W. Bush before him—robotically call Islam “a religion of peace.”

“It’s really silly, to say the least,” he said, adding that when well-meaning liberals say that terrorist attacks, such as the mass murder in San Bernardino, have “nothing” to do with Islam, “I want to pull my hair and scream.”

Both academics also said that Obama’s own rhetorical tic of absolving jihadists of any religious connection to Islam is silly and counterproductive. (The president is so stubborn he won’t even say ISIS, let alone “Islamic State.”)

But the professors’ real opprobrium was reserved for the 2016 Republican Party front-runner. “Trump is validating the narrative that the West is at war with Islam,” Antepli told me over lunch after the conference ended. “This is the central marketing tool for ISIS, al-Qaeda, and all these terrorist organizations.”

In so doing, added Stern, “Trump is falling into a trap.”

It’s a trap of his own making. And it wasn’t set accidentally. At the beginning of this decade, Donald Trump was known as a New York real estate tycoon famous for his personal vanity and celebration of material wealth, a habit of using bankruptcy laws to stiff his investors, and his success as a reality television star.

From this unlikely pedigree emerged an ascendant presidential candidate who capitalized better than any of his rivals on the current politics of anger. See if you can spot a theme in what made this possible.

--Trump entered the current political conversation by insisting that Barack Obama wasn’t actually born in Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows. These records were faked, Trump suggested, to hide the fact that he was born in Kenya to a Muslim father. Trump often implied that Obama shares his father’s faith.

--“Thousands and thousands” of New Jersey Muslims cheered the 9/11 attacks, Trump proclaimed as his campaign began getting traction. Although the true number is probably a dozen, when confronted on this claim Trump double down by adding ethnicity into the mix. “There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down,” he said.

--At campaign rallies, Trump retold hoary stories he pulled from the Internet about Gen. John J. Pershing killing Muslim terrorists in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. The claim is absurd, but it ginned up his crowds, who also roared approvingly when he vowed to prevent Syrian refugees from entering the country “until we find out what the hell is going on.”

--Trump also mused aloud about a national Muslim registry, suggesting that even American Muslims might not be allowed back in the United States. When a protester in Oklahoma City held up a sign reading “Islamophobia is not the answer,” Trump embarked on a lengthy defense of waterboarding—leaving no doubt just whom he envisions being tortured by the U.S. government.

--Most recently, Trump claimed that a comprehensive Pew Research Center survey of the world’s Muslims showed that “27 percent, could be 35 percent, would go to war” against the United States. Except that Pew never did any such poll.

“Donald Trump is saying it’s okay to be anti-Muslim,” Wajahat Ali, a California-born Muslim of Pakistani descent who was a participant in the Faith Angle Forum, told me after the seminar ended.

“He’s deliberately playing on fear, ignorance, and hate in return for a short-term political agenda,” added Ali, a writer and creative director at Affinis Labs, a Virginia firm devoted to social-activism entrepreneurship. “But the consequences of spreading these toxic narratives are devastating—and global. ISIS is saying to Trump, ‘Thanks for doing our job for us.’”


Article Link to Real Clear Politics:

The First U.S. Climate Refugees

By Christopher Flavelle
The Bloomberg View
March 20, 2016


Early one morning at the beginning of March, two black Chevy Suburbans filled with federal and state development officials left New Orleans for Louisiana's coast. Almost two hours later, they turned onto Island Road, a low spit of asphalt nearly three miles long with water on either side. At the other end was Isle de Jean Charles, a community of 25 or so families that is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. The officials had a plan to save the town: by moving it someplace else.

Global warming presents governments the world over with two problems. One is to slow the pace of climate change. The other is to adapt to what humans have already wrought, either by protecting buildings and infrastructure from rising tides and extreme weather, or by moving people out of harm's way. The second part is harder -- so hard, in fact, that the U.S. government has never done it. At least not quite like this.

In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it would give Louisiana $48 million to resettle Isle de Jean Charles. The state won the money by promising not just to move its people, who are members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, but to do it in a way that creates a model that other towns and cities might share. (Most pressing are several communities in Alaska, which face similar challenges.)

