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Florida Abortion Law Restrictions

Starting Friday, July 1st, women in the state of Florida will be required to endure an ultrasound conducted by a doctor before they can receive an abortion. Governor Rick Scott signed the new law last Friday, June 24th, along with a second related provision tightening provisions on young women seeking a judicial bypass to the parental-notification-before-abortion law.

Over the past year, the Florida State Legislature has sent five bills limiting abortion rights to the Governor’s desk - these two recent bills were just the most recent in a series to receive Governor Scott’s signature. While both of these bills received bipartisan opposition when making their way through the state legislature, the republican controlled assembly and senate in Florida was able to push them both through to passage.

The mandatory-ultrasound bill (H.B. 1127) requires a doctor to perform an ultrasound before an abortion, regardless of whether it would be medically necessary. Before the bill was ultimately up for a vote, the language also required that the women be forced to listen to a description of the ultrasound, as the doctor would need to dictate to the patient factors related to the fetus’ development. However, an opt-out provision to the clause was added towards the end of the committee process allowing women the option of signing a form that exempts them from having to see or hear about the ultrasound being conducted.

The second bill, the Parental Notification of Abortion bill (H.B. 1247) tightens restrictions for young women seeking a judicial bypass of a law requiring parental notice of an abortion for minors. Despite the overwhelming controversy over the measure and the fervent bipartisan opposition surrounding it, the bill not only made its way through the Legislature, but also earned the signature of Governor Scott.

While these new laws are shocking, infringing on women’s rights across the board, they are simply the latest move in the conservative right wing’s war on women. Beyond Florida, Texas, Alabama and Kansas, among other states, have fought over similar bills, far too many of which have made their way to become laws. It seems that every legislative workday, women’s rights, on both the national and state level, hang in the balance from debates over funding for Planned Parenthood, to abortion laws, to women’s health care and reproductive health rights. The anti-abortion fervor has seemingly encroached other policy matters affecting women, lending to an all-out assault on women’s rights and a deeply troubling momentum moving forward into a new election cycle.

Jessica Fern
June 30, 2011

Will They Stop at Nothing?

How far are Republicans willing to go in their war against abortion and women’s health? It seems as if they are willing to go the distance. The anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List upped the ante this week when they asked the Presidential candidates to sign the Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge. 

The pledge itself consists of four parts:
  • First is a promise to nominate judges who "are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench."
  • Second is a vow to appoint only anti-abortion personnel to "relevant" administration posts.
  • Third is a promise to "advance pro-life legislation," end taxpayer funding of abortion and de-fund Planned Parenthood "and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions."
  • Finally, candidates must pledge that they will "advance and sign" legislation to protect "unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion."

The Impact of the pledge would be far reaching:
  • The overall goal, according to the first vow would be to overturn Roe v Wade in the courts.
  • The second vow would have the effect of keeping any pro-choice man or woman from being part of a new Administration at almost any position, including judges, Cabinet members or agency heads. The most qualified candidates would be judged based on their position on choice. Would the best nominees be turned away because they are pro- choice?
  • The third vow would be an all out war on low-income women whose basic health care needs are met by Planned Parenthood and other health providers that would immediately lose their funding and might have to close their doors.
  • The fourth vow would force legislation concerning fetal pain even though the medical community is almost unanimous in its’ assessment that fetuses do not have the capacity to feel pain before 24 weeks.

At the state level, over 800 laws have been passed limiting women’s reproductive rights. Florida is one of many states requiring  women to get ultrasounds before an abortion. Can you imagine? Small government conservatives are forcing women to get unnecessary medical tests mandated by the government. The Texas legislature is outlawing Planned Parenthood, which will leave the poorest of women and families without health care and family planning choices.

What does pro-life mean? Does it mean that we force women to have unwanted babies, carry babies to term that are a danger to the life of the mother or have little risk of survival, or have the babies of their rapists? Does pro-life mean that we don’t help poor women have cancer screenings, pre-natal care or help with nutrition programs for mothers and children?

