The court trial of the man who killed eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA began on May 30, 2023. The murderer, Robert Bowers, faces a total of 63 federal crimes which include:
11 counts of obstruction of free religious exercise resulting in death;
11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death;
Two counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury;
Two counts of hate crimes involving an attempt to kill;
Eight counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury to public safety officers;
Four counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving use of a dangerous weapon and resulting in bodily injury to public safety officers;
25 counts of discharging a firearm during those crimes
The case is not being built solely on the fact that Bowers killed eleven innocent people and threatened to kill others, but with the added emphasis on the “obstruction of free religious exercise” and of “hate crimes.”
The United States has a law which lays out the protection afforded to people and property associated with religious worship. 18 U.S. Code 247 is called “Damage to religious property; obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs,” and lays out the principle of religious protection. Section (a)(2) refers to circumstances in which a person “intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, including by threat of force against religious real property, any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so.”
This US law has commonalities in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Articles 2 and 18 of the UDHR entitle everyone “to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Despite embracing the basic human rights to the free exercise of religious belief, the United States continues to support the “status quo” demanded by the Jordanian Islamic Waqf to prohibit Jews from praying at Judaism’s holiest site on the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
While Israel enabled over one million Muslims onto the Jewish Temple Mount during Ramadan, not a single Jew is afforded this basic human right. To add insult to injury, rather than denounce the heinous antisemitic law, the United Nations and United States decry the Jewish protestors as “extremists” inverting the right and the wronged.
“We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land. This order is inconsistent with both former Prime Minister Sharon’s written commitment to the Bush Administration in 2004 and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the Biden Administration. Advancing Israeli settlements in the West Bank is an obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution.”
There were many things covered in this paragraph:
Israeli law about whether building in the “Homesh outpost” is legal;
The 2004 exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and U.S. President George W. Bush;
The current Israeli commitments to the Biden Administration; and
Whether Israeli Jews “living in the West Bank is an obstacle…to a two-state solution.”
First, it’s a bit rich for the United States to make comments about Israeli law. I cannot imagine that the U.S. would take kindly to any country opining on its rulings on imminent domain, seizing land to build a wall with Mexico, or any other real estate matter.
While Israeli courts have ruled against approving building on privately owned land, the courts have also legalized previously unauthorized settlements. Countries modify their rulings depending on societal needs of the moment. For example, the Israeli courts had approved Israeli taking ownership of the homes they own in the Sheikh Jarrah section of Jerusalem but then suspended the eviction of the Arab squatters because of violence. Real estate in Israel is a matter of law as well as of security and order.
The 2004 Exchange of Letters
In the middle of the 2000-2005 Arab pogroms which killed over 1,000 Israelis, Israeli PM Sharon decided that he was going to build a security barrier to stop terrorism emanating from the West Bank, and to pull all Israelis out of Gaza. In exchange for these actions, U.S. President Bush issued a letter in support of the actions with U.S. commitments.
The State Department just referenced the 2004 Sharon letter because while Sharon understood there was no chance for peace with Palestinians at that time, he “decided to initiate a process of gradual disengagement with the hope of reducing friction between Israelis and Palestinians.” Sharon’s “Disengagement Plan” called for pulling all Israelis out of Gaza “as well as other military installations and a small number of villages in Samaria,” which included the town of Homesh and three other nearby villages.
The Israeli Disengagement Plan was not a “commitment” as described in the latest State Department statement. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Sharon made clear that it “represents an independent Israeli plan” designed to create space between the parties while terrorism was ongoing.
In addition to incorrectly calling the dismantling of Homesh a commitment, the State Department ignored U.S. commitments that Bush made to Sharon in that exchange of letters.
The Bush letter repeatedly stated that the U.S. is committed to fight Palestinian terrorism and incitement and that it will work to “prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat.” That was in 2004 and Israel left Gaza the following year in 2005.
Then what happened?
The Palestinians held elections in 2006 under America’s watch, and the terrorist group Hamas won a majority of Parliament. In 2007, Hamas routed Fatah and took control of Gaza, and proceeded to launch wars against Israel in 2008, 2012, 2014 and more recently.
So much for America’s commitment to preventing the abandoned areas “from posing a threat.”
Further, in another part of his letter, Bush stated clearly that “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” In plain English, that meant that the United States acknowledged that Israel will annex sections of the West Bank.
