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Two Chicago pols break over BDS, as U.S. Jews divide over Israel

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Here are three recent stories involving the ongoing American Jewish divorce from rightwing Israel.

First, progressive Daniel Biss is a mathematician and Illinois state senator who is Jewish, running for governor. Biss got his political start opposing the Iraq War, and on September 1, he announced his choice for lieutenant governor, a Chicago alderman who’d worked for Bernie Sanders, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

Carlos is one of the fiercest progressive fighters I know, serving as alderman of Chicago’s 35th Ward.

Like me, Carlos is the grandson of immigrants and the son of educators.

One pol’s reaction was swift. Two days later, Brad Schneider, an Illinois Congressman, withdrew his endorsement of Biss because Ramirez-Rosa supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Schneider writes:

On August 31, I was surprised to learn through press reports that Senator Daniel Biss had selected Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa as his running mate. I was immediately concerned about some of Alderman Ramirez-Rosa’s past comments about the United States support of our ally Israel, and his affiliation with a group that is an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Following conversations with Senator Biss and Alderman Ramirez-Rosa, I have informed the campaign of the withdrawal of my support.

This decision is not taken lightly. I remain hopeful that, as Alderman Ramirez-Rosa learns more about the importance of the US-Israel partnership to both our nations, the unique challenges Israel faces as the only democracy in a very dangerous neighborhood, and the commitment of the vast majority of the Israeli people to peace and a two state solution, he will reconsider his positions.

Biss’s campaign has not released a statement on the de-endorsement yet, but maybe they’ll stick to their guns. Schneider is something of a pro-Israel hack. Though he endorsed Biss last June, praising his “ lead on issues like income inequality, women’s health care, and protecting our environment,” he got his start working for AIPAC. Chicago Tribune, 2012:

Though he’s never held office, Schneider was familiar with politics from working with pro-Israel groups active in Washington. His license plate, TIKUN1, refers to a Hebrew phrase that calls for repairing the world.

Schneider worked to sway legislators as a volunteer with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major lobbying group.

And he told Chicago Magazine he’d been to Israel more times than he can count.

Though a politician would be foolish to take my advice, it’s my belief that Biss/Ramirez-Rosa can withstand this blow and keep going. As Ben Lorber of Jewish Voice for Peace writes in response to Brad Schneider, American Jews are not all with Israel:

Sadly, the article below [showing Israeli Jewish support for ethnic cleansing] shows that it’s not true that ‘the vast majority of Israelis are committed to peace’, as you describe. As an American Jew I support BDS, I support Alderman Rosa and I no longer support you. It’s time for progressive politicians like yourself to put Palestinian rights on the agenda, stop being bullied by AIPAC, and get with the program, or else you’re going to lose the support of the constituents you need to get elected- if not today, then tomorrow.

From the Daily Herald, on Ramirez-Rosa’s background:

Ramirez-Rosa was elected to the City Council in 2015 at age 26, one of the youngest ever elected in the city, and was a delegate for Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic National Convention.

In an interview with The Real News Network last year, Ramirez-Rosa said U.S. divestment from Israel is “a conversation that needs to be had.” He’s also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which recently passed a resolution supporting the BDS movement.

By the way, another candidate in this race is J.B. Pritzker, from the hugely wealthy Pritzker family, which has tended to be very supportive of Israel.

Next item, Samuel G. Freedman has an opinion article up at the Forward-– “Netanyahu is abandoning American Jews, because he can”– in which he argues that Netanyahu is abandoning liberal American Jews because he is forming a base in the U.S. of rightwing Christian Zionists. I don’t think this is Netanyahu’s game, but Freedman is clinical about the divide. A liberal Jewish community is in “abject despair” about the Israel they loved being swallowed by the occupation.

We have never been further from Israel than we are at this point. And we find ourselves at that distance because, after all the invocations of Jewish peoplehood, after all the salutes to us as a “strategic asset,” we American Jews have never been made to feel less necessary to Israel’s success or survival than we are today.