"We have never done anything at this scale," said Marion McFadden, the department's deputy assistant secretary for grants. She said the project, still in the planning phase, is an attempt to learn how to explain "the value of relocating" to a community while involving its members in "designing their own new home or homeland."

In other words, how do you persuade people to abandon their town in an orderly fashion, before it becomes uninhabitable? How do you ensure their new home is one they're satisfied with, rather than a glorified refugee camp? And how do you safeguard against central planning gone berserk?

If it works, the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles will show that government-sponsored climate migration is viable, at least on a small scale. If it fails -- if the new community never gets finished, if residents refuse to move, if the project runs far over budget -- the story of the island will be a cautionary one, demonstrating the political, financial and psychological limits of our ability to adapt to global warming.

Beneath those criteria is one of the most vexing dilemmas in the climate-change debate: How should society choose which communities get protected and which must move? Isle de Jean Charles shows how little progress the government has made in answering that question.

THE 2 PERCENTERS


“Town” isn't quite the right word for Isle de Jean Charles. The community consists of a few dozen houses, all on stilts, arrayed along the road. There are a few cabins, used by people who come to the island to fish. Beyond the houses, low scrubs give way to water, far closer than it used to be.

The visiting officials, many of them seeing the town for the first time, stopped first at the marina, which was closed. The next stop was to speak with the town's chief, Albert Naquin, in front of his sister's house.

As the visitors clambered out of the Suburbans, clouds of biting gnats descended, leaving button-sized welts that lasted days. One official asked what people on the island did for work (Naquin said most were retired); another inquired how people felt about the move ("It's for our kids”).

The chief gamely offered to buy everyone lunch, prompting a chorus of polite refusals. The officials returned to their vehicles. The entire tour had lasted perhaps half an hour. Since 1955, the island has lost 98 percent of its land; there simply wasn’t much of it left to see.

Afterward Naquin invited me to his red brick house in Pointe-aux-Chenes, the closest town on the mainland. Sitting on a covered porch, Naquin, a barrel-chested Army veteran with a relaxed manner, explained how Isle de Jean Charles owes its existence to an earlier government resettlement program.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which called for relocating Native Americans west of the Mississippi River. The first tribe to be moved was the Choctaw -- including Naquin's great-great-grandmother, who escaped relocation by fleeing to the wetlands, settling the land that is now the town.

Starting in the 1930s, oil and gas exploration sparked an economic boom, bringing jobs and a canal. "When the pipeline canal first started, we thought that was god-sent," Naquin told me. But extraction instead helped pull the island underwater, as land sank into the underground cavities where the oil and gas used to be. The canals carried salty water into the freshwater marsh, killing trees and accelerating erosion.

I asked Naquin how many people he expects to move to the new community. He answered with a metaphor about a dog and her puppies. Trying to convince all the puppies to move at once is hopeless. But once the mother walks away, the pups get scared and run after her.

"As chief, you have to see what's best," Naquin told me. "This hurricane season might be the one that's going to wipe them out."

The history of government-sponsored resettlement isn't a happy one.

In the U.S., the clearest antecedent to what HUD is attempting may have been during the Great Depression. In 1935, after drought and dust storms had ruined the wheat crop in much of the Great Plains, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Resettlement Administration to move farmers off lands the government believed could no longer sustain them. The agency bought farms that had suffered the worst erosion; many became National Grasslands.

The people who had lived on those lands fared less well. Some were moved to government-owned planned farms until Congress objected, fearful that it carried the whiff of socialism. The agency then began building camps in California, which brought pushback from those who resented their destitute new neighbors. The agency was absorbed into the Department of Agriculture in1937.

The global experience isn't much more encouraging. In her book "Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law," Australian law professor Jane McAdam cited research showing "at least 86 relocations of whole communities within the Pacific," both during the colonial period and more recently, often because of environmental pressure. "A dominant feeling among those who have been relocated is 'discontent,' often over generations."

