plan

ISRAELI LEFT AND RIGHT PLAN POLITICAL ACTIVITY FOR TRUMP’S UPCOMING VISIT

 

Movements on the Left and Right on Wednesday announced preparations for political activity surrounding US President Donald Trump’s May 22 visit.

Peace Now is organizing a rally for May 27, the Saturday night after the visit. Labor and Meretz are cosponsoring the event in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, the site of a peace rally where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995.

 

Organizers said the event would mark “50 years of occupation and control of the territories” and react to diplomatic overtures Trump might make during his visit.

“We haven’t taken to the streets en mass in way too long to protest the lack of hope from the right-wing government,” Peace Now head Avi Buskila said. “We have held back for way too long on the occupation, the violence, and the racism. We have let an extremist, power-hungry gang spread hatred and incite against minorities, the free press, the courts and whoever dares criticize the government. Enough is enough.”

The left-wing Darkenu organization is planning a campaign ahead of the Trump visit in favor of withdrawing from territories. The campaign will feature billboards and flyers with the slogan “Israel says yes to separating from the Palestinians.”

“President Trump is reawakening diplomatic dialogue and hope that Israel will reenter negotiations that can achieve a deal [with the Palestinians],” Darkenu head Polly Bronstein said. “A pragmatic approach that demands responsibility from both sides without blaming either could succeed. We call upon the prime minister and Knesset to say yes.”

Organizations on the Right have not announced their own campaign yet, but they are working on many levels to prevent a diplomatic process from starting and succeeding.

Former Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck said the Right’s goals include preventing gestures, i.e. concessions, by Israel for talks to start, stopping progress toward a Palestinian state, and moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

“The Left appears more organized because it doesn’t really have any power,” Struck said. “We are in the government, and it’s important that our ministers set firm limits for Netanyahu and Trump.”

The Right’s efforts to send a message to Trump began with Sunday’s Jerusalem Post Conference in New York. Right-wing speakers were briefed in advance in an effort to send a unified message that concessions would not be tolerated. Right-wing politicians who came for the conference also relayed key messages to Trump advisers and cabinet members they met in the US.

“Trump’s advisers might believe they can persuade Netanyahu to abandon his right-wing coalition, but they know he cannot abandon the Likud,” Struck said. “The Likud ministers talked tough at the The Jerusalem Post Conference, and let’s just say it was not a coincidence. It sent a key message at a opportune time.”

Advertisements

Quiet Obama Plan to Take Down Trump Begins April 24

As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end. And so it is with former President Barack Obama and his extended vacation following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

After spending several weeks in French Polynesia, Obama has been planning a return to the public eye, with his first public event in Chicago on Monday, according to The New York Times.

The event will be a town hall-style meeting with students at the University of Chicago.

The former president will then attend an awards ceremony in Boston, which will be followed by a series of public speaking events and private paid speeches in the U.S. as well as Europe. Obama is also scheduled to make an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Times also reported that Obama wasn’t planning on responding to President Donald Trump’s policies, adding that he would rather focus on “broader themes” that will hopefully keep him “above the cable-television combat and the Capitol Hill debates.”

Those themes include “civic engagement, the health of the planet, the need for diplomacy, civil rights and the development of a new generation of young American leaders,” according to The Times.

Right. Most thinking people know all of that is code for “helping build an apparatus to destroy Trump’s agenda in the midterms, if not sooner.”

We already know Obama has been working on building a strong machine in Washington to work against Trump and Republicans at every level.

Obama will simply get rich(er) from all his speeches about civil rights, diplomacy and inspiring anew generation of leaders. Maybe he will donate some of that money to his favorite charities. Maybe not.

OK, probably not.

Nobody’s fooled by Obama’s rhetoric, but right now he is the most powerful weapon the Democrats have against Trump. They have been chomping at the bit for him to come back into the fray, and now that he is, he will do everything he can to undermine the president — as long as it doesn’t involve a direct confrontation, because we all know Obama would never take on Trump face-to-face.

Israel’s plan to absorb 100 Syrian orphans seems to be going nowhere (LOL…..)

A highly publicized Israeli plan to grant refugee status to 100 orphaned Syrian appears to be stuck in bureaucratic limbo, and the government ministry responsible is at a loss to explain why.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri authorized the absorption of the orphans into Israel in January, but since then the ministry has gone quiet on the issue.

Last week’s chemical attack in Syria, which was condemned in Israel as “a stain on humanity,” has not spurred the government into action on the matter.

Sabin Hadad, the spokesperson for the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA), a branch of the Interior Ministry, denied that Israel has dropped its decision to absorb the Syrians. “We are waiting to be told that there are permits from the necessary authority,” she told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

But when asked who exactly PIBA — which normally approves entry visas — was waiting to get permits from, she had no details, other than to say it is “complicated.”

Syrians line-up waiting to receive meals distributed by the "Syria charity" NGO to impoverished families during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city Aleppo, June 11, 2016 . (AFP/THAER MOHAMMED)

When announced, the plan called for giving 100 orphaned Syrian children temporary residency status that would become permanent after four years. They were supposed to be integrated into Arab Israeli families.