Freedman, author of Jew Vs. Jew, isn’t even talking about pro-BDS Jews. We’re outside his community (another divide). He celebrates the anti-occupation work of Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon, and takes a shot at two Netanyahu officials: rightwing settler/consul general Dani Dayan and UN ambassador Danny Danon. They do not relate to the “rest of us,” Freedman says. “[T]hese diplomats are emissaries without empathy.”

Forward editor Jane Eisner and Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York.

Dayan was angered by this characterization. He was welcomed by Forward editor Jane Eisner not long ago and is trying to keep up his relations with liberal Zionists. He issued a thinskinned tweet:

A @SamuelGFreedman published something factually incorrect about me. I asked him to apologize. He didn’t. I found he’s a prof. of journalism


As Freedman notes, limited access to the western wall for non-orthodox Jews is driving some of the estrangement. Daniel Gordis has called on American Jews to bring Israel to its knees by boycotting it over the western wall (but no boycott for Palestinian human rights!).

In the latest abuse, the official Cincinnati Jewish community is angered that four female students at the Hebrew Union College studying in Israel were forced to undergo body searches on August 23 before approaching the western wall in occupied East Jerusalem. Two were American. One, Tzvia Rubens, describes her treatment here.

Netanyahu has reportedly called for an investigation. He doesn’t want to lose his strategic asset, American Jewry, anytime soon.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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29 Responses

  1. amigo on September 5, 2017, 4:29 pm

    “and the commitment of the vast majority of the Israeli people to peace and a two state solution, he will reconsider his positions.”Schneider

    This guy schneider obviously does not get out much!!.

    “At an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria — the biblical name for the northern West Bank — Netanyahu told a crowd of thousands, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”

    The vast majority of Israelis (Jews that is ) keep putting Netanyahu/Bennet/Skaked/Lieberman in office so how can they claim to support a two state solution.

    • Emory Riddle on September 6, 2017, 7:21 am

      “Though a politician would be foolish to take my advice, it’s my belief that Biss/Ramirez-Rosa can withstand this blow and keep going. As Ben Lorber of Jewish Voice for Peace writes in response to Brad Schneider, American Jews are not all with Israel”

      Again with the narrative that Jews only decide American elections and governance. What’s a poor Goy to do?

      • Citizen on September 7, 2017, 11:42 pm

        Make a ton of money and use it to support BDS?

  2. aloeste on September 5, 2017, 6:55 pm

    mr weiss , a virulent anti zionist but even moreso a vicious hater of judaism and those whose practice of it is authentic traditional and torah based , should stick to the topic of antizionism , its most virulent forms being his specialty. the kotel has halachic ramifications. if practitioners of basterdized deviations of judaism which to desecrate holy sites and torah scrolls, a price is payed for that by potential deviants….

    • annie on September 5, 2017, 9:45 pm

      what kind of price aloeste? are you accusing reform jews of practicing “basterdized” judaism and their very presence “desecrates” your holy sites and scrolls? is that what you are saying?

      • Mooser on September 6, 2017, 1:18 pm

        “what kind of price aloeste? are you accusing reform jews of practicing “basterdized” judaism and their very presence “desecrates” your holy sites and scrolls?”

        Whoa, steady on, “Annie”! Aloeste is not suggesting these inadequate assimilated Jews should stop putting money in the Blue Box. They may be worthy only of derision and punishment, but damn it, they are still Jews!

    • gamal on September 5, 2017, 10:17 pm

      “a price is payed for that by potential deviants….”

      it’s all a question of education

      “Israeli-syllabus school set up in Syrian area controlled by armed groups”

      “The Israeli syllabus is being taught in the school, with textbooks intended to provide Syrian pupils with a different perspective about Israel.

      An Israeli news website reported that the school has 90 Syrian pupils and 15 teachers. It is an addition to two similar schools which have been established in areas controlled by the armed groups near the borders of the occupied Golan Heights.

      Businessman Moti Kahana, a former Israeli air force soldier who holds dual Israeli-US citizenships, is the head of the organisation behind the schools. He hopes that the syllabus will entrench a different perspective about Israel and that pupils will go on to study in Israeli universities. “In this way,” Kahana explained, “we hope to change the popular Syrian position towards Israel.” ”

      deviants my dear are willing to pay any price, no point in deviating and being craven and fearful,

      “basterdized deviations of judaism” you mean bida’a (which is a good thing in adab), you going to be at home with the Wahhabis and worse.