Being pro-choice today is more important than ever as the right wing is jeopardizing the health of families, abridging the constitutional rights of women to make their own decisions, and embracing the most socially conservative ideology.

Dana Gordon
June 29, 2011 


Women Under Siege

A new majority swept into Congress last November on a pledge to tackle the economy, with an emphasis on creating jobs and reducing the deficit.  The GOP leadership has chosen instead to devote its attention to blocking access to abortion and, incomprehensibly, defunding family planning services that would obviate the need for abortion. Specifically, they intend to close the doors of Planned Parenthood, which for nearly 100 years has been the premier provider of contraception, family planning education, cancer screenings, gynecological exams. and advocacy for women and their health needs around the world. 

At the top of the GOP legislative agenda is a three-pronged assault on women -- not on joblessness: H.R. 3 "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," H.R. 358 the "Protect Life Act," and H.R. 217 "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act.” H.R. 3 would permanently legislate the already existing ban on federal funding of abortion, but with fewer and more restrictive health exceptions. H.R. 358 would allow hospitals that receive federal funds to turn away women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives. H.R. 217 would prohibit insurance coverage of abortion even if paid for with private funds. 

If the House majority is serious about curing America's ailing economy, it should focus on creating jobs, not victimizing women.

Katherine Gurvey
February 22, 2011

False Equivalence
In their zeal to meet the requirements of the fairness doctrine, news outlets tend to present two sides of every story as if they are of equal merit. Sometimes the even-handedness is admirable; other times it is bad reporting. The fact is, where violence-inducing rhetoric and personal attacks are concerned, the political right and the political left do not participate equally.

The left has its talk TV hosts who get agitated and passionate, but they are not the ones who suggest "2nd amendment remedies" to Congressional lawmaking; they are not the ones who caused an uptick in ammunition sales after the election of President Obama; they are not the ones who showed up at rallies with signs declaring they left their guns at home "this time."  No, the left didn't superimpose images of gun sites over a map of 2008 political opponents; they were not toting guns to town hall meetings where health care legislation or immigration reform would be discussed.

Extreme expressions of contempt for government, personal attacks on the President and his supporters, and deliberate falsehoods spread about his origins ("he's not American") and his policies ("death panels") come from right wing talk radio and TV personalities, the Fox network, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman and some Tea Party activists. The left may engage in parody a la Jon Stewart or turn up the volume (Keith Olberman) but hate speech and incitement to violence are not their stock in trade.  Nothing from the left compares to Sarah Palin's recent claim that she is the victim of leftist "blood libels." She shamelessly invoked an antisemitic canard that for centuries has been used to justify persecution of Jews. Her language is an incitement to far right anti-Semitic groups.

Today's polarized political environment is made more so when the line is crossed between what is debatable and what is not, what is equivalent and what is not.  Not all views or people who hold them are equally worthy of consideration. Extreme ideologues on the political right are the chief exponents of today's hyperbolic and hate-laden political discourse. In a democratic society they are free to express their views, but the media should not give them a forum.

Katherine L. Gurvey
January 19, 2011


Re: The Unborn Paradox, NY Times Op-Ed by Ross Douthat (Jan 2, 2011).

Yet another male opining on a subject about which he has no understanding.  If I hear one more time about what a gut-wrenching decision abortion is, I think I will scream.  When a high school or college student who has bright prospects for the future gets pregnant, she knows the real gut-wrenching decision would be to have a baby.  She knows which of the two options would alter the course of hers and a child's life forever -- and not for the better.  That's why so many well-off girls have abortions, not children.  According to certain columnists, screen writers, and assorted other opinion makers, you would think having a child when you are not ready for it was an easy decision.  Or that carrying a baby to term, giving birth and giving the baby up for adoption is not gut-wrenching.  Or that pressuring any woman to bear a child she does not want or cannot adequately care for is the right thing to do.  And, yes, an embryo is not a baby -- it is just a collection of cells.  