Yet the Obama Administration broke that commitment to Israel when it allowed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass in 2016, making it illegal for Israelis to live east of “the armistice lines of 1949.”
In short, Israel made no commitments in the 2004 letter while the United States trampled on its commitments to Israel.
Current Commitment to Biden Administration
Israel met with the U.S. and Palestinian Authority in Egypt in March 2023 and issued a joint statement which covered a number of issues including “an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for 4 months, and to stop authorization of any outposts for 6 months.” As Homesh was an existing settlement until it was dismantled in 2005, it is debatable whether allowing its redevelopment runs counter to Israel’s statement.
It should be noted that the Palestinian Authority has completely ignored its stated March 2023 commitments, as it continues to incite violence.
Jews As Obstacle to Two State Solution
Roughly 25% of Israeli citizens are non-Jews, so the notion that a theoretical Arab state of Palestine cannot be viable with a small percentage of Jews is ridiculous. It can only be viewed as an “obstacle” to two states if the Palestinian Authority refuses to have any Jews living in the country.
And if Palestine can only be created as a Jew-free state, it should never be admitted to the United Nations or recognized by any country.
The State Department is “deeply troubled” by Israeli action in the village of Homesh because its accounting of history and facts are deeply flawed. More generally, if the U.S. assumes that a Palestinian State must be Jew-free, it should adamantly oppose its existence.
Should pressure mount on Israel to evacuate Homesh again, it should turn to those agitators and get their support for the Israeli Jews to take ownership of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
In a highly partisan world, there should be moments when people of opposing sides bond and find common purpose. “Fight Cancer” or “Don’t Drown Cats” are examples of easy themes for all to embrace, especially if there are no specific requirements that accompany the chant, such as spending billions of dollars to effectuate the cause.
New York City attempted to pass such banal resolution, declaring April 29 as “End Jew Hatred Day.” The text of the resolution summarized the terrifying statistics of Jews being singled out for attacks. There was no mention of Israel or the Palestinian conflict. Nothing highlighted that most of the anti-Semitic attacks in NYC were coming from Blacks and Muslims. There was no request for money or any action.
The resolution was toothless, a simple vote to support the Jewish community.
Shahana Hanif explained her vote against Jews saying that “They [Jews] have not stood up for Muslims, they have not stood up for trans New Yorkers or anybody.”
Charles Barron said that there is “inconsistency of members of the Jewish community, particularly its leadership, in speaking out against hatred, like hatred of the Palestinian people, like the State of Israel murdering Palestinian women and children and stealing the land.”
Hanif and Barron – politicians elected to protect their constituents – essentially said that Jews do not deserve protection and have collectively earned the hatred and wrath of society.
Sponsors of the resolution to combat Jew Hatred in New York City
While all six of the councilmembers who rejected the resolution denouncing anti-Semitism were members of the Progressive Caucus, only one of the resolution’s fourteen sponsors (Kristin Richardson Jordan) was a progressive.
Progressive minority groups are not only excluding Jews – the most persecuted group in the country – from DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), they are turning a blind eye and enabling antisemitism to fester.
United States President Joe Biden’s approach to religious freedom was laid out clearly in back-to-back pronouncements this week.
On April 16, 2023, US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain and US Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr “reiterate[d] the U.S. commitment to the historical status quo in Jerusalem” which bans Jews from the basic human right of praying at their holiest site on The Jewish Temple Mount. The desire among Jews to pray at the site is almost exclusively held by the Orthodox.
The next day, Hussain tweeted “I reiterated US support for implementation of the 2016 Western Wall agreement to expand the egalitarian space at the Wall,” a move that would BREAK from the historical status quo which has limited prayer at the Kotel plaza to only be in the Orthodox style of separate sections for men and women.
There is no consistency in Biden’s approach for the status quo in Jerusalem, in one case embracing it and in another breaking from historic custom. The only commonality is his ignoring the sensitivities and wishes of Orthodox Jews and promoting those of Muslims and non-Orthodox Jews. Biden is seemingly limiting his concerns about religious freedom to those who stuff Democratic ballot boxes, as poll numbers show that 75% of Orthodox Jews vote Republican, while 80% of Reform Jews vote for Democrats.