AND YOU THOUGHT YOUR MOVE WAS HARD


The mistakes of failed resettlement efforts aren't lost on Kristina Peterson. As director of the Houma, Louisiana-based nonprofit Lowlander Center, Peterson, a self-described "grassroots planner," helped design a strategy to avoid those mistakes in Isle de Jean Charles. "Without the full engagement of the community's residents," as well as the people who would become their new neighbors, she wrote with a colleague last year, "the resettlement will fail."

It wouldn't be the first time. In 2002, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided on the boundaries of a new levee system for the area -- a decision made independently of the state -- it concluded that extending the levee around Isle de Jean Charles wasn't worth the expense. The Corps offered to help the residents move, but only if everyone agreed. They didn't.

In 2009, after hurricanes Gustav and Ike left Island Road impassable, the parish offered to help the islanders move to the town of Bourg, 20 minutes north. This time, it was the residents of Bourg who resisted. "They move them Indians in, it's gonna devalue our property," Naquin recalled hearing outside a council meeting.

Then, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern Seaboard. Congress responded by providing money for easing the damage of future storms. "The argument was, it could be you next," McFadden told me. "We had a billion dollars we could target to not just recovery, but resilient recovery. It was a one-time opportunity for us."

HUD used the money to fund "innovative resilience projects to better prepare communities for future storms." Louisiana applied, calling the residents of Isle de Jean Charles "ideally positioned to develop and test resettlement adaptive methodologies because their need to resettle has become urgent."

Sitting at her kitchen table, Peterson listed the features that would make the islanders' new home one they would want to live in: Communal space. Geothermal energy. A day care and health clinic. A FEMA-approved evacuation shelter. A recreation area. Sustainable agriculture. A treebreak around the community. A guesthouse for academics and journalists.

Peterson conceded it would be expensive. "You have to do something really well in order to be able to attract the sort of money you need to be able to do it," she said. In other words, the new community has to be enticing enough to draw most of the residents off Isle de Jean Charles, or future efforts won't get funding.

But too much spending also could doom future projects. "If we want to have a model that's replicable, we've got to have a model that's affordable," said Pat Forbes, director of Louisiana's Office of Community Development.

There are other questions about the resettlement that still have to be answered, including where it will be built and the time to completion. Meanwhile, the number of towns that may want to follow Isle de Jean Charles' example will only grow. Peterson took out a U.S. Geological Survey map. Red marked projected land loss in coastal Louisiana by 2050; she estimated some 100 communities were in that zone. That could be just the start. McFadden, the HUD official, noted that 5 percent of the U.S. population lives in a flood plain.

"All of these communities are going to have to move at some point," Peterson said. "What are you going to do?"

WHO DECIDES?


Isle de Jean Charles may show how to resettle a community imperiled by climate change. It won't answer a question that's probably more important: How should the government decide who has to move?

The arm of government with the most responsibility for that question is the Army Corps of Engineers, whose decision to leave the island outside its new levee marked the eventual end of the community. Yet it's also the arm with the least accountability. State and HUD officials told me they have no ability to influence what the Corps decides.

Moreover, the Corps’ approach to deciding which community to protect ignores the social cost of losing a town. "You're looking at an intrinsic value to the people that are there," Ricky Boyett, a Corps spokesman, told me. "We're not looking at that. What we're looking at is, we're doing it through a mathematical formula for calculating the damage."

The Corps' refusal to consider any value that can't be quantified has a certain Spock-like appeal, but responding to climate change requires a more nuanced accounting. Suppose two towns of equal size require flood protection but there's only enough money to save one. Choosing the town with higher property values is a rational option. But it might not be a just one.

The opposite of a mathematical formula is for governments to help based on political influence alone. And McFadden, when asked if Isle de Jean Charles creates a precedent for other towns in jeopardy, said there's not enough money for everyone.

As the number of Americans at risk from climate change increases, so will the need for a consistent and transparent standard for deciding which towns get protected, which get moved, and which are left to fend for themselves. Creating that standard is beyond the scope of any one agency; it will require the attention of Congress and, ultimately, voters. The alternatives are arbitrariness, rationing, or an especially existential brand of political favoritism.