So, Ross, get over the obsession with abortion and adoption and all the rest -- and just think about what it means to make a lifetime commitment to a child when you are just a child yourself, or a single mom, or desperately poor, or the valedictorian of your high school class, or on your way to graduate school with a full scholarship, or a married woman who cannot afford another child right now, or just someone who does not want the responsibility of raising a child to adulthood.  In those cases, abortion may be the moral choice and a less gut-wrenching decision than the alternatives.  In any case, that decision should be up to the woman, not society, not government.

Katherine L. Gurvey
January 3, 2011


National Emergency

We are in a national emergency.

During the worst economic times since the great depression, we should be pulling together as a country to overcome huge challenges. At the same time, we should be vigorously debating solutions. Instead, our national ills have spawned a reaction on the right that is counterproductive and anti-American. It smacks of the era of Joseph McCarthy, when a demagogue was able to persecute his enemies and galvanize Americans to turn on one another.  It is reminiscent of the period during WWII when nativist fears spawned persecution of Japanese Americans; it takes us back to the Scopes trial in 1925 Tennessee when fundamentalism triumphed over modernism.

The far right has adopted a take-no-prisoners attitude when it comes to its political objectives. Its leaders fan the flames of hate, using fear and lies as their principal weapons. The center and left have been too silent, their voices stilled by apathy or paralyzed by fear of retribution. Reason has given way to emotion; sound bytes have replaced thoughtful analysis. The Republican party, once the party of Lincoln, has moved so far to the right it is unrecognizable. Its strategy of obstructionism – even on issues where they agree with Democrats – seems almost treasonous when the country needs repair on so many levels. This sort of reaction has happened before.  It will happen again.  But we can ill afford to just let history take its course. 

The Tea Party, the Birthers, conspiracy theorists, and assorted extremists are a powerful coalition in today’s political process.  Their standard bearers are a scary bunch:  Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News. They have the undercover support of the billionaire Koch brothers, without whose funding the right wing echo chamber would be significantly silenced. There are no equivalent donors on the left. 

The far right network in Congress is just as scary a bunch: Michele Bachman, Steve King and Joe “You’re a liar”  Wilson.  No lie is too outrageous and no statement is out of the bounds of propriety for this crew. And they have the tacit support of those who position themselves as more moderate.

Far right Congressional wannabes are the scariest bunch yet. Together, they promote a Christian America, a gun-totin’ society, and a roll-back of government services they claim are unconstitutional.  (Did they ever read “promote the general welfare” in the Preamble?) Their battle cries:  repeal Medicare and Social Security; repeal health care reform; remove limits on money in the political process; get the tyrannical and socialist government off our backs; let the banks close and the auto companies fail; end government regulation; end government, period. For the most part, they have handlers who feed them talking points but when left to their own devices, they are appallingly ignorant.  Sarah Palin couldn’t answer Katie Couric’s question about what newspapers and magazines she regularly read, but later re-cast the interview question as a snobbish  attack on Alaskans. They are masters at turning their humiliations into triumphs through the power that comes with having no shame.

They want “their country back,” and, in the process, want to take away ours. They are negative, mean-spirited and angry. They have no alternate proposals.

To a lesser degree, but equally disturbing, some conservatives in the Jewish community have taken a page from their playbook. They are making the US-Israel relationship a partisan issue, claiming that Democrats (especially the President) are not pro-Israel. Emulating the “anything goes” political culture of the extreme right, they invent episodes that never happened, vilify anyone who has ever criticized anything about Israel, and essentially silence any candid discussion within our community of what it means to be pro-Israel.  They use Israel as a wedge issue to divide the Jewish community; they portray its traditionally progressive majority as anti-Israel. Forget about the fact that Israel has, needs and deserves the support of the entire Jewish community, Democrats and Republicans. Some are cozy with the political right because they fear their taxes will go up.  So they hide behind the claim that Republicans are the only true believers when it comes to Israel. They may not be the originators of the “Obama is a Muslim” mythology but they don’t refute it.  It’s dishonest and it is NOT pro-Israel.

