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Tag Archives: Jewish voters

Update and Correction: DNC Officials Dismissive of Holocaust

The original story printed here suggests that DNC staffer Ryan Banfill poked fun at the Holocaust by stating ironically,  “This is about remembering the Holocaust. Never forget.”

Ryan, who is married to a Jewish woman and raising his kids Jewish, has written me what appears to be a heartfelt note stating unquivocally and passionately that his statement was not meant to be ironic.

Ryan wrote:

I usually let things roll off my back but your characterization of this is 180 degrees from where I was coming from. Being the father of Jewish children and deeply in love with my Jewish wife, I just can’t let your characterization of this stand.

I know our politics may differ but the Holocaust was a crime against generations — a horrific crime against all people.

I really wish you would rephrase what you wrote and accurately reflect what I wrote as being straight up what I wrote. “It’s about the Holocaust” and “Never Again.” I did not and would never downplay the Holocaust.

I’d be happy to discuss this with you if you like but please, for my family, our Rabbi and congregation, change what you wrote.

In that case, he must have been trying to influence the other DNC staffer, Kate Houghton, to help her understand that Holocaust Memorial Day is a particularly solemn day and stands out from other religious holidays.

After some thought, I have decided to accept Ryan’s explanation and I believe he is being truthful with me, despite the seeming sarcasm, and I have apologized to him.

Below is the original story, which should now be read with the above in mind.


When Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked her staffers for a statement on Holocaust Memorial Day, two of her aides mocked her and the Holocaust and one suggested the murder of 6 million Jews was no bigger deal than the Bosnia massacre.

“We need to do a statement from the DNC. Is there a reason we haven’t?” Wasserman Schultz asked in the email to communications director Ryan Banfill on May 5 of this year.

Banfill forwarded Schultz’s email to DNC staffer, Kate Houghton. “Flagging for you. The chair is asking for a statement on Yom Hashoah,” Banfill wrote.

“We aren’t going to do statements for every Jewish holiday unless she wants to do them for every religious holiday and trust me, this Catholic can give you a list of them,” Houghton replied. “Also when she does an official statement it makes very little sense to have two statements out there in her voice.”

Banfill poked fun at the Holocaust with what appeared to be an ironic reply. “This is about remembering the Holocaust. Never forget.”

“Yup… or Darfur or Armenia or Rwanda or Bosnia (which PS is where my husband served),” Houghton replied. “Does she want us to do one for each other those remembrance days as well?”

With the appearance of Palestinian flags on the floor of the Democratic convention, it should be clear by now which party is pro-Israel and a friend of the Jews, and which is not. But judging by the political sympathies of my fellow Jews, the point still somehow needs to be made.

H/T Daily Caller.

Is This Jewish Voter Week at the White House?

President Obama has been working the Hispanic vote as of late, staging a series of events designed to let Latinos know that he cares, with the unstated notion that if they care to vote for him that’s fine.

So, gosh, it’s hard not to note the preponderance of Jewish themed events at the White House this week, so many that it might make you wonder if another important constituency isn’t being asked to take notice.

This afternoon President Obama is hosting a White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, which as a Jew, I had no idea existed, and which I’m honored about unless it somehow entitles us to some of other people’s tax dollars.

Thursday there’s a Very Big Moment speech on the Middle East which will surely include avowals of the need to guarantee Israel’s security.

Friday Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu drops by for a session that likely will feature unctuously obsequious treatment given the rude brush off Bibi got on a previous visit to the White House – and since there’s little reason to be tough with him since with the joining of Hamas and Fatah, Mideast peace is off the table. The conversation will assuredly include avowals of the need to guarantee Israel’s security.

Finally, Obama will appear before AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, on Sunday, remarks that will surely include avowals of the need to guarantee Israel’s security.

Jews went for Obama overwhelmingly in 2008. But Republicans are always looking to make inroads into the traditional Jewish support for Democrats. And given the earlier perception of Obama as perhaps a little too evenhanded toward the Palestinians for Israel’s taste, it’s not surprising that this looks like Jewish voter week.

Gaza Flotilla Ship to be Called ‘Audacity of Hope’

Early this fall, Palestinian activists plan to try to run another flotilla through the Israeli Gaza blockade. This time for Obama, it’s personal.

Rashid Khalidi
Rashid Khalidi

In a move that must be giving Obama’s political team dyspepsia about Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and other potential battleground states where Jewish voters might make the difference, the Palestinians have decided to call one of the boats: “THE AUDACITY OF HOPE.”

That’s right, “The Audacity of Hope,” same as the Obama book title. And contributing to the fundraising effort is none other than Obama pal – probably Once and Future Pal, since hanging with him currently is bad political form – Rashid Khalidi.

Here’s a take on their relationship from an April 10, 2008 piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Chicago – It was a celebration of Palestinian culture — a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.