Furthermore, any of the children’s immediate relatives were also to be considered for refugee status.

“The answer is that we are not involved in the process and are waiting for the okay to move forward,” Hadad said Wednesday. “Because there are many factors in the process, many approvals are needed along the way.”

Hadad said the project was meant to be carried out in coordination with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

A spokesperson for the UN agency declined to comment.

Nir Boms (Courtesy)

Professor Nir Boms, a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and a prominent activist pushing for Israel to do more to to help Syrians, told The Times of Israel that there appeared to be no political will to carry out the plan.

“If the prime minister is keen to advance the plan, he can do more by instructing relevant agencies to further pursue it,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

“There was a certain process of investigation to see if this was feasible. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” Boms said.

According to Hadad, the original plan was for Israel to absorb Syrians who have already taken refuge in Europe from the now six-year-long civil war.

Gal Lusky, the head of Israel Flying Aid, an NGO that has been active in bringing humanitarian aid from Israel to Syria, said that Israel sought her advice on the issue and she “personally recommended the government bypass UNHCR and do it on its own.”

She said she pushed for Israel to take orphans who are still in Syria rather than in Europe, adding that the idea had been floating around for three years, and 1,500 Israeli families have already pledged to foster Syrian children.

“It’s just a matter of a decision, which lies with the prime minister,” she said.

The war was catapulted back into top headlines after an April 4 gas attack on the opposition-held city of Idlib killed over 80 people and injured over 200, many of them children.

The attack was widely blamed, including by Israel, on the Syrian government led by Bashar Assad, though Damascus denied involvement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “sharply condemned” the attack and called on the international community to complete the process of removing all of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

“When I saw pictures of babies suffocating from a chemical attack in Syria, I was shocked and outraged. There’s no, none, no excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attacks on civilians and on children, especially with cruel and outlawed chemical weapons,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the pictures coming out of Syria a “stain on all humanity.”

The pictures from Syria are a stain on all humanity. The international community must act now to bring an end to this murderous madness.

@Multied Well continue to aid the survivors of the horrors in Syria. We know all too well how dangerous silence can be, and cannot remain mute.

“We’ll continue to aid the survivors of the horrors in Syria. We know all too well how dangerous silence can be, and cannot remain mute,” he added.

On Sunday, the high-level Israeli security cabinet met in the wake of the gas attack and agreed to weigh a proposal to bring Syrian children wounded in last week’s chemical weapons attack to Israel for treatment.

However, even at this meeting and despite all the outrage expressed by Israeli leaders, the plan to absorb 100 Syrians was not mentioned, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)

Israel has treated many of those wounded in the Syrian conflict for the past several years. Israel maintains a field hospital at the border, and around 3,000 Syrians have been treated in Israel since December 2013, according to the Israeli army.

The official line from the Israeli army is that it will treat any Syrian who requires serious medical assistance, no matter who they are. Medical assistance to Syrian civil war casualties, the IDF says, is a humanitarian initiative.

Anti-Israel groups plan Paris demonstration against ‘apartheid state’

(JTA) — Anti-Israel activists in France are planning to demonstrate against the Jewish state, which they accuse of apartheid.

The event is scheduled to take place Saturday on Chatelet Square, organizers from the Coordination of Appeals for a Just Peace in the Middle East, or CAPJPO, wrote on the group’s website.

“No to blackmail by means of anti-Semitism,” they wrote, implying that criticism of Israel is being unfairly labeled anti-Semitic. “No to the dictates of the Israeli lobby. No to attacks on freedom of expression. No the attacks by the fascist thugs of the Jewish Defense League.”

The protesters wrote that they will “demand sanctions instead of the current collaboration of the French government with Israeli apartheid.”

The International Solidarity Movement — a far-left group that, like CAPJPO, supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel – wrote on its website that the protest was for a “separation of CRIF and state.”

CRIF is the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, which defines itself as Zionist and engages in pro-Israel advocacy as well as lobbying efforts on this issue.

The organizers of the rally, which police approved, did not call for a boycott of Israel – an action that is illegal in France under 2003 legislation that proscribes discrimination against countries or their citizens.

Nonetheless, Meyer Habib, a French-Jewish lawmaker who served as vice president of CRIF, asked Interior Minister Matthias Fekl on Wednesday to ban the rally in an open letter published by the Huffington Post.

“It needs to be prohibited because anti-Semitism today in France feeds off of hatred for Israel,” Habib wrote. “This hatred uses the mantle of political correctness and support for the Palestinian cause and the BDS campaign, which is illegal.”

Democrats Plan to Filibuster to Thwart Gorsuch Nomination

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Thursday vowed to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, signaling an imminent partisan showdown over the nominee’s fate and the future of century-old rules in the chamber.

As committee hearings on Judge Gorsuch concluded on Thursday, it appeared increasingly likely that Republicans hoping to elevate President Trump’s choice for the court would resort to replacing longstanding rules with a simple majority vote on his confirmation.