Domestically, the Biden Administration took aim at rescinding protections for religious groups on American college campuses in February. The proposed rule read: “The U.S. Department of Education proposes to rescind regulations related to religious student organizations at certain public institutions of higher education that prescribe a novel role for the Department in enforcing grant conditions related to religious student organizations.”
Sam Brownback, a former U.S. senator and governor of Kansas and current co-chair of the bipartisan International Religious Freedom Summit, warned that the Biden administration’s proposal ignores the First Amendment rights of religious clubs, saying that the administration is not supportive of religious freedom. In response to the Biden proposal, many attorneys general sent letters to the president stating their opposition to rescinding protections for religious groups.
Biden’s domestic and international policies related to religion are dictated by his loyal base of historically Black Protestants, non-Orthodox Jews, Buddhists and Muslims who overwhelming vote for Democrats, according to Pew Research. In contrast, Mormons, Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews who vote Republican are feeling Biden’s animosity after he emerged unscathed in mid-term elections. Those groups may have much to fear if he wins a second term.
The full statement issued by this deputy spokesperson was as follows:
“The United States strongly condemns today’s terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Tel Aviv. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones, and wish a full recovery to the injured. The three horrific attacks today, in which three were killed and at least eight others wounded, affected citizens of Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The targeting of innocent civilians of any nationality is unconscionable. The United States stands with the government and people of Israel. We are in close contact with our Israeli partners and reaffirm our enduring commitment to their security.”
Compare the terse statement about the killing of Israeli civilians to the one that the United Nations Security Council issued about the terrorism in Afghanistan on March 28. That statement “condemned in the strongest terms the continued heinous terrorist attacks targeting civilians.” It importantly made clear that: “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice. They urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with all relevant authorities in this regard.The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed. They reaffirmed the need for all States to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.“
Neither the United States nor the United Nations make the same obvious comments for Israel, that it – together with “all States” – “need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors” of terrorism accountable and brought to justice. Even when Israel effectively brings perpetrators to justice, the UN and US pressure Israel to let the backers “of these reprehensible acts of terrorism” off the hook.
The latest civilians murdered by Arabs in Israel include Italian and British nationals. Will Italy and the United Kingdom continue to allow the Palestinian Authority to pay the families of the terrorists in its popular “pay-to-slay” scheme?
It is a vile double standard which cheapens the lives of civilians in Israel, and simultaneously blesses and encourages Palestinian Arab terrorism.
Email Rep. Jamaal Bowman Mount Vernon Office (914) 371-9220, White Plains office (914) 323-5550, D.C. office (202) 225-2464
I understand that you are co-authoring a letter to President Biden “to investigate whether Israel is using U.S. weapons to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians.” In the current draft of the letter made available by Jewish Currents, you made reference to recent attacks in the West Bank as well as a claim that the “Israeli government’s anti-democratic mission to dismantle the rule of law… is attempting to destroy the independent Israeli judiciary.” You also claimed that there is an Israeli “military siege of Gaza.”
Allow me to give you information that you may have missed or decided to ignore.
The Palestinians poll themselves every quarter, something they have been doing since 2000. The latest poll came out on March 14, 20231 and details frightening sentiments of Palestinian Arabs about their Jewish neighbors:
68% support the formation of armed groups, such as the Lions’ Den, and 87% believe the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not have the right to arrest members of these groups
71% support the Palestinian point blank shooting of two Israeli brothers who drove into the town of of Huwara
61% of Palestinians support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside of Israel
57% support the return to an “armed intifada”
Support for a two state solution stands at just 27%
If presidential elections were held, 52% would vote for the leader of the political-terrorist group Hamas
Those are the latest figures of the Palestinians polling themselves. It is because of that rejection of coexistence and preference for violent attacks that Israel launched a daytime raid into Nablus on February 22, to stop an upcoming terrorist attack. The Israeli defensive action killed nine terrorists and saved an untold number of lives – which your letter disgracefully omitted. Are you in favor of allowing terrorists to target and kill innocent Jewish civilians in Israel?
As for terrorist enclave of Gaza,3 the situation is more horrific. The territory is controlled by a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, Hamas.4 The March 2023 poll figures show that 36% and 31% “strongly support” and “support” armed attacks against Jews in Israel, respectively. A frightening 71% of Gazans support armed groups like the Lions’ Den and Jenin Battalion which do not take orders from the PA (question 40). Your inversion of this terrorist enclave to being the victims of an “Israeli military siege” is outrageous.