      “authentic and torah based” fundamentalism always sounds so hollow but get them young.

      • annie on September 6, 2017, 12:43 pm

        It is an addition to two similar schools which have been established in areas controlled by the armed groups near the borders of the occupied Golan Heights….the syllabus will entrench a different perspective about Israel and that pupils will go on to study in Israeli universities.

        israel wouldn’t be eyeing expanding their occupation of the golan now would they? nah! just push those borders out an eensy weensy bit more.

    • Emory Riddle on September 6, 2017, 7:25 am

      “..virulent….vicious hater…virulent forms…basterdized (sic) deviations…desecrate…potential deviants..”.

      Quite a sentence.

      Clearly this is a guy operating applying an analytical approach to the issue and not letting his emotions get in the way.

    • Mooser on September 6, 2017, 1:03 pm

      ” the kotel has halachic ramifications.”

      That is true, so most Yeshivas offer courses in Kotel Management.

    • Danaa on September 6, 2017, 7:25 pm

      What’s the relationship between the kotel and Herod’s wall?

      • Keith on September 7, 2017, 10:55 am

        DANAA- “What’s the relationship between the kotel and Herod’s wall?”

        Are you setting up Mooser for a Herod’s Wahl joke?

      • MHughes976 on September 7, 2017, 11:27 am

        While Mooser works on that one, just to mention my post on December 19 last year about some difficulties in regarding the Kotel as Herod’s work.

      • gamal on September 7, 2017, 2:14 pm

        “Are you setting up Mooser for a Herod’s”

        well i was thinking K-Tel, the as seen on tv cheap compilation records company, but it came to nothing,

        as Ipuwer, brother of Ptennisnet said

        “he who could not build a room for himself is now a possessor of walls.

        Behold, the magistrates of the land are driven out throughout the land: [. . .] are driven out from the palaces. -deposed by the rabble, robbed by beggars

        – people who ignore custom
        he who did not build a hut is an owner of coffers.

        Behold, the possessor of wealth now spends the night thirsty, while he who once begged his dregs for himself is now the possessor of overflowing bowls.

        Behold, the possessors of robes are now in rags, while he who could not weave for himself is now a possessor of fine linen.

        Behold, he who could not build a boat for himself is now the possessor of a fleet; their erstwhile owner looks at them, but they are not his.”

        walls can’t keep everything out and require constant upkeep.

      • Mooser on September 7, 2017, 6:39 pm

        “What’s the relationship between the kotel and Herod’s wall?”

        Yesterday, I was going to say “Mutual parking validation”, but thought it was in bad taste, so I didn’t.

  3. JosephA on September 5, 2017, 9:52 pm

    Tikkun Olam my ass! Brad Schneider needs to re-learn the meaning of repairing the world if he thinks that supporting the last apartheid, racist regime is doing anybody (besides the military-industrial complex) any good!

  4. US Citizen on September 5, 2017, 11:34 pm

    It is high time for this – the solution is simple – when an AIPAC endorsed candidate runs just spell out for the people, wherever that candidate appears all the money we give to Israel that could be spend here at home. People understand dollars and cents. Make AIPAC and the people who run on a pro-Israel ticket defend giving 11 millions dollars a day to a ‘vibrant faux democracy’ when our own are going without. Spell it out for them and shame these Israel firsters/AIPACers. It’s long overdue.

    • Citizen on September 8, 2017, 12:00 am

      How will you get an ambitious journalist to do this, or merely one who wants to feed his family and have a few comforts at the family home, and how will you get the mainstream media to broadcast it to the public?

  5. Misterioso on September 6, 2017, 11:40 am

    Worth reading:

    Tasnim News Agency, Sept. 3/17

    “Israel Losing Stranglehold over US: American Activist”


    “TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A peace activist and journalist based in Virginia said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s panic about recent advances of Iran and its allied forces against terrorists in Syria signals that the Tel Aviv regime is ‘losing its stranglehold’ over Washington.