On one of my visits to Isle de Jean Charles, a man named Chris Brunet invited me up to the deck of his house, maybe 12 feet above ground. We were just high enough to catch the sun reflecting off the long stretch of water beyond the island's edge. He said he would miss the view.

Worse, the forces making the island uninhabitable -- global warming, oil and gas exploration, the path of federal levees -- were beyond his control. "That can't be held against no one in this community," Brunet said. "I didn't cause all of this."


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The Ten U.S. Senate Seats Most Likely To Flip In 2016 Elections

By Lisa Hagen
The Hill
March 20, 2016


Democrats’ chances to regain control of the Senate are looking brighter as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take shape as the presumptive nominees of their parties.

Tuesday's contests set up the slates in Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina and signal tough general elections in these battleground states.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) tops the list as the most vulnerable incumbent, as he faces a high-profile Democratic challenger in a state that went to President Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Many of the vulnerable Republicans have said they’ll back Trump if he’s the GOP nominee, and Democrats have already used their support to link them to the controversial front-runner.

The upheaval over President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee only further complicates Republicans' chances to hold on to their small majority.

Here's a list of the top 10 Senate seats most likely to flip this cycle:


1. Illinois


Kirk easily emerged from Tuesday’s primary as the GOP nominee, but he faces the steepest climb going into the general election.

The GOP senator has positioned himself as a moderate in deep-blue Illinois but will run for reelection during a presidential year that typically favors Democrats.

Kirk has also been known for making a series of gaffes and will have to steer clear of garnering negative media attention and creating fodder for political ads used against him.

Looking toward the general election, he now faces Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a formidable Democratic opponent who outpaced him in fundraising heading into Tuesday. There’s been minimal polling, but a survey from last July found the congresswoman leading by a few points.

Kirk has gone the furthest of any Senate Republican regarding Obama’s court nominee and broke with his party to call on his colleagues to “man up” and hold a vote.

Still, Democrats are not wasting any time tying him to Republican leadership that has refused to hold hearings or a vote for the president’s nominee.

Kirk’s critics are also pouncing on the opportunity to knock him over his support for Trump if he’s the party’s nominee.

2. Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Senate race will likely set up a rematch between Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). In 2010, Johnson edged out Feingold out by 5 points.

The odds aren’t likely in Johnson’s favor this time around, though, and he faces a similar situation to Kirk: The GOP senator is running in a Democratic-leaning state that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Feingold maintains his double-digit lead over Johnson in a recent poll from last month and has a slight money edge based on end-of-the-year fundraising reports.

But Johnson’s campaign has painted the former senator as out-of-touch and spending more time outside the state as a college professor.

Johnson has said he’ll back whoever becomes the GOP presidential nominee, but he didn’t go as far as Kirk about the Supreme Court. The Wisconsin senator said he’s open to meeting with Obama’s pick but agrees with other Republicans that a hearing shouldn’t be scheduled.

3. New Hampshire

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) faces tough odds in a liberal-leaning state during a presidential year in a race that’s expected to be one of the most expensive this cycle.

She will likely face popular New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan in the general election. Ayotte has a significant cash advantage, but a recent poll shows her only narrowly leading Hassan.

The GOP senator has sought to make national security a wedge issue in the Senate race and hit Hassan over the release of Guantánamo Bay detainees and support for Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

But Hassan was the only Democratic governor to support halting Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States, creating party backlash.

Campaign finance has also taken center stage in the race. Ayotte proposed a pledge to limit outside spending in the race, but Hassan increased the wager by including a $15 million spending cap.

Ayotte has also found herself caught up in the chaos surrounding Trump on the top of the ticket and the Supreme Court battle that will likely be used against her as the race progresses.

4. Florida

The seat vacated by former GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio is up for grabs as both parties are still figuring out who will emerge as their standard bearers.

Democrats have a slight upper hand, as the party’s establishment continues to rally behind Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). His primary opponent, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), is under fire over his hedge funds, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has called on the liberal firebrand to drop out.

For Republicans, a crowded field of five has taken shape. The conservative Club for Growth backed Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), while Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera got a huge boost from Miami billionaire Norman Braman, who will helm his campaign’s finance team.

Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) and businessmen Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff are also running.