While a parade of witnesses addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee, trading dueling views of Judge Gorsuch, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, went to the Senate floor and announced that he would try to lead Democrats in blocking an up-or-down vote on Judge Gorsuch. The Senate’s “cloture” rule requires a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome such a filibuster.

“After careful deliberation I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Schumer said, citing concerns over Judge Gorsuch’s record on workers’ rights and his degree of independence, adding, “My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

Judge Gorsuch must earn the support of at least eight Democrats to break a filibuster — a threshold he is not on track to meet, at least so far, according to interviews and internal party discussions.

If Democrats band together, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has threatened to pursue the so-called nuclear option eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court selections. Mr. Trump has urged Mr. McConnell to take that step if necessary.

Some Republicans have expressed reservations about changing the rules, but Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Thursday that he would relent if it meant seating Judge Gorsuch. “Whatever it takes to get him on the court, I will do,” Mr. Graham told “The Mike Gallagher Show” radio program.

Mr. McConnell has said he wants the Senate to confirm Judge Gorsuch to fill the vacancy, which was created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago, before departing for a scheduled recess on April 7. Last year, Mr. McConnell led his party in refusing to consider President Obama’s choice for the seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland, during a presidential election campaign.

On Thursday, Mr. McConnell accused Democrats of engaging in “obstructionist tactics” to block a well-qualified nominee.

“Despite the judge’s outstanding performance, his exceptional background, and the extensive support he’s received from people of all political leanings, we know that some Senate Democrats will continue trying to come up with any reason to delay the confirmation process,” Mr. McConnell said of Judge Gorsuch.

During the four days of hearings, even Judge Gorsuch’s critics did not dispute his credentials. On Thursday, representatives of the American Bar Association told the committee that it had unanimously found Judge Gorsuch to be “well qualified,” the group’s highest rating. That was particularly notable in light of studies that have shown the group has tended to favor the nominees of Democratic presidents.

“We do not give the ‘well qualified’ rating lightly,” said Nancy Scott Degan, an official of the bar association.

The group had also given its highest rating to Judge Garland. Since the evening Judge Gorsuch was nominated, liberal groups have been pressuring Democrats to filibuster the vote on him.

Four years ago, when Democrats controlled the Senate and Republican senators were blockading Mr. Obama’s appeals court and executive branch nominees, Democrats changed the chamber’s rules to bar filibusters for such positions — but left the filibuster rule in place for Supreme Court nominations.

Republicans have cited this history often in accusing their colleagues of hypocrisy on Judge Gorsuch.

To eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, Republicans would need to vote in virtual lock step: The party effectively has only 51 votes right now because one member, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, is recuperating from back surgery, so just two Republican senators could block a rules change.

Still, Judge Gorsuch’s nomination is broadly popular among conservatives. The question facing Democrats is whether to have a filibuster fight over Judge Gorsuch, highlighting what they consider the theft of a seat they believe Mr. Obama had a right to fill, or whether to save that attention-grabbing tactic for a hypothetical future vacancy if a more liberal justice dies or steps down and President Trump nominates a staunch conservative who would shift the court’s balance.

“I don’t think we should move forward on the Gorsuch nomination until the nomination of Merrick Garland has been dealt with fairly,” Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, said on Thursday, signaling his support for a filibuster.

Another moderate Democrat, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, also said he would reject Judge Gorsuch and join the filibuster effort. Mr. Casey is among the 10 Democrats facing re-election next year in states that Mr. Trump won.

Others in the group were less eager to declare their intentions.

“I’m going to keep on my theme I’ve been on for a couple of months,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. “I’m not going to talk about Gorsuch.”

Even before Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, Ms. McCaskill inadvertently drew the ire of liberal activists by expressing support for “a full confirmation hearing process and a vote,” before making clear she believed in a 60-vote threshold.

Despite the escalating political friction, the atmosphere in the hearing room on Thursday was often more perfunctory than passionate, as panels of witnesses selected by Democrats and Republicans alternately expressed concerns that Judge Gorsuch was too conservative or praised him as a well-qualified and careful judge.

Two of Judge Gorsuch’s former colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver — Deanell Reece Tacha, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and Robert Harlan Henry, appointed by President Bill Clinton — praised his intellect and temperament.

But others expressed concerns. One strain of criticism came from human rights and civil liberties activists, who expressed alarm over Judge Gorsuch’s experiences as a Justice Department official in the Bush administration in 2005 and 2006, when he helped to defend and advance the executive branch’s positions on matters like detainee treatment and surveillance.

Jameel Jaffer, who litigated national-security cases against the government as the former deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, urged the committee to scrutinize more closely Judge Gorsuch’s views on executive power and individual rights.

Mr. Jaffer pointed to documents showing, for example, that Judge Gorsuch had worked to get Congress to enact a law stripping courts of jurisdiction to hear lawsuits by Guantánamo Bay detainees, and in one email chain he criticized law firms that helped represent prisoners in seeking judicial review of their detention.

