alarmed

ADL alarmed by author speaking to Congress who links gun control and Holocaust

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League expressed concern that a witness at a congressional hearing on a controversial gun bill  wrote a book arguing that gun control rendered Jews defenseless during the Holocaust.

Stephen Halbrook, who wrote “Gun Control in the Third Reich” in 2015, is set to appear Tuesday at a meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, which is considering the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. The bill would loosen controls on transporting firearms across state lines, an area that Halbrook has litigated as a prominent gun rights attorney.

“We have long been concerned about facile comparisons of gun control legislation in America to policies upheld by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director, said in an email to JTA. “The national debate over gun control is a divisive issue with many strong opinions. While there are legitimate arguments on both sides, the notion that Jews could have saved themselves from the Nazi onslaught is not one of them. It is historically inaccurate and deeply offensive to bring the Holocaust into this debate where it simply does not belong.”

Halbrook’s book argued that a key element in the Nazis’ repressive policies was the disarming of Nazi enemies, a theory embraced last year by the then-presidential candidate and now-Housing Secretary Ben Carson. Halbrook emphasizes in his book that gun control was not a factor leading to the Holocaust. Instead, he says, it facilitated it.

Historians of Nazi Germany have widely discredited the theory, saying that whatever restrictions on gun purchases the Nazis placed on Jews must be seen as part of the array of repressive measures Nazis imposed on Jews and not as Nazis favoring gun controls per se. In fact, the Nazis in 1938 loosened controls on gun ownership for non-Jewish Germans.

Others have questioned how Jews in Germany, who made up only 1 percent of the population, could have staged an effective rebellion against the Nazis’ military regime.

JTA was alerted to Halbrook’s scheduled appearance before the committee by Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun control advocacy group founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the Jewish Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who was shot and critically wounded by a gunman in 2011 in a deadly attack. She has since retired from Congress.

David Chipman, a senior adviser to the group, also appeared as a witness, testifying against a provision of the bill that would loosen restrictions on silencers. Its sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., says silencers protect hunters’ hearing.

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Leaks Suggest Trump’s Own Team Is Alarmed By His Conduct

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was confused about the dollar: Was it a strong one that’s good for the economy? Or a weak one?

So he made a call ― except not to any of the business leaders Trump brought into his administration or even to an old friend from his days in real estate. Instead, he called his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, according to two sources familiar with Flynn’s accounts of the incident.

Flynn has a long record in counterintelligence but not in macroeconomics. And he told Trump he didn’t know, that it wasn’t his area of expertise, that, perhaps, Trump should ask an economist instead.

Trump was not thrilled with that response ― but that may have been a function of the time of day. Trump had placed the call at 3 a.m., according to one of Flynn’s retellings ― although neither the White House nor Flynn’s office responded to requests for confirmation about that detail.

For Americans who based their impression of Trump on the competent and decisive tycoon he portrayed on his “Apprentice” TV reality shows, the portrait from these and many other tidbits emerging from his administration may seem a shock: an impulsive, sometimes petty chief executive more concerned with the adulation of the nation than the details of his own policies ― and quick to assign blame when things do not go his way.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s volatile behavior has created an environment ripe for leaks from his executive agencies and even within his White House. And while leaks typically involve staffers sabotaging each other to improve their own standing or trying to scuttle policy ideas they find genuinely problematic, Trump’s 2-week-old administration has a third category: leaks from White House and agency officials alarmed by the president’s conduct.

“I’ve been in this town for 26 years. I have never seen anything like this,” said Eliot Cohen, a senior State Department official under President George W. Bush and a member of his National Security Council. “I genuinely do not think this is a mentally healthy president.”

I’ve been in this town for 26 years. I have never seen anything like this. I genuinely do not think this is a mentally healthy president.Eliot Cohen, former State Department official under George W. Bush

There is the matter of Trump’s briefing materials, for example. The commander in chief doesn’t like to read long memos, a White House aide who asked to remain unnamed told The Huffington Post. So preferably they must be no more than a single page. They must have bullet points but not more than nine per page.

Small things can provide him great joy or generate intense irritation. Trump told The New York Times that he’s fascinated with the phone system inside the White House. At the same time, he’s registered a complaint about the hand towels aboard Air Force One, the White House aide said, because they are not soft enough.

He’s been particularly obsessed with the performance of his aides on cable television. Past presidents typically didn’t make time to watch their press secretary’s daily briefings with reporters, but Trump appears to have made it part of his routine. “Saturday Night Live’s” weekly skewering of his administration is similarly on his must-watch list ― with his reaction ranging from unamused to seething.

Information about Trump’s personal interactions and the inner workings of his administration has come to HuffPost from individuals in executive agencies and in the White House itself. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.

While some of the leaks are based on opposition to his policies – the travel ban on all refugees and on visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations, for instance – many appear motivated by a belief that Trump’s words, deeds and tweets pose a genuine threat.

When Trump tweeted about North Korea’s missile technology three weeks before he took office, for example, it scrambled then-President Barack Obama’s national security apparatus, which saw a risk in provoking an unstable young dictator who possessed nuclear weapons.

Richard Nephew, a State Department expert on Iran sanctions under Obama, said some of the leaks from the agencies are likely efforts to let the public know that their advice has not been followed, in the event something bad happens down the road. “This, I think, is about making it clear that these folks have tried to do the right thing and there is only so much they can do with a hostile administration,” Nephew said.