A special tribute came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Khalidi is a Palestinian professor and activist who has reportedly backed the killing of armed Israelis by Palestinians as a legitimate act of “resistance.”

Khalidi, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the other day, said he will raise money to buy the ship and suggested its name and provenance will offer it protection.

“Given the national-religious hierarchy which determines what the IDF can do to whom, the fact that the ship is American will make it harder to deal with it as the Mavi Marmara was dealt with,” Khalidi said.

Can you imagine Israelis commandos storming “The Audacity of Hope?” Not me. Pretty savvy strategy. And when does the good ship “Dreams from My Father” sail?

Top Nine Things Obama Wanted to Say to Bibi

During their recent meeting at the White House, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to make it seem like they were real chummy and all. But White House Dossier, employing an expensive team of mind readers, has been able to discern from videos and photos of the session what Obama really wanted to say to Netanyahu. Here are the top nine things they could discern.

1. Before you just go bombing away, have you tried reasoning with Ahmadinejad?

2. No, no, I don’t think it’s unusual at all for peace activists to be carrying guns, knives and clubs.

3. What should you do with the settlers? I don’t know, send them back to Germany and Poland? Come on, Bibi, have a sense of humor.

4. If I don’t get the Jews in the Cleveland suburbs, Ohio’s gone and I’m toast. So, can I make you some coffee?

5. How did AIPAC get my direct line?

6. I think ten miles is quite wide enough for a country, sir.

7. Sure, you can expand the Jewish settlements – into the Dead Sea. Bwahahahahaha.

8. I can empathize with the Jews. I mean, all of us are greedy sometimes.

9. Your wife really needs to get with Michelle’s Let’s Move program

Obama and Netanyahu Make Nice

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went to extraordinary lengths today to showed they had made up, possibly even kissed too, explaining to the world and U.S. Jewish voters that the relationship between Israel and the United States . . . is just wonderful.

Obama showed unprecedented rudeness  to a foreign leader – that I’ve seen covering the White House anyway – last time Netanyahu dropped by, cutting short his meetings with him and refusing to take a picture.  This time, he walked it all back emphatically.

A few of Obama’s quotes:

I just completed an excellent one-on-one discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I want to welcome him back to the White House.

So I just want to say, once again, that I thought the discussion that we had was excellent.

I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace.

And so on, and so forth.

Obama Netanyahu
Because your kiss - your kiss is what I miss!

Asked by an Israeli reporter if he regretted that in the past year he had “distanced yourself from Israel and gave a cold shoulder to the prime minister,” – all of which is true, Obama got prickly:

“Well, let me first of all say that the premise of your question was wrong, and I entirely disagree with it,” he said.

Obama added that “what I have consistently shared with him is my interest in working with him, not at cross purposes.”

As opposed to the usual method of working together at cross purposes. Huh?

Netanyahu was more measured than the effusive Obama, but he too was up for the happy talk:

Here I’ll have to paraphrase Mark Twain, that the reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relationship aren’t just premature, they’re just flat wrong.

There is a — there’s a depth and richness of this relationship that is expressed every day. Our teams talk. We don’t make it public. The only thing that’s public is that you can have differences on occasion in the best of families and the closest of families. That comes out public and sometimes in a twisted way too.

Netanyahu was particularly focused on Iran’s nuclear weapons quest, which is of some concern to Israel because, well, Iran has said it intends to use the weapon against Israel.

While trying to sound supportive of the sanctions route, he made clear that one should not assume this will be enough.

I think the latest sanctions adopted by the U.N. create illegitimacy or create de-legitimization for Iran’s nuclear program, and that is important. I think the sanctions the president signed the other day actually have teeth. They bite. The question is how much do you need to bite is something I cannot answer now, but if other nations adopted similar sanctions, that would increase the effect.

Obama tiptoed around the issue of whether he is demanding that Israel extend its settlement freeze, offering up some careful diplomaticese that suggested he still wants this.

I do think that there are a range of confidence-building measures that can be taken by all sides that improve the prospects of a successful negotiation.

And, interestingly, from the White House reporters’ pool report by Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune, this final show of respect:

At 1:56 pm, the president and prime minister emerged from the Oval Office and walked toward the motorcade, talking as they went. Obama saw Netanyahu into a black limo, gave him a final wave and waited until the motorcade pulled away.

All in all, everyone achieved their mutual goal of expressing that the U.S.-Israeli bond – and even the Barack-Bibi bond – is tight, whatever the truth of the matter.

When Barack Met Bibi

The Scene: Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his aides have just entered to Oval Office for his meeting today with President Obama. The Israelis are determined to avoid a repeat of the last White House session, when Obama stiffed them for part of the time and refused to take a picture with Netanyahu. The Israelis fear Obama is tilting toward the Palestinians but hope that, at the very least, the need for Jewish votes will help tilt him back.