As to the assertion that Israel is “pushing repressive, anti-democratic policies,” let me remind you that Israel held five in elections in the past four years. This in a region that doesn’t hold any, including the PA, where the president’s four-year term ran out in 2009, fourteen years ago. Further, after each Israeli election, there was a peaceful transition of power, more than can be said for these United States.
Currently hundreds of thousands of citizens are peacefully protesting in the streets of Israel for months, in sharp contrast to the bloodshed and civil wars in neighboring countries.5 And both side of the Israeli protests are in favor of putting checks-and-balances for the government and judiciary.
Your refusing to acknowledge the radical jihadi violence currently prevalent in Palestinian society – as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran march towards nuclear weapons – while simultaneously calling for the U.S. to consider pulling back military support for the only Jewish State, is alarming.
Rep. Bowman, anti-Semitism is brewing in your district, in your state and your country. At the same time, more Israeli Jews have already been killed by Palestinian terrorism since President Biden took office than in the full four years of the prior American administration.
Amidst such backdrop, you’ve decided that America should open an investigation of the Jewish State and show its enemies that the sole liberal democracy8 in the Middle East is losing its main supporter.
Not satisfied with penning such letter with Senator Bernie Sanders, you are seemingly agitating to get other members of congress to join your assault.
Congressman, you defeated Rep. Eliot Engel, one of the authors of the Taylor Force Act which restricted funds to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continued its “martyr payments.” Are you now using your power to strip Israel of funding for its defensive operations? Did congress not only lose a defender of human rights in the Middle East, but did it gain a member which tramples on them?
There are indeed “gross violations of human rights” happening now. And you are aiding and abetting the perpetrators.
In May 2021, President Joe Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to be his ‘border czar’ to handle the illegal immigration at the southern border. Biden put his full faith in Harris saying “When she speaks, she speaks for me.”
Based on her bumbling responses in an interview with Lester Holt, Biden must have been mortified. When Holt asked whether she would visit the southern border, Harris said “We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border — we’ve been to the border.” To which Holt correctly called out her lie with “you haven’t been to the border,” Harris offered “and I haven’t been to Europe,” with a chortle, in a pathetic response.
Despite Biden’s claim that his administration is doing a lot at the order, the numbers speak for themselves.
From December 2019 to December 2022, the number of land encounters with immigrants climbed OVER FIVE TIMES. Just in El Paso, from December 2021 to December 2022 the number of migrant encounters jumped 186%, as if the U.S. government has given up on the issue.
To give the 251,487 December 2022 figure some context, the United States welcomed 47,200 new legal citizens in December 2021 – the country now has over four times as many illegal citizens coming to the country as those it naturalizes. Overall, during the 2010s, the U.S. granted citizenship to 7.4 million people, averaging 740,000 per year. With Biden/Harris at the helm, there will likely be close to 3 million land border encounters just at the southern border in 2023.
The media tries to dress up Kamala Harris as being “frustrated” when she is simply grossly incompetent, to the detriment of both Americans and the millions of people from Latin America who are the victims of her ineptitude.
Everyone understands that politics is a messy business. One has to pretend that the actors in the dance are more powerful, honest and deserving of respect, especially when being hosted. But that doesn’t make the theater attractive, nor does it bring about peace.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the President-for-Life Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Area A, on January 31, 2023, just days after a series of attacks left many Israeli civilians and Palestinian terrorists dead. After a single sentence of welcome, Abbas launched a venomous rant against Israel with accusations of “changing the identity of Jerusalem and violating historical status quo, and the violation of sanctity of Al Aqsa Mosque.” He added that “our people will not accept the continuation of the occupation forever, and the regional security will not be strengthened by violating the sanctity of the holy sites.”
Blinken then responded.
After acknowledging the host and expressing condolences for Palestinian CIVILIANS who have been killed, he offered: “Palestinians and Israelis alike are experiencing growing insecurity, growing fear in their homes, in their communities, in their places of worship.”
Seven Jews had just been slaughtered outside of their synagogue the week before by a Palestinian gunman. The following day, a Palestinian youth shot a Jewish father and son walking to services on the Sabbath.
Jews fear for their physical well-being and safety as they pray amidst Arabs who want to ban them from their holiest city, and are killing Jews to drive them out of Jerusalem.
Among Palestinians, the “fear” is having Jews live in Jerusalem, visit their holiest site on the Temple Mount and pray there openly.