On Wednesday, Judge Gorsuch told the committee that the email had not been “my finest moment” and that he had been “blowing off steam with a friend, privately.”

As Trump envoy set to visit, Liberman pushes population transfer plan

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman cautioned the US against trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal on the basis of land for peace without also including a population transfer, as a senior Washington official tasked with kicking off peace efforts made his way to the region for the first time.

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is slated to land in Israel later Monday, and is expected to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders as part of an opening gambit to try and broker fresh peace talks after years of stagnation between the sides.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Liberman said Greenblatt should “learn lessons from the past,” pitching the US official on his long-held belief that certain Israeli Arab towns should be made part of a Palestinian state, with many of the residents of those towns taking on Palestinian citizenship instead of Israeli.

“The first takeaway is that any attempt to solve the Palestinian issue on the basis of land for peace will be dead on arrival. The only way to reach a sustainable solution is land swaps and population transfers as part of a general regional agreement,” he wrote. “It can’t be that there will be a Palestinian state without any Jews — 100 percent Palestinian — and alongside that Israel will be a binational state with 22% Palestinians.”

Liberman’s controversial plan calls for towns in the “triangle” region southeast of Haifa, including heavily populated Arab cities, to become part of a Palestinian state in any peace agreement in exchange for Jewish settlement areas of the West Bank coming under Israeli sovereignty.

“There is no reason that Sheikh Raed Salah, Ayman Odeh, Basel Ghattas or Haneen Zoabi should continue to be citizens of Israel,” Liberman added, referring to the leader of the banned northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and members of the Joint (Arab) List Knesset faction, respectively.

Responding to the statement, Ghattas said the fact that Liberman was born in the Soviet Union and moved to Israel made him a “passing visitor” while “Palestinians living in Israel own the place.”

“There’s no doubt that Liberman, a migrant from Moldova, doesn’t understand what it means to be born in your land, and in any agreement in the future, there is no room for settlers stealing the land of the Palestinian state, and no room for despicable racist migrants like Yvette,” Ghattas wrote, using a common nickname for Liberman.

Greenblatt’s visit will be the first major attempt by the new US administration to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after two months which have seen officials dither on support for the two-state solution, the location of the US Embassy and opposition to building in settlements.

Time for morning prayer (shacharit) at unexpected stop in Frankfurt. Pray for peace. @jdgreenblatt45

On Friday, Trump held his first phone conversation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, inviting him to visit the White House.

According to reports, Trump and his team want to broker a regional peace initiative that will include Israel, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia and others.

On Sunday, Abbas said that his phone conversation with Trump was “constructive” and that Trump “confirmed his full commitment to the peace process.”

He added: “We will continue to cooperate with [Trump], in order to arrive at a comprehensive and just peace that will bring security and stability to everyone.”

Other Palestinian sources said that Trump told Abbas he wanted to broker a deal, and that he referred to Abbas as a “partner.”

The goal of Greenblatt’s visit is reportedly to formulate the Trump administration’s position on settlements, including what the US will accept in terms of where and how much Israel can build, and to arrange Abbas’s visit to Washington.

The visit comes a month after Trump’s public request that Israel “hold back” on the settlement construction, whose literal meaning Jerusalem officials have been tirelessly dissecting.

Both Netanyahu and Liberman have recently tried to curb the discussion of settlements, with the understanding that the issue could cause tension with Washington.

According to a Channel 2 TV report Sunday, the prime minister will present Greenblatt with plans for a new West Bank settlement, one that he promised the residents of Amona ahead of their court-ordered evacuation in exchange for a peaceful evacuation of the hilltop community.

The Palestinians are expected to push the US administration to present its own peace plan, according to a report Monday in the Haaretz daily.

Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously included that Abbas said Trump had expressed commitment to a two-state deal, based on a Palestinian transcript of the speech.

There Is a Growing Movement Across the Legal Community to Plan a Nationwide Walkout Against Trump

The legal professionals whose careers are premised on working within the system are now taking aim at the system itself, throwing their weight behind a call for a strike on Friday, February 17 to oppose the Trump administration.

“Lawyers, legal workers, law students, paralegals, court interpreters, investigators, social service advocates and others who work in the courts will gather in front of courthouses across the country in coordination with the nationwide #GeneralStrike planned for the same day,” reads a statement from the National Lawyers Guild. “This is an opportunity for the legal community to express our solidarity with the growing movements against the new regime and its white supremacist agenda.”

Legal communities are planning walkouts and rallies in a dozen cities, from Boston to Tucson to Los Angeles. Thirty-five organizations have added their endorsement, among Law for Black Lives and the Water Protector Legal Collective, which is providing legal support for Indigenous resistance at Standing Rock. The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 has also lent its support to the strike, as has the LGBTQ prison abolition organization Black and Pink.