Perhaps along those lines, The Associated Press reported the details of a phone call Jan. 27 between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, noting that Trump said Mexico had “bad hombres” and that he might need to send U.S. troops to take care of things. (The White House later said Trump had been joking around.)The Washington Post detailed a Jan. 28 conversation between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in which Trump angrily denounced an agreement to resettle refugees held by Australia in the United States.

The New York Times, meanwhile, painted a portrait of a brooding commander in chief, wandering the White House alone in a bathrobe at night, watching too much cable television and venting his frustrations through angry tweets.

“I think it’s a cry for help,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a counterterrorism expert at the Treasury Department under Obama. She said many staffers still working in the national security agencies under Trump see what’s happening and are driven by a simple motive: “Incredulity, and the need to share it.”

There’s always leaks. Every president in history has said the press hates me, and there’s too many leaks.Ron Kaufman, former White House staffer under George H.W. Bush

The White House has denied many of these accounts, including the idea that Trump owns (let alone wears) a bathrobe. Others dispute the premise that Trump staffers undermining his competence is unusual. Ron Kaufman, who worked in George H.W. Bush’s White House in the late 1980s and early 1990s, argued that the Trump administration’s leaks are par for the course for a young administration. “There’s always leaks,” Kaufman said. “Every president in history has said the press hates me and there’s too many leaks.”

And Republican National Committee member Randy Evans, a veteran of Newt Gingrich’s leak-prone House speaker’s suite in the 1990s, said he doesn’t “get that sense” that Trump’s staffers are questioning his fitness for the job.

“Not yet, anyway,” Evans said. “We’re just too early in the process…. I think you see a lot of political jockeying going on and a lot of self-importance going on.”

The idea that Trump is temperamentally ill-suited for the presidency is nothing new. It was the main argument against him during both the GOP primaries a year ago and the general election last summer and fall. At times, Trump seemed to embrace the characterization, wearing it as a badge of honor for his status as an anti-establishment “outsider.”

But what were only hypothetical concerns on the campaign trail are now life-and-death decisions inside the White House – as evidenced by the death of a Navy commando in a botched raid in Yemen on Jan. 29. Trump approved that raid following a dinner meeting that included his top political adviser, former Breitbart News Chairman Stephen Bannon, whose permanent membership in the National Security Council was itself the basis of widespread leaks and warnings from the national security establishment.

“The intelligence community is desperately looking for a way to get some leverage in altering dangerous policies away from a catastrophic vector,” said Rick Wilson, a former Pentagon official familiar with intelligence issues who has become a vocal Trump critic.

Evans said at some point the White House will have to get serious about harmful leaks if they want to control their message, just as Gingrich’s office had to two decades ago. He described the method of intentionally releasing tidbits to various staffers to see what turned up in print. “If the administration gets serious about leaks, they’ll do the blue-dye test and find them,” Evans said.

But to Cohen, who now teaches at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, the problem is not the leakers. It’s the president. Because Trump has shown no true affection or respect for anyone outside his immediate family, Cohen said, he cannot expect that of his staff. “This is what happens when you have a narcissist as president.”

UN alarmed by Hamas move to hold public executions in Gaza

The UN envoy for the Middle East expressed alarmed on Wednesday after Hamas authorities in the Gaza strip moved to hold public executions, and urged them to change course.

Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that public executions are prohibited under international human rights law and that any such killings in the Gaza Strip would be carried out without the approval of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is required under Palestinian law.

“I urge Hamas not to carry out these executions and call on President Abbas to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty,” Mladenov told the council by video-conference.

The death penalty can be applied only to the most serious crimes following a judicial process that upholds fair trial standards, the envoy said.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov talks during a press conference in Gaza City, September 17, 2015. (AP/Adel Hana)

“I have serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards,” he added.

Thirteen men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, are currently awaiting execution, according to Hamas officials.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, does not recognize Abbas’s legitimacy.

The authorities announced on Sunday that they are planning to carry out a series of public executions.

The last public executions in Gaza took place during the most recent war with Israel in 2014, when a firing squad from Hamas’s armed wing killed six men.

Nine death sentences were handed down in the Gaza Strip in 2015 and two in the West Bank, run by the Palestinian Authority, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Around 10 more have been handed down in Gaza so far this year.

Wiesenthal Center alarmed over anti-Semitism in Morocco

(JTA) — The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed concern at what it described as a proliferation of expressions of anti-Semitism in Morocco.

Shimon Samuels, the center’s director of international relations, conveyed the concern Monday following the airing of videos from Sunday’s mass demonstration in Casablanca in support of Palestinians, which featured men dressed as haredi Orthodox Jews destroying a model of the Al-Aqsa mosque before being led as prisoners by armed men wearing kaffiyehs to a fake execution.

“These disturbing scenes come on the heels of other expressions of anti-Semitism we’ve seen in Morocco and may have a destabilizing effect not only in North Africa but among the Muslim communities in Europe, where Moroccans make up a large share of the population,” Samuels said.

He noted the presence in February of anti-Semitic literature such as Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and Henry Ford’s “International Jew” at Casablanca’s International Fair of Publishing and Books, which is billed as the most important book fair in the Arab world.

Samuels said he feared a worsening of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Morocco in view of the submitting in 2013 to the country’s parliament of two bills, yet unpassed, that would criminalize trade and other forms of exchange with Israel, as well as the publication by an anti-Israel organization of names of businessmen — many of them Jewish — who are said to have ties to Israel.

Moroccan authorities, Samuels added, “may wish to appease extremists by turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism.”