Is there a solution?  Yes there is. And it’s not so difficult.
  • Vote and encourage others to do the same.  Drive voters to the polls. Talk up voting at your exercise class or book group. Make sure your friends and relatives are registered and go with them to register.  Become a voter registrar yourself.  Call your township office to find out how.
  • Know who is running so if someone says it doesn’t matter who wins, you have some good arguments to the contrary.  JAC is a good political resource.  If it’s not on our website, call the office for candidate information
  • Contribute to good candidates to help them get their message out.  That’s the only way in a democracy to silence the opposition. JAC will arrange for you to meet the candidates and deliver the money, along with other JAC members’ contributions, directly to the candidate.
  • Use your brain and don’t believe the trashy stuff on the Internet that says Obama is a Muslim (he’s a Christian), that he snubbed Netanyahu at the White House (it never happened, says Amb Michael Oren and Netanyahu himself), that this Jewish member of Congress or that one is not “really” pro-Israel.  Separate the truth from the fiction right here on the JAC blog, or email the JAC office to report questionable claims.
  • Contribute to JAC annually as generously as you can.  We will take care of most of the political business, but we cannot vote for you.  On this, the 90th anniversary year of women’s securing the right to vote, we honor the courageous women of the past and we build a brighter future when we vote.

Kathy Gurvey
September 13, 2010


Illegal Immigration Today

Is illegal immigration always wrong?  Is illegal immigration a Jewish issue?  Should America deport illegal immigrants for breaking our laws and send back their children?

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in America, and the numbers are not getting smaller.  State legislatures are following the lead of Arizona and are clamping down with harsh laws on those who have come to America without proper papers.  Even though most of these immigrants are not Jewish and don’t have ties to the Jewish community, their plight is a Jewish issue and their fate a Jewish responsibility.

Five days after taking congressional office in 1937, Lyndon Johnson supported an immigration bill that would naturalize illegal aliens, mostly Jews from Lithuania and Poland.  In 1938, LBJ was told of a young Austrian Jewish musician who was about to be deported from the United States.  Johnson sent him to the U.S. Consulate in Havana to obtain a residency permit.  Erich Leinsdorf, the world-famous musician and conductor, credited Johnson with saving his life.

In 1938, President Johnson, then a young congressman, arranged for visas to be supplied to Polish Jews and he oversaw the illegal immigration of hundreds of Jews through the port of Galveston, Texas.  (Jerusalem Post, 2008)  This means that many in our community are here because of illegal immigration and many children were born to these immigrants. 

Jews have been immigrants throughout our history.  When Jews first arrived in the colonies, Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New Amsterdam, led the crusade to bar them from becoming full citizens.  During WWII, many Jews were turned away as their boats approached our shores.   As Jews have migrated from country to country, forced out of most countries because of religion and anti-semitism, we have relied on immigration and the good will of the countries that have allowed our entry.  Because of our history, the Jewish community has led the efforts for fair treatment of all immigrants.

In April 2010, Governor Jan Brewer (AZ) passed an immigration bill, S.B. 1070, that went beyond federal law to deal with illegal immigration in her state.  An array of Jewish groups immediately expressed their dismay at this new law.  “The Jewish community has long called on our national leaders to reform our immigration laws to ‘welcome the stranger’ and t create an effective federal immigration system characterized by the rule of law and the humane treatment of newcomers,” the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society said in a statement.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Weisenthal Center were immediately against this bill that they said mandated racial profiling.