“The legal community has a unique role to play in supporting the mass resistance to Trump’s toxic agenda,” Dima Khalidi, the director of Palestine Legal, told AlterNet. “Palestine Legal is committed to protecting the right to engage in such resistance, and we’re committed to doing so with our legal colleagues who understand what’s at stake, and the importance of letting the movements that have been building for years lead the way.”

Pooja Gehi is the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, which put out the call for the broader legal community to participate in the strike. She told AlterNet that now is an important time to refuse to participate in “normalizing and legitimizing” the Trump regime.

“I think that in this moment, it is really important for us to use all of the tools of resistance that we have,” said Gehi. “Striking is one important way to say we are not participating in our normal activities, this is not the world we want to live in, this is not okay. The power of the people has been moving and transformative already in the past three weeks, with protests and solidarity all over the world and country.”

The “law strikes back” action is part of a call issued by Strike4Democracy, for a National Day of Action to Push Back Against Assaults on Democratic Principles. Meanwhile, a coalition of feminist scholars and activists have declared March 8 an International Strike Against Male Violence and in Defense of Reproductive Rights. The group behind the women’s march signaled its official endorsement of the March 8 general strike on Wednesday by releasing a tweet that states, “In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman.”

Meanwhile, Movimiento Cosecha, or Harvest Movement, is planning an immigrant strike on May 1, also known as May Day or International Workers’ Day. The slated action is part of their larger effort to build toward a one-week strike of five to eight million workers to demand respect and dignity for all undocumented people living in the United States.

Friday’s nationwide protests and walkouts are part of a groundswell of mobilizations against Donald Trump and his policies, as people have flooded streets and airports in stunning numbers to defend their communities.

“We’re sponsoring and participating in Friday’s action because lawyers, like everyone else, need to be counted upon to stand up to any and all illegal actions of this and future presidencies,” Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told AlterNet. “There is a clear tendency for this administration to govern more in defiance of the law than in accordance with it. Millions of people are impacted by ill-considered and sometimes unlawful executive orders, and lawyers and the judiciary will be key to ensuring that people are treated fairly and that the president is not above the law.”

Joey Mogul, a partner at the People’s Law Office, told AlterNet, “We are horrified to see how many human rights are under attack by the current administration, and we feel it’s necessary to come together as lawyers and legal workers to resist and show support for communities on the ground who are suffering. We are desperately and deeply disturbed by the Muslim ban, the crackdown on immigrants, the fact that there is a new attorney general who has shown disregard for constitutional rights and an administration calling for more ‘law and order’ that would protect police officers while sacrificing the rights of protesters.”

Since Trump assumed office, legal workers have taken to the streets to observe protests and flocked to airports to offer free counsel to people impacted by an executive order targeting Muslim travelers. Large-scale protests and a tangle of lawsuits have hampered its implementation from the start. Gehi emphasized, “I feel that legal organizations have stepped up in this moment to say that they are resisting.”

Some say coordinated action is essential because much of the legal community is complicit in the federal government’s abuses.

Mik Kinkead, the director of the Prisoner Justice Project at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, told AlterNet his organization is participating in the February 17 action “because so much of the harm and oppression our communities face is perpetrated and held by lawyers, judges and lawmakers.”

“We know that the liberation of trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people, particularly those of us who are low income and/or of color will never come from these systems,” Kinkead continued. “Yet as long as legal systems are one of the many helpful tools we use for reprieve, to ease pain, to amplify our voices, then we must also participate in any and all actions that hold individuals with power in these legal systems accountable. As a legal services organization, we must constantly come back to our membership and be held accountable, just as we are calling on all individuals who are involved in these legal systems to do at Friday’s action.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

French Israelis fume at Le Pen’s plan to ban dual citizenship

An organization representing French Israelis on Friday criticized far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen for saying she would seek to bar French citizens from holding a dual citizenship with non-European countries such as Israel.

Ariel Kandel, director of Qualita — an umbrella organization representing French immigrants to Israel — said “These propositions are unacceptable to the Jews of France.

“They mark an additional stage in Marine Le Pen’s wish to destroy the identity of French Jews which rest both on their Judaism and on their ties to Israel,” he said.

“The prospect that Jews will no longer be able to enjoy their Jewish and Zionist identity is quite troubling,” Kandel said.

Le Pen, head of the Front National party and a leading candidate in the upcoming French presidential elections this spring, told France 2 TV Thursday that “Israel is not a European country and doesn’t consider itself as such” when asked if her ban on dual nationality would be extended to Jewish citizens of France.

Qualita director Ariel Kandel (YouTube screenshot)

Qualita director Ariel Kandel (YouTube screenshot)

“I’m asking the Israelis to choose their nationality. It doesn’t mean that if they don’t choose French nationality, they have to leave. France can certainly accommodate foreign people on its soil long-term, those with foreign citizenship,” she said.

A spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a spokesperson of the Jewish Agency refused to comment on Le Pen’s comments, AFP reported.

Le Pen has routinely advocated a tough-on-immigration approach, charging that current immigration rules were “too generous.”