A poll from earlier this month found both Democratic Senate candidates leading the top three GOP candidates in most head-to-head general election match-ups.

5. Nevada

Nevada is one of the few Democratic-held seats on the list of competitive races this cycle.

Democrats were able to get a star recruit for the seat vacated by Reid. The Senate Minority Leader has endorsed former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for his seat, and, if elected, she’d be the first Hispanic in the U.S. Senate.

But Republicans were also able to net a strong candidate, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), who gets high performance ratings in his swing district.

Both candidates will need to court Hispanic voters, and immigration is likely to play a pivotal role in this race.

Heck has said he’ll support whoever the GOP presidential nominee is, but he has tried to distance himself from Trump and has been critical of the GOP front-runner’s proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

But if Trump is at the top of the ticket, this could turn out Hispanic voters in droves and will likely be an advantage for Cortez Masto.

6. Ohio

The fierce general election between Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the Buckeye State ramped up quickly following Tuesday’s primaries.

Not even 24 hours later, a super-PAC that spearheads the conservative donor network helmed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch launched a $2 million TV and digital ad buy targeting Strickland.

The former governor’s campaign hit back and released digital ads labeling Portman as “the ultimate Washington insider.”

Portman still faces a tough reelection bid, but he’s in good shape financially and easily coasted to the GOP nomination.

Strickland, who has been criticized for lackluster fundraising, spent some time and resources against his primary challenger and had to defend his past gun record.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey from last week, the race was a dead heat.

7. Pennsylvania

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has a significant cash advantage going into the spring and is in good shape in his competitive swing seat.

Democrats face a messy primary. Former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty has the party’s establishment support but falls short when it comes to fundraising compared to former Rep. Joe Sestak and runs behind Sestak in polls.

Sestak riled party leaders by running and successfully winning against then-Sen. Arlen Specter (D), ultimately losing to Toomey by several points in the 2010 election.

Suburban Pittsburgh Mayor John Fetterman is also running in the Democratic primary.

Toomey still faces a tough battle in a more Democratic-leaning state, but a contested Democratic primary gives him time to prepare and raise money before a general election battle is in full force.

8. Colorado

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) still has a large target on his back by Republicans, but he is currently in good financial shape and has a head start in this race.Republicans had difficulty recruiting for this race and now have a crowded field of a dozen candidates.

State Rep. John Keyser, who served in both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, appears to be one of the party's most promising candidates. According to The Denver Post, he met with the National Republican Senatorial Committee before announcing his bid early this year.

Even though Republicans are uncertain of who will be their standard bearer in the fall, they’re not wasting time waiting to target Bennet and have already attempted to tie him to the Democratic Party and Obama.

Bennet has already tried to distance himself from the president and expressed concerns over Obama’s plan to close the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, saying he remains opposed to moving detainees into Colorado. But his critics continue to link the Democratic senator to the administration’s foreign policy.

9. North Carolina

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and former Democratic state Rep. Deborah Ross both glided to their party’s nominations on Tuesday and now face a competitive fall election.

Democrats had a similar situation to Colorado Republicans. They had trouble recruiting high-profile candidates for this race — including former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) — but the establishment quickly rallied around Ross after she entered the race.

Burr still holds a slight advantage in a state that President Obama won by a razor-thin margin in the 2008 election and narrowly lost in 2012.

The GOP senator also has a significant cash advantage over Ross, but only held a single-digit lead over his Democratic opponent in a February poll. And he will also have to overcome a negative job-approval rating.

10. Missouri

Democrats still face tough odds unseating Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in the GOP-leaning state that went to the GOP nominee in both 2008 and 2012.

But Democratic Senate candidate Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has impressed those within his party and has received endorsements from high-profile Missouri lawmakers early in his campaign.

National security has become a premier issue in this race.

Late last year, Kander's campaign released a lengthy report that knocked Blunt, who sits on national security committees, for voting against a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security and missing hearings on the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

And Democrats have already blasted Blunt for hiring his son, who’s a lobbyist, to helm his reelection bid.

Blunt also has a significant cash advantage over Kander, with about $3 million more cash on hand.