Last week, after Judge Susan Bolton blocked the most troubling provisions of the Arizona law, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the RAC, issues a statement abour the Arizona situation.  “We welcome the Judge’s decision.  The law as enacted invites racial and ethnic discrimination and threatens the rights of American citizens and legal residents.  Judge Bolton’s decision rightly notes that there is an urgent need for Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform.  We will continue to work with our partners in the faith and immigrant communities to achieve sensible and humane reforms that ensure our nation’s security, meet our economy’s needs and respect the dignity of all people.”

Before the celebration over this ruling that blocked parts of S.B. 1070 could begin, many leaders of the Republican party including Sen. McCain (AZ), Rep. Boehner (OH), Sen. McConnell (KY), Sen. Kyl (AZ), and Se. Graham (SC) began a new argument in the immigration debate.  They are calling for the repeal of the 14th Amendment, which was enacted in 1896 and includes a prevision that grants citizenship by birthright to all children born in the United States.  Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL), a leading immigrant advocate, writes, “Imagine a United States where every birth initiates an investigation to determine the citizenship and immigration status of each parent…. Imagine the government intrusion into maternal and child health care.”  “The pro-life, pro-family Republicans are now pro-neonatal detention and deportation.  It isn’t enough to drive out the people not born here, now they want to drive out the ones that were.”  Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty (R) called for the 14th Amendment to be amended because he says “we are the only, or one of the few, developed nations in the world that allows somebody to come here illegally, give birth to a child, and then have the child be a legal citizen of our country.”

As many are drive to extremes as they attempt to resolve illegal immigration, we must demand that our elected leaders make intelligent decisions based on fairness and integrity as they enact laws that will secure our borders, give immigration paths to those that are here and meet the needs of our economy.  This upcoming election will help decide which way the congress goes on this issue – depending on whether the next Congress is led by Harry Reid or John Boehner.  Commentary Magazine (August, 2010) writes that the last two Republican Presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, both supported fair immigration laws; what these new Republican leaders are pushing for is not what the party of Lincoln should stand for, and that calling for the repeal of the 14th amendment is a very bad idea.

Mark McKinnon, who served as media adviser in Bush’s two presidential campaigns, said Republicans risk losing their “rightful claim” to the 14th Amendment if they continue to “demagogue” the issue.

“The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican party.  It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons,” McKinnon told Politico.  “Initially Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country.  Now it is being used to drive people away.”

Michael Keegan, of People for the American Way, writes “Some on the Right have argued that the Citizenship Clause is an outdated administrative provision intended only to be applied to the circumstances of 1868.  In fact, the clause was integral to the 14th Amendment’s promise to extend the protections of the Bill of Rights to all Americans – and it was intended as a guarantee that the rights of citizenship could not be taken away from members of future generations on the grounds of animus or political expedience.”

Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center, studied the issue extensively last year and concluded that the writers of the 14th Amendment “wisely placed the conditions for automatic citizenship beyond the prejudices and politics of the day, intending to establish ‘a constitutional right that cannot be wrested from any class of citizens, or from the citizens of any State by mere legislation.’”

As far as the Jewish community is concerned, the ultimate statement about the treatment of the stranger actually comes from Leviticus:  there will be one law for both the stranger and the citizen. (Lev. 24:22)  Thus the same body of law, Torah, has applications for stranger and citizen alike.  As the November elections descend upon us, immigration is an issue that speaks to our core values.  elect leaders that will fix the problem in a thoughtful way and not those who will enact laws that are divisive and inflammatory.

Dana Gordon
August 2010


JAC:  Thirty years Fighting the Radical Right. 
Why we can't quit now.

Thirty years ago a new breed of political activist arrived on the American scene.  The Radical Right blended secular political conservatism, evangelical Christian values and grassroots organization. The leaders were ministers who used their pulpits to advance right wing causes and political candidates. They encouraged organized involvement in the political process as a way to affirm America as a Christian country. With the election of our first black President and the financial crisis he inherited, a new incarnation of the Radical Right came into being: the tea party movement.  It is a grassroots libertarian movement that emerged in 2009 to protest health care reform, federal economic stimulus programs, and bailouts of banks and financial institutions.  Angry about the recession and unemployment, tea partiers talk about “taking America back” from an overreaching, big-spending federal government.