    “’Netanyahu’s panic and his incessant warnings regarding ‘Iranian expansion’ may be the most hopeful sign that Tel Aviv is losing its stranglehold over Washington,’ Janice Kortkamp from Leesburg, Virginia, said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.”

    “Kortkamp: ‘I believe this is an exceedingly dangerous time in the Syrian conflict; Israel is in a panic right now with the victory in the strategic Qalamoun region over Daesh. Israel’s goal has been to keep the war in Syria going indefinitely – for it to bleed to death – to weaken the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) and Hezbollah just as they had wanted the war in Iraq to weaken both it and Iran. The opposite outcome has occurred with Hezbollah stronger and more respected than ever; the alliance and coordination between Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia also stronger; Iraq is also cooperating in many regards with that alliance, and President Putin is now seen as the predominant global strategist. Another factor is that Prime Minister Netanyahu is under investigation for fraud and corruption and a war would probably distract Israelis from pursuing an indictment. Netanyahu’s emotional entreaties to President Putin seemed to have fallen on deaf ears according to Pravda’s report of August 25 on the meeting, saying Israel’s Prime Minister failed to convince President Putin on the need to stop ‘Iran’s expansion in the Middle East.’ ”

    • annie on September 6, 2017, 12:18 pm

      thanks misterioso. yeah, netanyahu’s repeated efforts to skewer the russia/US syria negotiations were met with deaf ears. it was an impossible demand (to demand removal of iran, or any syrian ally for that matter).

      i can hear the squeals of the neocons all over the internet this morning. the liberation of deir ezzor has clearly tipped the scales. bill kristol linked to this tablet story today pissed the holocaust museum was dropping some “study” of obama being responsible for genocide in syria because he didn’t succumb to their pressure to bomb assad in retaliation for their insistence assad gassed his own people. remember goldberg’s ‘obama doctrine’ — “the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower” bla bla bla. anyway, check out: “HOLOCAUST MUSEUM PULLS STUDY ABSOLVING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FOR INACTION IN FACE OF SYRIAN GENOCIDE — Abrupt decision comes in wake of sharp rebukes, bafflement, and concern about politicization of Shoah memory”

      A major United States Holocaust Memorial Museum study of the Obama Administration’s Syria policy was put on hold last night after portions of the study given to Tablet were greeted with shock and harsh criticism by prominent Jewish communal leaders and thinkers.

      According to a publicity email sent by the Museum, the study was set to be launched at an event at the US Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C., on September 11 and was overseen by a former US intelligence and national security official under Obama, Cameron Hudson, now director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The paper argued that “a variety of factors, which were more or less fixed, made it very difficult from the beginning for the US government to take effective action to prevent atrocities in Syria, even compared with other challenging policy contexts.” Using computational modeling and game theory methods, as well as interviews with experts and policymakers, the report asserted that greater support for the anti-Assad rebels and US strikes on the Assad regime after the August 2013 Ghouta chemical weapons attack would not have reduced atrocities in the country, and might conceivably have contributed to them.

      The intervention of the Holocaust Museum in a hot-button political dispute—and the apparent excuse of official US government inaction in the face of large-scale mass murder, complete with the gassing of civilians and government-run crematoria—alarmed many Jewish communal figures.

      the horror… “jewish communal figures”? ah. them. pushing what obama termed “the washington playbook”

      • annie on September 6, 2017, 12:36 pm

        american presidents have carried out too many atrocities to mention. but to imagine a museum on the national mall (ok, one block off) hosting an exhibit essentially accusing an american president of genocide for not intervening enough in syria, failing their regime change agenda, practically inconceivable. the chutzpah! the holocaust museum was smart to drop this.

      • Misterioso on September 6, 2017, 3:38 pm


        Just out:

        Israel’s Geopolitical Gut Check
        A once favorable balance of power has shifted, clipping Tel Aviv’s wings.
        By SHARMINE NARWANI • September 6, 2017

      • annie on September 8, 2017, 12:24 am

        excellent article misterioso, great wrap up. i have been following this closely since before netanyahu’s last trip to visit putin interrupting his holiday to insert his demands into the process. but other aspects of her report were new to me. and sorry for my later reply (houseguest!)

        you probably heard israel bombed a syrian research facility killing two guards in the wee hrs of the morning (yesterday morning depending on where you are). i’m sure it has to do w/syria’s successes in recent days.