It is estimated that thousands of French Jews hold Israeli citizenship as immigration to Israel from France has seen a sharp increase in recent years amid rising anti-Semitism and a string of deadly terror attacks by radical Islamic groups, including the Islamic State.

Throughout the early 2000s, Israel welcomed approximately 2,000 French Jews a year, but during and after 2013, immigration from the country — which has approximately 500,000 Jews — jumped to some 3,000. The following year, over 5,000 came, followed by nearly 8,000 in 2015 and another 5,000 last year.

Le Pen has over the years worked hard to rid the Front National of its more extremist, anti-Semitic fringe since taking over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has repeatedly referred to the Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of history.

But the Jewish community in France is still very wary of Le Pen despite its traditionally hawkish leanings.

She has expressed a desire to promote legislation that would ban religious clothing in public. Her initiative is aimed mainly against the Islamic burqa and the Niqab, but would also ban Jews from wearing a kippa in public.

“Because I think everyone in France should receive the same treatment, I also support the ban on wearing a kippa in the public sphere,” said Le Pen last week in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2.

“Honestly, the dangerous situation in which Jews in France live is such that those who walk with a kippa are in any case a minority, because they are afraid. But I mainly think the struggle against radical Islam should be a joint struggle and everyone should say, ‘there, we are sacrificing something.’ Maybe they will do with just wearing a hat [instead], but it would be a step in the effort to stamp out radical Islam in France,” she said.

As part of her commitment to secularism, Le Pen is also opposed to ritual kosher and halal slaughter.

Scientists plan to march on Washington — but where will it get them?

A few months from now, thousands of scientists will leave their labs and take to the streets to rally on behalf of publicly funded, openly communicated, evidence-based research.

At least, that’s the vision of the organizers of the March for Science, which is slated to take place on April 22 — Earth Day.

Conceived in the wake of the successful Women’s March on Washington, and galvanized by recent news that President Trump’s administration was instructing government researchers not to communicate with the public, the plan includes a march in the District and dozens of satellite demonstrations. So far, marches are in the planning stages in more than 100 cities in at least 11 countries.

The event in Washington will culminate in a rally on the Mall featuring speakers and “teach-in” tents where scientists can share their research with the public. Organizers say that more than 40,000 people have signed up online to volunteer with the project.

It took less than two weeks for the march to balloon from a musing on Reddit into full-blown movement. A private Facebook group for participants has more than 800,000 members. Theoretical physicist Laurence Krauss said he plans to attend. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to Facebook to voice his approval. A handful of scientific societies, including the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Sociological Association, have endorsed it.

But the effort has also sparked debates about what a “March for Science” should mean — and whether scientists should be marching in the first place.

Rush Holt, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said he can’t think of any precedent for this kind of mass activism. In the past, scientists have spoken out about political interference in research, and they’ve been involved in protesting nuclear weapons and environmental contamination, “but those weren’t so much about science as they were referring to scientific issues,” he explained.

“As I understand it, the marchers want this to be a gigantic endorsement of the idea of science, the idea of verifiable evidence,” Holt said. “That’s new.”

Organizers say that the policies of the new administration — prohibitions on communication by government scientists, the executive order barring travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, talk of removing climate change pages from the website of the Environmental Protection Agency — demand action.

“We feel that the time has passed for scientists to, in good conscience, stay out of this fight,” said Caroline Weinberg, a public health researcher and science writer who is co-organizing the march. “There is no need to be partisan — politicians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of positions that fly in the face of scientific evidence — but it is not possible to ignore policy when it affects not just your jobs but the future of your field.”

Already, several of the new president’s policies have jolted the scientific community. The American Geophysical Union is now urging members to sign petitions condemning the travel ban and urging legislators not to remove scientific data from government websites. More than 171 scientific, engineering and academic organizations signed a letter urging the president to rescind his executive order, noting that it will bar many students and researchers from traveling to the United States to do their work. The leading scientific societies have reached out to the Trump administration offering their expertise on science issues, including government action on climate change, but they have been largely rebuffed.

Given the current climate, “I’m pleased to see people spontaneously speaking out in defense of the scientific process, in defense of using good evidence in policymaking,” Holt said. He added that he has reached out to march organizers to see how his organization can help, but AAAS hasn’t formally gotten involved.

Holt did note that the choice to hold the march on Earth Day — when environmentalist groups are likely to be organizing their own demonstrations — could be a fraught one. The issue of environmental protection is so politically charged, it could overpower the march’s overall message about protecting evidence-based policymaking and scientific integrity.

Christine McEntee, the executive director of AGU, said that her group is still figuring what, if any, role they might have in the march. “At a minimum, we’ll make sure our members are aware of the March for Science if they’d like to attend,” she said. “We support scientists exercising their rights as citizens to speak out.”

Still, some researchers are skeptical that a march is the right way to advocate for their work — and worry that marching could actively harm it. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, coastal ecologist Robert Young wrote that the march would be perceived as a protest of President Trump and “trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about.”

“Trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends,” he cautioned.