As Netanyahu and  his aides walk in, they notice an surprising presence. Netanyahu wonders briefly if she is here to ask him some questions.

Obama: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome, it is a pleasure to have you here at the White House. I promise not to have any more snit fits and to spend a little more time with you today. First, I’d like to call on Secretary of State Clinton to present you with the Reset Button. Hillary?

Clinton: Mr. Prime Minister, the Israel desk at the State Department has built a special Reset Button for you and I to press together. I so enjoyed pressing the Reset Button last year with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. As you are aware, the Reset Button has provided tremendous benefits to Russia, including President Obama’s willingness to forget all about Russia taking a bite out of Georgia and his decision to place defensive missiles that were supposed to be put in Eastern Europe into the country of Lichtenstein instead.

As you can see, we’ve written “reset” in Hebrew in order to make you feel more comfortable. So please, let’s go ahead and press it so that we can begin the meeting.

Netanyahu: It says, “Shalom.”

Clinton: Well, frankly Mr. Prime Minister, that’s the only word I know in Hebrew, and no one on the Israel desk speaks the language. I thought Shalom meant like seven things in English – “peace,” “hello,” “goodbye,” you know – are you sure none of the meanings is “reset?”

Netanyahu: I’m sure.

Clinton: Well, in that case, let’s just press the damn button and get this over with. OK, put your hand next to mine, not too close . . .

Netanyahu: Look, I don’t mean to be a stickler for details here, but shouldn’t I be pushing this with President Obama? I mean, I’m the leader of my nation, and the president is my counterpart.

Obama: Listen, you want to press the reset button or not? I can get Abbas in here tomorrow and press a button in Arabic with him if you’d like. I can translate that one myself.

Netanyahu: Really?

Obama: Of course not! Just yanking your chain. You pressing?

Netanyahu: Okay, I’ll press.

Clinton: Okay, put your hand over here, that’s right and . . . PRESS! Great job! Doesn’t that feel good?

Netanyahu: It feels okay

Obama: Well, now let’s get down to serious business. Mr. Prime Minister, as part of our reinvigorated outreach to your country and our stepped up focus on the Mideast, I’ve appointed a new White House assistant for Israeli policy. Some will call her the “Israel Czar.” Mr. Prime Minister, please meet Ms. Helen Thomas.

Helen: Hi Bibi!

Netanyahu: What?

Helen: Well, Bibi, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m the new Israel Czar at the White House and I’d like to outline for you my pogrom – I mean my program – for Israel.

Netanyahu: “This is an outrage! Where’s Rahm? I like to deal with Rahm when I’m here!

Helen: Rahm is just a little tied up right now. Bwahahahahaha!

Netanyahu: What does that mean? What have you done with Rahm?

Obama: Don’t worry, Mr. Prime Minister, Rahm is just attending to other important matters.

Helen: Bwahahahahaha!

Obama: Helen, cut it out.

Helen: Sorry, Mr. President.

Obama: Now, Mr. Prime Minister. Helen is one of the most knowledgeable people in Washington about Israeli-Palestinian affairs. I’m sure you will find her easy to work with. Helen, please outline our strategy.

Helen: So, here’s what I’ve got it so far. First, we relocate the Jews of Israel to Tanzania. We do that by sending all the Tanzanians to Uganda and so forth.

Netanyahu: You’ve got to be kidding me

Obama: Do you have a problem with East Africa?

Netanyahu: No, it’s just that –

Helen: Also, when you leave Israel, please be sure to leave behind your nuclear weapons as you won’t need to defend yourself against the Arabs once you get to Tanzania. The Iranians have agreed to come in and dispose of them for you.

Obama: Yeah, you need to get up off of those nukes, Bibi. It’s not fair that you’ve got them and nobody else does. Iran is going to convert them to provide electricity for the Hurricane-ravaged people of Haiti. Ahmadinejad himself told me.

Netanyahu: Mr. President, this has been really great, but I need to be going . . .

Helen: To Tanzania! Bwahahahahaha!

Netanyahu: Thanks for the meeting. We’ll call you if we need anything else.

Obama Celebrates Jewish Voter Month

Wait, wait, wait, wait. My eyes are getting so bad. It says “Jewish American Heritage Month.”

Will this help give the prez license to F with Bibi without losing the Cleveland suburb Jews? Time shall tell.

From the White House on this afternoon’s gathering, which should be wrapping up about now:

Approximately 200 guests are expected, including a range of community leaders and prominent Jewish Americans from professional athletes to Members of Congress, business leaders, authors and military veterans, among others.

Members of Congress Expected to Attend: U.S. Senate: Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Al Franken (D-MN); Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Carl Levin (D-MI); Arlen Specter (D-PA); Justice Stephen Breyer; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Ambassador Michael Oren; Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Retired MLB star Sandy Koufax.

Also more than two dozen House members – Eric Cantor, not.