When JAC was founded in 1981 it was in response to newly organized and energized right wing political organizations that opposed US support for Israel and foreign aid in general. They opposed abortion, supported prayer in public schools, and had a vision of America as a Christian nation.  These organizations were composed of evangelical Christians who were determined to move the Republican party away from its moneyed Wall Street orientation toward a more populist and religious sensibility.  They cloaked their ultra-conservative ideology in religious garb.   Their natural constituency was Republicans, but they successfully reached out to blue collar voters, union members and other “traditional values” Democratic constituencies who saw the American dream eluding them and the Democratic party overtaken by counter-culture values – pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-women’s rights.  This political realignment under a Christian banner was a disturbing sign to JAC. We recognized its power and potential.  We knew that it was important to have support for our agenda from both Democrats and Republicans; but we could not accept support from ideologues who would abridge our rights as Jews and as Americans.

The powerhouse organizations that ushered in the new age of evangelical dominance in the political process -- the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition – were joined by Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and others too numerous to mention.  If a single person could be said to embody the religious right, it was TV evangelist and one-time presidential candidate Pat Robertson.  A group of conservative intellectuals were already making their mark in foreign policy, former liberals (many of them Jewish) who saw Democrats as weak on national security and military defense.  Known as the neocons, these were secular elites who moved from academia into policy and politics.  The neocons were willing to forsake their more moderate stance on social issues and come together with the radical right on foreign policy.

The evangelicals, who in the past were isolationists who shunned foreign aid, soon adopted a theological agenda that included support for Israel.  According to this theology, the in-gathering of the Jews into Israel is part of God's plan to bring on the Final Battle of Armageddon, as prophesied in the New Testament, in which the forces of Good (the U.S. and its allies) would confront the forces of Evil (the Soviet Union and its allies).  This battle would lead to the destruction of the earth, which for this theology is a necessity before Jesus can return to save "the select, the believers."  This view maintained that all Jews must ultimately convert to Christianity in order to fulfill the prophecies.  While other pro-Israel groups were willing to work with evangelical Christian political groups, this last proviso was a deal killer for JAC.   Their position on Israel notwithstanding, our assessment was that they were no friends to the Jews.

In 1994 many adherents of the religious right were swept into office and took positions of Congressional leadership.  But the presidency was what they wanted.  In George W. Bush, the evangelicals and the neocons found their perfect candidate, someone who's unyielding views on good and evil, whose personal Christian religious beliefs, and whose conservative political principles blended with their own.  Before long, a rightward political shift was taking place throughout the country and candidates felt it necessary to tone down their liberal impulses and emphasize their “family values.”  Candidates of both parties who did not pay attention to religious conservatives did so at their own peril.  The Barack Obama phenomenon was a break in the rightward momentum, but it was brief and did not signal a trend.  Soon health care reform was being criticized as socialism and Obama was being called a Nazi for imposing government controls to avert a full-scale economic collapse.

Thirty years after the founding of JAC, the radical right has embedded itself into the fabric of our politics in ways that were unavailable and unimaginable back then.  As a country, we have moved to the right – not necessarily because there is a consensus in that direction.  There are other factors at work, principally the impact of the media on political campaigns and on the issues that command our attention.  The most far-reaching and effective voices in the media today are ultra-conservative talk radio and TV hosts, the Fox news network and spokespeople like Sarah Palin.  Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck are news sources for many Americans. Despite their dominance, they complain about liberal bias in the media.  Their followers post their rants on You-Tube and their words go viral as emails.  The talk jocks are joined by mainstream media that are struggling to survive, so they have allocated less money for fact-checking and first-rate reporters.  Controversy sells, so even the mainstream media cover conflicts or they make them up. They are joined by a new crop of hard right elected officials, former elected officials and candidates like Michele Bachman, Sharron Angle, and Sarah Palin whose radicalism extends to suggesting that citizens take up arms to protect themselves against an oppressive government.  They are knowing and effortless disseminators of false claims and threats that never materialize (“Death Panels” will decide who lives and who dies in health care reform.  Shirley Sherrod is a racist and should be fired.  Barack Obama is an illegitimate president, not born in this country.  And so on…)