Instead of marching, Young urged his colleagues to make contact with civic groups, churches and elected officials in an effort to explain how science works and why scientific findings should be trusted. “We need storytellers, not marchers,” he said.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical physicist at the University of Washington, countered that science has always been influenced by politics. She noted that she is only the 63rd black woman in American history to get a PhD in physics — a degree that has been awarded to tens of thousands of researchers. That’s no accident, she said.

“The universe may be doing things without any regard for human politics,” she said. “It probably is. … But there’s always an agenda that is shaping who can do research, how we think about the research that we’re doing, and the research we think is important to do.”

Prescod-Weinstein cited the example of Albert Einstein, who, in addition to illuminating the fundamental laws of physics, advocated for civil rights, socialism, and nuclear arms control. His politics made him a target of the FBI, which tracked his phone calls and went through his trash until his death in 1955.

“Those are the same scientists we are taught to look up to as science students,” she said of Einstein and other physicists who advocated for arms control. “They very much understood that physics had a role to play in the unfolding of highly polarized political events.”

Indeed, Prescod-Weinstein and others say they believe that scientists haven’t been political enough. Along with astrophysicist Sarah Tuttle and cancer biologist Joseph Osmundson, she published a statement on the website the Establishment comparing the current situation to the climate in Germany in the early 1930s. “Professional standards and ambitions are not a substitute for morals, political or otherwise,” they wrote. “We cannot do business as usual anymore, regardless of how much we love our research or how important it feels.”

Much of the scientific community falls somewhere within these extremes. They are balancing anger about what they see as threats to their research, energy from the recent surge in activism, and worry about the perils of jumping into the political fray.

Mike Brown, the Caltech astronomer who famously “killed Pluto” with his discovery of dwarf planets in the outer solar system, said he still has misgivings. He’s not opposed to activism in general — Brown took his daughter to the Women’s March in Los Angeles in January and called it “one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.” But he’s not sure marching is the best way for scientists to advocate for their work.

“Having a bunch of scientists marching takes the interesting thing about scientists away from them,” he said. “These are educators and teachers and scientists [whose] super power is teaching you cool things about the universe around you.” Maybe instead of marching, researchers should take Young’s advice and conduct a teach-in instead, he mused.

“I don’t know,” he said. “The attacks on science are pretty unprecedented, and maybe all these softer ideas are just crazy.”

Weinberg is familiar with these arguments, and she agreed that science shouldn’t be influenced by politics. But, she said, scientists have an obligation to make sure that their work informs policy.

“That’s what research is for: to help us understand the world and to guide our decisions going forward,” she said. “It’s absurd to ignore the vast pool of knowledge centuries of scientific research have placed at our fingertips.”

How protesters plan to get under Trump’s skin wherever he goes

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Saturday evening march will begin at Trump Plaza, a high-rise apartment building. President Trump actually hasn’t owned the place since 1991. Fine. It still has the name. It’s a good place to start.

From there, the marchers will head south, walking along the Intracoastal Waterway that separates West Palm Beach from ritzy Palm Beach island. They’ll stop, on police orders, when they reach the bridge.

And then, the plan is to wave signs and glowsticks. The hope is that they’ll be visible across the dark water and the great green lawn of the club, from up in the private apartment that is now the “winter White House.”

If Trump sees those green lights, then he’ll know that his critics have followed him home.

“He is a part-time resident here, and we want to make sure people know his values are not our values,“ said Alex Newell Taylor, 34, an organizer of Saturday’s march. She said thousands are expected.

This is the reality of Trump’s honeymoon-free presidency.

Having sought to create unprecedented disruption in Washington, his critics will now seek to bring unprecedented disruption to his life as president — including demonstrations that follow him when he travels, and protests that will dog his businesses even when he doesn’t.

Already this week, Trump — the most unpopular new president in modern times — cancelled a trip to visit Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, where local groups had planned to protest his appearance; the White House said the protests were not the reason.

And, around the business empire that Trump still owns, his critics treat each location as an avatar for the president.

There have been small gestures of pique: lipstick graffiti on the sign at Trump’s golf course in Los Angeles, and a plan for a mass mooning of his hotel in Chicago. There have also been more organized efforts to take time and money away from family businesses — a boycott of stores selling Ivanka Trump’s clothes and a campaign to flood Trump businesses with calls demanding that the president divest from his holdings.

For Trump’s opponents, these demonstrations are a way to change his behavior by denting the president’s own self-image, as a popular man with a successful business.

The risk, for them, is that protests meant to shame Trump will consume energy that could be used to beat him by winning elections and swaying votes in Congress.

Protest “gets under his skin,” said Michael Skolnik, a filmmaker and prominent liberal organizer in New York, who supports this sort of protest. He hoped that, somehow, getting under the president’s skin might turn out to be a good long-term political strategy.

“What if Trump can’t come out of bed for four days? That could happen,” Skolnik said.

In his later days, George W. Bush faced protests outside his Texas ranch, from people opposed to the Iraq War. On his travels, President Obama sometimes faced demonstrations from liberals, pushing him to do more on immigration or the environment.