        Israel finds itself in a precarious position as the Syrian civil war grinds on: The United States, its main global ally, has struck a deal with Russia, Syria’s main benefactor, on a cease-fire that is mostly holding; Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now more in control of his country than at any point since the civil war began more than five years ago; and Iran, which Israel views as an existential threat, and Hezbollah, which it battled for years in Lebanon, have emerged even stronger than they were before the conflict began.

        Thursday’s strike, while signaling to its adversaries that Israel will not sit by as forces inimical to it gain strength, also sends a message to the Trump administration that any political resolution of the Syrian conflict must take into account Israel’s long-term security interests. Israel has diplomatic relations with only two of its immediate neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. While it has an unacknowledged relationship with Saudi Arabia, arguably the most important Arab nation, forged on their mutual antipathy toward Iran, Israel views its immediate neighbors as strategic problems. It occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000, first to fight Palestinian militants and then to battle Hezbollah; and Syria, where the Assad regime has increased its reliance on Tehran.

        so, syria complained to the UN, and all the msm here are claiming israel (may have) hit a chemical weapons research facility — plausible deniability total bs.

        israel is occupying syrian golan because assad has increased its reliance on tehran? say wha? israel is pissed their demands were not met by the US or russia so they punish syria. they need to be slapped down bigtime. they want to keep the war going in syria.

      • Keith on September 6, 2017, 6:55 pm

        ANNIE- “bill kristol linked to this tablet story today pissed the holocaust museum was dropping some “study” of obama being responsible for genocide in syria because he didn’t succumb to their pressure to bomb assad….”

        Indeed, the neocons and other Jewish Zionists seem determined to become known as the uber warmongers. I am surprised that the Holocaust museum backed out. In related news, have you heard about the “Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017?” Seems that the only way to prevent a lot of people from getting killed is for the empire to militarily attack and kill a lot of people. Because of our values. Read and weep.

        “How dumb do Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, Al Franken, D-MI, and Elizabeth Warren, D-OK, think we are? All three Democratic presidential hopefuls are “initial co-sponsors” of an Orwellian bill to “enhance” our government’s ability to “prevent genocide and mass atrocities” with military force: S enate Bill 1158, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017 .”
        “Twenty Democrats, including Booker, Franken, and Warren, but only five Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Mass Atrocities Prevention Act. Indeed, much of this Orwellian movement is coordinated within the elite, richly resourced, corporate funded, ideological bastions of the Democratic Party. One of these is the “ENOUGH Project to counter genocide and crimes against humanity ,” founded by career militarists John Prendergast and Gayle Smith. Enough is an NGO subsidiary of a larger NGO, the Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP is a think tank, aka propaganda vehicle, founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta. Podesta played key roles in both the Clinton and Obama Administrations prior to his Wikileaks notoriety.”
        (Ann Garrison)

      • annie on September 8, 2017, 12:31 am

        keith, more twisted hypocritical war mongoring aipac written legislation served up by leading dems! when will they end this madness!

      • Danaa on September 7, 2017, 1:04 am

        Keith – that’s a great article – it really does a lot to show off people like warren, Booker and Franken as the faux progressives that they are. I heard that Elizabeth warren actually spoke in favor of the military increase by Trump in Afganistan. Wome,n rights, something, something….to think that once there was a movement to draft her to run for the presidency!

        Also Misterioso, thanks for the link to Narwani’s article. Haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but I found some interesting nuggets there.

  6. Xpat on September 6, 2017, 11:18 pm

    Phil –
    Unfortunately, your confidence was misplaced. Daniel Biss caved to Dem pressure today.

  7. Felipe on September 7, 2017, 12:59 am

    It seems that Biss has indeed folded and Ramirez-Rose is no longer in the campaign. Utterly pathetic but not surprising:

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