How are these two things remotely equivalent? How did the United States make such an outrageous smear, and endorse the Palestinian Arab narrative that Jews should be banned from praying at their holiest site with opposing “disruptions to the historic status quo of the holy sites”?
Blinken said that the United States will “work toward the goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of democracy, of opportunity, of dignity in their lives.” But there is no dignity for Jews without achieving the basic human right to pray at their holiest location. There is no equal measure of democracy when Palestinians demand a country free of any Jews.
Jews are scared for their lives when they go to pray, while Arabs are outraged by the physical presence of Jews. That’s not an equivalence of a “growing fear in their places of worship,” but the basic feature of jihadi anti-Semitic dementia. The U.S. State Department excusing and endorsing such Palestinian racist worldview will not resolve the tension in the region.
Peace in the Middle East has long been a goal and struggle, as the Arab-Israeli conflict is well into its second century. While the situation has had many highs and lows, a small hurdle towards peace was cleared this week.
As a Congresswoman, Omar made many anti-Semitic remarks, much like her comrade in arms, Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Their vitriol does not make them unfit to serve on committees; it makes them unworthy of being in Congress. It says pretty horrible things about the majority of their constituents to vote them into office. Repeatedly.
But Congress can protect itself, to a degree, from the stupidity and malice of voters, by shuttling the worst voices into minor committees. Pelosi did the opposite, and it took a change to a Republican-led House to make a course correction.
The reason Omar was an obstacle to peace was not just her anti-Israel views but her basic lack of understanding about foreign affairs, and her mainstreaming toxic ideas.
In September 2021, Congress voted to supply $1 billion of supplemental military aid to Israel to restock its defensive Iron Dome missile intercept system. The Israeli-design shield prevented thousands of Israeli deaths and billions of dollars in damage during the barrage of missiles fired by Gazan terrorists into Israeli towns. It also saved the lives of thousands of Arabs, as Israel was not compelled to retaliate in an extreme manner due to the loss of Israeli lives. Instead, the violence ended rather quickly.
Everyone in Congress understood this basic arithmetic of peace, except for nine people who voted against the resolution: Cori Bush (D-MO), Andre Carson (D-IN), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Marie Newman (D-IL), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) voted present.
None of these people should be anywhere near policy related to foreign affairs. Two of them sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee: Omar and Massie.
Here are the committees of the other members of Congress who have no concept of foreign affairs.
Judiciary; Education and the Workforce
Energy and Commerce
Education and the Workforce
Foreign Affairs; Judiciary; Rules
Transportation and Infrastructure
Education and the Workforce
Oversight and Accountability
House Resolution 76 called out the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments by Rep. Omar, and the vote to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee was fortunately passed. However, the resolution failed to mention her extremist vote against funding the Iron Dome system which saved thousands of Jewish and Arab lives. In doing so, the House missed the opportunity to remove another unfit member of the committee, Rep. Massie.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is flying to the Middle East on a scheduled trip, that is coming days after a series of deadly attacks in the holy land. His responses thus far have been clear, unambiguous and morally correct.
After a Palestinian Arab gunned down seven Jews walking out of synagogue on Sabbath, Blinken issued a statement strongly condemning the attack:
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack that occurred today outside of a synagogue in Jerusalem. We mourn those killed in the attack, and our thoughts are with the injured, including children. The notion of people being targeted as they leave a house of worship is abhorrent. It is particularly tragic that this attack occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“On behalf of the United States, I express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish those injured a full recovery. We are in close contact with our Israeli partners and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.“
Earlier in the day, Ned Price, spokesman for Blinken offered the following in response to the Israeli raid into Jenin to root out Palestinian terrorists planning attacks, which left nine Palestinians dead:
“Today in Jenin, at least nine Palestinians, including militants and at least one civilian, were killed and over twenty injured during an Israeli Defense Forces counterterrorism operation against a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell. We recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and condemn terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against civilians. We mourn the loss of innocent lives as well as injuries to civilians, and are deeply concerned by the cycle of violence in the West Bank. We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank. Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely.“
This is in sharp contrast to the liberal media which attempted to portray Israel as gratuitously killing Palestinians, while Jews just happen to die in land that Arabists believe should be Jew-free. It’s a welcome show of moral clarity which should be welcomed and appreciated.