But neither one faced organized protest movements at the start of their presidency, condemning the president across multiple policy areas. Trump does.

It began the day after his inauguration, when more than 1 million marched in “Women’s Marches” in Washington and around the country and globe. It continued the following weekend, when thousands of people gathered at airports to protest Trump’s executive order on immigration, which barred refugees and all visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.

It continued this past week, as the administration was consumed by the chaos that the loosely drafted immigration order set off. In New York City, for instance, hundreds of bodega markets owned by Yemeni Americans closed to protest the same order on Thursday.

“You know how Yellowstone National Park is built on one of the world’s biggest volcanos?” said Ben Wikler, the Washington director for MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group. “It feels like that just exploded in terms of grassroots energy.”

Trump himself has dismissed these protests — operating on the theory that he doesn’t need these protestors to like him and that their anger might actually help him by pushing others closer to Trump. On Twitter, for instance, the president cast the Women’s March as a massive outpouring of sour grapes.

“Was under the impression that we just had an election!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Why didn’t these people vote?”

On Friday — after a pair of violent protests on college campuses where conservative provocateurs were invited to talk — Trump seemed to lump these small groups of unruly protestors in with the rest of his critics from the other events.

“Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” he wrote, though there is no evidence that any significant number of demonstrators are being paid.

Saturday night’s protest near Mar-a-Lago will be a test of what’s next: on a Saturday night, with no election in sight, can organizers raise a crowd merely to haunt Trump from across the water?

The organizers think so. They expect thousands..

“The traditional way of looking at these Facebook events is to look at the number of RSVPs and cut it in half,” Newell Taylor said. But the last few weeks have shown that anti- Trump events are different, she said. They always get bigger than you expect. “With this Trump situation, it’s, ‘Take the number of RSVPs, and double it.’”

Around the country, other groups have directed their unhappiness toward Trump at his business empire, which he still effectively owns, though Trump says he’s given over management to his executives and two eldest sons.

“I am scoping it out right now,” said a woman snapping photos of the sign outside Trump’s golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., near Los Angeles. She gave her name only as “Diane,” and said she was scouting the site for a protest

“People are pissed and feel they can’t do anything, but we want to hit him where it hurts,” she said. “I don’t think he wants people near his businesses. We want to hit him where it hurts most, his money.” On an earlier day, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department took a report for vandalism — somebody crossed out “Trump” on the sign with lipstick, and wrote a Spanish swear word instead.

Others were more organized about their efforts.

One group, called “Grab Your Wallet,” was started in October after The Washington Post obtained a 2005 video in which Trump bragged about groping women during a taping of “Access Hollywood.”

Shannon Coulter, who helps lead the group, said she had a visceral reaction after that when she encountered Ivanka Trump-branded items while shopping. Ivanka Trump had continued to campaign for her father after the tape’s release.

“I kind of had [Trump’s] words ringing in my ears,” she said. She helped launch a boycott campaign, which has grown to include more than 60 companies — ranging from the Trump Organization’s own hotels and golf courses to business that carry Ivanka Trump merchandise to businesses whose leaders supported Trump during the election.

Coulter said her Facebook group has more than 11,000 people connected to it. What they want, she said, was to “shop the stores we love with a clear conscience, and without any bad memories.”

Now, three businesses that her group targeted for boycotts have severed or loosened their connections to the Trumps. Nordstrom said it would stop selling Ivanka Trump merchandise, Nieman Marcus stopped selling her jewelry on its website and he chief executive of Uber, the ride-share company, pulled out of Trump’s business advisory council.

Another campaign offers Trump’s critics a more direct — but possibly less productive — way to respond to Trump.

It lets them call up one of his companies at random and complain to whomever answers the phone.

“Until he divests, these [businesses] are embassies of the White House,” said Scott Goodstein, the founder of Creative Majority PAC. He also runs Revolution Messaging, the Washington firm that actually set up the system.

Their system connects callers to one of 30 Trump business phone numbers. It could be a hotel front desk. It could be a restaurant. Goodstein says they encourage callers to “have fun with it.” For instance, if a restaurant employee offers to help make a reservation, one might say: “I have a reservation — that Donald Trump is not taking this job seriously.”

Since this effort started in December, the PAC says it has facilitated 33,000 phone calls, and has been blocked by 51 different Trump Organization phone numbers. He said it’s having the desired effect, squeezing Trump’s business in a way that would squeeze the man himself.

“It’s definitely having an effect on Trump’s businesses,” Goodstein said. “And I’m sure that President Trump will know that this act of dissension is taking place.”

But Alan Garten, chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said in a telephone interview that the phone calls had not interfered with the business. And even if they did, he said, Trump would not know about it because has resigned from his management roles.

“There’s a complete separation,” Garten said. “He may read [about] it in the newspaper, that I don’t know.”

Fahrenthold reported from Washington. Sandhya Somashekhar and Wesley Lowery in Washington and Bill Dauber in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., also contributed to this report.