And what about those who claim the radical left is a bigger threat than the radical right, especially when it comes to Israel?  The fact is, in this country the hard left is disorganized and not much of an influence in the political process.  In the last thirty years, the radical left has lagged far behind the right at sowing the seeds of discontent and making people believe that black is white and white is black.  They have been unsuccessful in turning Congress, Republican and Democratic Administrations or the American people against the special relationship between the US and Israel.  The right is much more focused on message discipline and doing what is necessary to implement its agenda; it is not hesitant to dispatch anyone who gets in its way.  No one fears or caters to the left the way they do to the right.

Blocking the radical right from fulfilling its mission is as important as it was thirty years ago – and more challenging.  Religious conservatives still seek to blur the separation of religion and state and to eliminate women’s access to full reproductive health care options.   Libertarian groups that want to dismantle the federal social safety net (including repeal of health care reforms), impose draconian measures on immigrants, and end sensible controls on guns have been added to the mix.  Will US support for Israel be in their cross-hairs?  If so, we must be as committed to our goals as they are to theirs.

Kathy Gurvey
August 12, 2010


Words Matter

What did Helen Thomas Really Say?
Most of the talking heads in the mainstream press missed the significance of Helen Thomas'  remarks outside the Jewish Heritage Celebration at the White House May 31st. There was far too much reporting that the Dean of the White House press corps had a brilliant, ground breaking career and wasn't it too bad that she misspoke and marred her record with her anti-Israel remarks. Waxing nostalgic, they almost felt sorry for her, even though her words might have been the ugliest sentiments ever expressed in public by someone who has a reserved seat in the White House press room. If she had not been seen and heard on YouTube, one might have assumed it was Ahmedinejad or Farrakhan speaking. That she could snarl that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine and go home" is hateful and ignorant. That she would suggest they could go to Germany and Poland is to deny the Holocaust and post-Holocaust vengeance that made it deadly for them to do so. Or maybe deadly was what she was after. That's Holocaust denial and "death to the Jews" without actually saying the words.

Hyperbole works in Poetry; in Journalism, not so much
Some words/concepts that used to be used sparingly because they referred to particular (and particularly heinous) historic events have worked their way into common parlance: Holocaust, Nazi, Apartheid.  Lately, these words are used in ways that are not only inaccurate, but also offensive for their casual use. Ubiquitous usage devalues the horrors these words are meant to convey.

To call any killing of innocents a Holocaust is hyperbole and a trivilization of the singular event. The Holocaust was the systematic and premeditated extermination of 6 million European Jews by Nazi Germany in World War II.  Killing of innocent civilians in Gaza or the West Bank is NOT, as some describe it, a "Holocaust."

To call any oppressive regime or its supporters Nazis is a gross exaggeration and a misrepresentation. Nazism was a unique far right form of fascism that incorporated biological racism and anti-Semitism.  Opponents of Israel in the BDS movement sometimes refer to Israelis as Nazis for imposing a blockade on Gaza. Israelis are not, nor could they ever be, Nazis.

Apartheid is a system – imposed by government (in South Africa from 1948-1994) on its citizens – of complete separation of the races, a minority ruling absolutely over a majority, and all civil rights such as voting, equal protection of the laws and other aspects of equality denied to the majority.  Discrimination on the basis of race, religion or nationality is not in itself apartheid. To call it apartheid is to dismiss the singular nature of South African Apartheid.  Israel is NOT an apartheid state.

Katherine Gurvey
June 15, 2010