There’s been no recent polling in the state, but a survey from August showed Blunt ahead of Kander by only 5 points.


Article Link to The Hill:

Donald Trump’s New Trouble: Rabbis, Nazi-Hunters

AIPAC is bracing for a slew of protests from multiple groups thanks to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.


By Tim Mak
The Daily Beast
March 21, 2016


You’d think a presidential front-runner who once served as the grand marshal of a pro-Israel parade would be welcomed to the annual gathering of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee with open arms.

Instead, hundreds of protesters are expected to walk out of Donald Trump’s appearance before the powerful pro-Israel group as a form of silent protest to the Republican front-runner’s address, organizers said, revealing new details about their unprecedented demonstrations.

And in an unusual development, major Jewish institutions like the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center told The Daily Beast that a walkout would be an acceptable form of protest, even as they stopped short of endorsing such a move.

The theme of this year’s AIPAC conference is “Come Together” -- a sad irony since this year’s event, which is said to draw some 18,000 attendees, could be the most discordant annual meeting in recent memory.

"I would be surprised to see less than three hundred, four hundred people walk out,” said Rabbi Menachem Creditor, who is supporting one group of protesters, citing conversations among organizers and with those who have committed to this form of protest.

The controversy over Trump's visit could be seen as a break with AIPAC's recent past. For the past decade, the organization has been known for its support of the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. This protest, in some ways, is about an older set of values — like tolerance and care for outsiders — that predate Netanyahu, and even the State of Israel. It's also a nod to several thousand years of Jewish history. Clownish demagogues and strongmen have, after all, traditionally been bad for the Jews.

Demonstrators plan to speak out given the tone, nature and substance of Trump’s campaign, which they argue are contrary to Jewish values. Trump and his campaign have proposed banning individuals from the United States based on their religion; justified allegations of violence against protesters and reporters; and, at one point, declined to immediately disavow the endorsement of the KKK. Trump’s use of anti-Semitic stereotypes hasn’t exactly helped him with this crowd, either. Nor has Trump’s less-than-full-throated support of Israel in recent months.

In a sign both of how divisive Trump’s attendance has become and how many people are interested in protesting his appearance, even those participating in the demonstrations cannot agree on how best to oppose the billionaire businessman’s address to thousands of attendees.

Some are planning to avoid to attending completely; others plan to leave during his introduction; some have suggested turning their backs during Trump’s speech; and still others are planning to silently walk out during his speech.

Rabbi David Paskin is an organizer of one such effort to protest Trump's appearance. Along with other rabbis, cantors and Jewish leaders, he has set up a Facebook group that as of this writing has 1,700 members, called "Come Together Against Hate." Paskin has also set up a texting based mailing list so that updates can be sent to protesters in real time.

Kantor and his supporters will be distributing thousands of stickers and fliers at the conference, urging attendees to find a way to respectfully protest "the ugliness that has pervaded" Trump's campaign, he told The Daily Beast.

"We are not protesting AIPAC… we are in full support of the work they do to enhance the Israeli-American protest. We are protesting hate. Some people will absent themselves altogether. Others will respectfully and quietly walk out," he said. Protesters will then meet elsewhere so that rabbis can speak about two Jewish concepts: derech eretz -- common decency -- and sinat chinam -- senseless hatred.

"Mr. Trump embodies senseless hatred because what we've seen throughout this campaign is that whoever isn't like him, he attacks: women, immigrants, the disabled, the press," Kantor said.

Separately, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin has organized at least 40 rabbis who will protest in a different manner: by skipping Trump’s speech altogether.

"We are urging people not to disrupt the [speech] in any way… we are asking to absent themselves from the hall before he speaks… I recognize there are various styles of protest here. We wanted ours to be as respectful to other conference attendees as it could be," he told The Daily Beast. "We want our absence to be eloquent."

"Zionism means owning and standing up for Jewish values," Salkin added. "In many ways AIPAC is the largest gathering of Jews and Gentiles who are sympathetic to the Jewish state. We believe that the Trump candidacy… and the outrageousness of his positions merits a Jewish response."

However, the absence of some protesting attendees could have an unintended outcome, leaving the remaining attendees to give Trump a warmer welcome than he would have otherwise received.

Major institutions within the Jewish community, felt compelled to speak out and legitimize the protests. These groups, as opposed to the pro-Israel advocacy community, typically stay out of presidential politics -- making their comments all the more glaring.

The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, gave his blessing to those who chose to walk out, even as he declined to specifically endorse it.

“We believe AIPAC was right to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for the highest office in the land… Having said that, we believe that those attendees who might be offended by Mr. Trump’s message have every right to walk out on him should they choose to do so because they believe that his offensive statements deeply clash with their Jewish values. Just as others have the right to remain in the audience and hear him out," Greenblatt told The Daily Beast.

On the day before Trump's speech, the Anti-Defamation League announced that it was redirecting $56,000 -- the sum of donations from Trump and his foundation over the years -- to fund new "anti-bias and anti-bullying education programs" in the United States.

The founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said that a silent walkout was a "reasonable" approach, even as he stressed he was not endorsing such a form of protest, and was "fearful" that protests will develop into something more disruptive. The center is a human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism and terrorism, with a history of aiding in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.

"Every political season is rough. This one particularly so. We have to remember that the greatness of America is that America is the leading democracy in the world… let's not change the script and make America a place of ridicule, where people are going to say it's like going to a boxing match… where all that takes place is chaos," Hier urged.

Liel Leibovitz, a writer for The Tablet magazine, a self-described “big tent” Jewish publication, endorsed the concept of a protest walkout earlier this week. As a conservative who supported Marco Rubio for president, he told The Daily Beast that he had "deep, deep, deep disgust with the fact that Trump has made such an open appeal to bigotry, and incited this kind of behavior, and has at least failed to stop it… I support a walkout because regardless of where you stand on political issues, there is a baseline of civility that has been violated by this candidacy.”

Leibovitz’s call for a walkout, which was greeted on Twitter with a number of anti-Semitic tweets, was supported by his publication in a broader editorial Sunday.

Despite the unrest surrounding Trump’s appearance at their annual conference, AIPAC stuck to their tradition of inviting all of the presidential contenders to speak to attendees.

“As is our longstanding policy during presidential election years, we invited all of the active Democratic and Republican presidential candidates – so far, Clinton, Trump, Cruz and Kasich have confirmed that they will participate,” said a spokesperson for the organization.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The prospect of protests at a pro-Israel conference is a weird position for a man with a Jewish daughter to be in -- Trump’s daughter Ivanka married businessman Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, and converted.

But the businessman’s history of support for Israel has been uneven. While he has cited serving as a grand marshall of a pro-Israel parade as part of his credentials, his statements in recent months have been far more neutral.

Asked whether Israelis or Palestinians were at fault for the lack of a peace accord, Trump has said he wants to be "sort of a neutral guy" on that question.

In December, Trump questioned whether Israel really wanted peace, telling the Associated Press: "I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to” come to a peace accord, he said. "A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel's willing to sacrifice certain things.”

And that same month he was booed at a speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition, after he declined to support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, a critical position for many in the pro-Israel crowd.

At that speech, Trump also alluded to a number of anti-Semitic stereotypes: “Stupidly, you want to give money... But you're not going to support me because I don't want your money… You want to control your own politicians,” he told the mostly-Jewish crowd. At another point, he said, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn't renegotiate deals? Probably 99% of you… I'm a negotiator like you folks.”

Trump was originally scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December, but Trump’s trip to Israel was postponed after the prime minister criticized Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

On Monday evening, Trump will have an opportunity to clarify his positions on Israel -- absent a number of protesting dissenters.

"He is going to be addressing some of his toughest critics in the Republican and Democratic parties. He has made a serious effort to be neutral on Israel, and he is going before an audience which promote stronger U.S.-Israel relations,” said Aaron Keyak, a Democrat who was formerly the spokesman for the National Jewish Democratic Council. “The problem with Trump is at least rhetorically a weak record on Israel, and so unbelievably offensive when it comes to non-Israel issues that it's a step too far for some of these attendees."


Article Link to the Daily Beast: