Rumor Contagion on Coronavirus in Congress

Yes, it’s me.

Like many news articles, there are facts, assumed facts, projections and innuendo to sell papers and serve as click-bait. Because coronavirus has captured people’s imaginations, it has become a wonderful vehicle to instill fear and capture headlines.

A friend of mine – who has mostly been kept anonymous by media outlets to protect the family’s privacy – has tested positive for coronavirus. The news media is correct that he lives in New Rochelle, is a lawyer and is in the hospital. His wife and son have also tested positive but are home and feel relatively fine as does the neighbor (lives on the same street, a number of homes away) who drove them to the hospital. Only the 50-year old lawyer is in the hospital as he had some prior medical issues which made him much more vulnerable to the strain.

It is also true that he attended the Modern Orthodox synagogue, the Young Israel of New Rochelle, on Shabbat February 22 and a funeral and bat mitzvah on Sunday February 23rd. It was there that he came into contact with many people who would later attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C. the following week. Some of those people at the conference went on to lobby members of Congress, so AIPAC sent a warning memo to members of Congress.

This was done as an act of major precaution, and there is virtually no reason to fear.

The synagogue in New Rochelle is a large one. Many of the people who are now self-quarantined – myself included – were just in the same building or same room as the infected man. The term “contact” is sometimes used very broadly as it has been now to be the most cautious, but 99% of the people who attended services on February 22 and 23 were not within ten feet of the man and feel perfectly fine.

I attended the funeral at YINR on the 23rd, for a parent of a friend from elementary school and high school. I did not see the infected man at that time but was merely in the same 50 foot-by-50 foot room with him for an hour, as were my parents.

On Saturday February 29th, I decided last minute to go down to AIPAC when I learned of three guys from my shul in a different community in Westchester county driving down to D.C. with an empty seat. During the car ride I reached out broadly to see how I could register for the conference and find a place to stay. Coincidentally, the victim’s wife responded to me that she had cancelled her trip to AIPAC as her spouse was feeling sick; she suggested I try to book their Marriott hotel room. I was unable to get into that hotel which was adjacent to the convention center but found one a few blocks away.

No news about coronavirus in Westchester had broken at that time. I hugged, shook hands and conversed with several hundred people at AIPAC on Sunday and Monday, some of whom went to lobby in Congress. I did not lobby, and returned home Monday afternoon in the car with the same three men with whom I drove down. We got back to Westchester at 8:30pm.

Vice President Mike Pence (head of coronavirus task force) addressing AIPAC March 2, 2020 (photo: First One Through)

Initial news of the virus in the community broke the following morning just before 7:00am as my son was getting ready to head on the bus to school. Additional information would flow throughout the day about who had gotten sick and the need to self-quarantine.

I have remained at home, as have my sons who attend two of the schools which were closed because of the virus. None of us has shown any signs of illness, but we are following the guidelines of the health commissioner as a matter of best practices.

Of course, I am not the only one who attended Young Israel of New Rochelle over the weekend of February 22/23 who then went on to AIPAC but I’m sure my story is fairly common: the “contact” we had with the sick man was neither close nor direct. That is true for my interactions with most of the 18,000 people at AIPAC and, in turn, the people at AIPAC with members of Congress.

But stoking fear and the urge for ad revenue seems too great for most. Don’t fall for it.

Please pray for the people who are indeed sick, including Eliezer Yitzchok ben Shifra.


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At AIPAC, Joe Biden Waves His Finger While Bernie Sanders Flips the Bird

The annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) gathering kicked off in Washington, D.C. on March 1, 2020 during the highly unusual backdrop of both an election in Israel (March 2nd) and the thick of the presidential campaign in the United States (March 3rd). It was an highly opportune time for politicians and candidates to feed red meat to the pro-Israel crowd.

The politicians with some sanity understood that.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) addressed the audience in an unambiguous style that Israel is a strongly bi-partisan matter for Republicans and Democrats alike. He said that a strong Israel is vital for American interests and that he would always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the strong American ally and oppose any notion of boycotting the Jewish State. Unfortunately, his time slot was right before dinner so much of the crowd was already out the door and didn’t hear it.

In the morning, Senator Amy Klobuchar who is running for president spoke to the crowd via a pre-recorded message. With the U.S. Capital placed on the green screen behind her, she spoke of her long, strong support for Israel and her desire to see peace emerge in the Middle East.

Foreign leaders took the stage to address the 18,000 people, including from Serbia and Congo, who spoke of their strong affinity for the Jewish people. The president of Serbia recalled how his country was quick to back the Balfour Declaration and has always been proud of its relationship of the Jewish community and stated his desire to deepen the connections to the Jewish State. The leader of the Congo quoted scriptures and spoke of his country’s expanding ties with Jerusalem.

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, addressing AIPAC in Washington, D.C., March 1, 2020 (photo: First On Through)

President of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, saying he will appoint an ambassador to Israel during the AIPAC conference on March 1, 2020 (photo: First One Through)

And then there was former Vice President Joe Biden. He spoke to the audience via a pre-recorded message that looked like he stepped out of a tour bus into an alleyway to quickly say something to a crowd of people he really preferred not to address. While he said he was pro-Israel, he was not convincing, as he sternly warned the crowd that actions by the Israeli government to approve Jewish housing east of the Green Line risked making Israel a wedge issue in American politics. His meaning was clear: only Republicans would give Israelis unconditional support and the green light to live in Judea and Samaria; a Biden administration would come down hard on Israel.

Vice President Joe Biden addressing AIPAC in a pre-recorded message

The Biden video went off with a thud. Whereas the president of Serbia received a standing ovation, the audience was puzzled why Biden would opt to give a speech that was seemingly crafted by staffers from Code Pink and the New Israel Fund.

The thinning Democratic herd just lost Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer, and the leaders of AIPAC were faced with the realization that despite their repeated assertions that the group works closely with both Democrats and Republicans, the two front runners of the remaining Democrats were either hostile or ambivalent about Israel and the US-Israel relationship: Bernie Sanders called AIPAC a racist “platform for bigotry,” and Joe Biden said that real friends told friends when they were drunk and took away their car keys.

The new president of AIPAC, Betsy Berns Korn sounded the alarm bell. The emergence of politicians against the U.S.-Israel relationship is not limited to a few fringe freshmen members of Congress. It is working its way through the entire political power structure.

In November 2015, Vice President Biden addressed a progressive Jewish crowd and stabbed a finger at Israel, admonishing the entire Jewish State for something a private Israeli citizen had once said about Obama. In March 2020, Biden continued to admonish the Jewish State with a wave of his finger that the American-Israeli bond was very, very conditional, while Senator Bernie Sanders flipped AIPAC the bird. Will the pro-Israel community raise their hands in surrender or take a fighting stance?


Related First One Through articles:

While Joe Biden Passionately Defends Israel, He Ignores Jewish Rights and the History of the Jewish State

The Invisible Anti-Semitism in Obama’s 2016 State of the Union

Mike Bloomberg, Where #NeverTrump Meets #NeverBernie

The New York Times’ Select Defense of a Civilian

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Correcting Menendez: Israel MUST Fight the Palestinians

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) took the floor at the closing of AIPAC’s 2019 conference on March 26, 2019. While he spoke forcefully for the US-Israel alliance and the need to fight antisemitism in all of its manifestations from the right and the left, he softened his tone when it came to Palestinian Arabs. At 4:20 of his remarks, he said the following about Israel responding to rocket attacks from Gaza:

“Israel has every right to defend herself, to hold her perpetrators accountable, and to defend the safety and security of her people.”

Israel does not defend itself as a right, but an OBLIGATION. A government is meaningless if its primary purpose is not to actively and forcefully defend its citizens and borders from attacks. Menendez calling the response of Israel a “right” softens the role of the Israeli government. The government has a “right” to engage in trade policy with another country. It has a “right” to decide who to let into the country. But defense is not a “right” which may or may not be acted upon; defense is an obligation – and the primary one – for every government in the world.

Menendez similarly made another comment softening the lines in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. At 5:20, Menendez said the following:

“Hamas has hoodwinked the people of Gaza who remain oppressed by terrible economic hardship and increasing political crackdowns.”

Why did Menendez strip the Gazans of responsibility for their situation and paint them as suffering victims? Hamas isn’t simply a terrorist group like ISIS – it’s an official political party of the Palestinians, no different than the Republican and Democratic parties. The Palestinian Arabs elected Hamas to 58% of the parliament, a whopping majority, even though the Hamas Charter is the most vile antisemitic charter on the planet, calling for the death of Jews and destruction of Israel. Further, if presidential elections were held, Hamas would have beaten Fatah in every single poll, except for the most recent one in March 2019, and the only reasons for Hamas’s drop in the polls was Palestinians loving Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to soften his stance on paying the families of terrorists who murder Israelis, and Arab anger over Hamas’s crackdown on protests. But make no mistake: between one-third and one-half of all Palestinians still want an “armed struggle” against Israel.

Israel is not in an optional battle against a rogue terrorist entity; it is in an ongoing war against a people at its borders who want to destroy it. If a proud defender of Israel like Bob Menendez cannot articulate that clearly, how can we expect more from the ill-informed members of Congress?


Related First.One.Through articles:

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

It’s the Democracy, Stupid

Cause and Effect: Making Gaza

Extreme and Mainstream. Germany 1933; West Bank & Gaza Today

The Highbrow Anti-Semite

The Palestinians aren’t “Resorting to Violence”; They are Murdering and Waging War

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Anti-Israel Lobbyists Dwarf Pro-Israel Lobbyists

As AIPAC kicks off its 2019 conference in Washington, D.C., it is worth reviewing some basic statistics about this pro-Israel lobbying group.

Biden_at_AIPAC, once upon a time

According to Open Secrets, AIPAC spent $3.5 million on lobbying in 2018, slightly more than the $3.4 million it spent in 2017. This is a relatively small number compared to the anti-Israel Open Society Foundation (OSF) which spent $31.5 million in 2018 – NINE TIMES what AIPAC spent. That figure is also almost four times the $16 million that OSF spent on US lobbying in 2017. This huge jump in lobbying dollars may coincide with George Soros’s transfer of $18 BILLION into OSF, making it the second largest “charity”/ largest lobbying group in the United States. (By calling itself a charity instead of a lobbying group, Soros was able to avoid paying any capital gains on the billions of investment dollars in his hedge fund.)

In addition to its work lobbying the US government, the OSF directly funds many anti-Israel organizations according to NGO Monitor, including Adalah, Breaking the Silence, Ir Amim and Al-Haq.

That’s just one giant far left-wing lobbying group countering most of AIPAC’s agenda.

The left-wing J Street has likewise repeatedly fought the current Israeli administration and lobbied aggressively against it, and spent more money lobbying Congress in 2018 than AIPAC, a total of $4 million. Not one dollar of J Street went to Republican candidates, which is not surprising as it is really an alternative to the Republic Jewish Coalition, not a broad-based bipartisan group like AIPAC.

When it comes to foreign countries lobbying the US government, the number one country was South Korea, spending $82.5 million in 2018. I do not recall hearing any of the Democratic candidates for president who ran to the defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks about AIPAC talking about South Korea.

Perhaps that is because foreign governments and their companies are mostly lobbying about trade deals which are critical for their economies. The top governments lobbying the US are:

South Korea
Bermuda
Japan
Ireland
Israel
Marshall Islands
Bahamas
Saudi Arabia
Qatar
China

That’s Israel at number five- behind Bermuda and Ireland.

But the liberal media will print articles about the pro-Israel lobby as if it’s a right-wing money machine – even though AIPAC doesn’t give money to candidates while J Street and the OSF do. It will try to defend Ilhan Omar’s AIPAC lobbying comments, while refusing to actually point out that it’s the left-wing groups like OSF and J Street that are really powerful and spending the money to trash Israel.

Perhaps the New York Times is getting money from J Street and George Soros too?


The bipartisan group AIPAC spends less on lobbying than the far left-wing J Street, and a small fraction of what George Soros’s Open Society spends on US lobbyists. The Democratic machine has taken notice what the money spigot is demanding and is taking their anti-Israel talking points to line their pockets. Not that the media will tell you what’s actually going on. #AlternativeFacts


Related First.One.Through articles:

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

Ilhan Omar Isn’t Debating Israeli Policy, She is Attacking Americans

J Street’s Select Appreciation of Transparency

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

The Anger from the Zionist Center

The Democratic Party is Tacking to the Far Left-Wing Anti-Semitic Fringe

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

A Basic Lesson of How to be Supportive

The Impossible Liberal Standard

Liberals’ Biggest Enemies of 2015

The Illogic of Land Swaps

The Real “Symbol of the Conflict” is Neta Sorek

When Power Talks the Truth

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J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

J Street touts itself as an alternative to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It is not. It is the liberal alternative to the Republican Jewish Coalition, the RJC.

The difference is important.

By not using a clear delineator that the group is a left-wing partisan organization by using a name like Progressive Jewish Coalition, J Street misleads the public that it is a mainstream group. It uses a benign tagline “The Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans,” as opposed to the more clear tagline as used by the RJC, “Fostering & enhancing ties between the American Jewish Community & Republican Lawmakers.” By doing so, J Street has attempted to displace the actual bipartisan mainstream group AIPAC. It is completely misleading.

As evidence of its partisanship, consider that the people JStreetPAC supported in the 2016 election were all Democrats.

There is no crime in being a partisan group.  Indeed, the RJC points out that it views J Street as the competition as it supports Republican candidates for office. The RJC does not pretend to be anything but biased.

20161218_155153
Marketing materials produced by the Republican Jewish Coalition
comparing its performance in the 2016 elections to J Street

However, when the media quotes J Street, it appears that it is quoting a balanced pro-Israel group, rather than a part of the Democratic machine.  Articles by the Times quote AIPAC and J Street, as if the two are balanced with one being hawkish and the latter dovish. That absurdity gives a false message to readers. The media should either only quote AIPAC, or use quotes from both J Street and the RJC.

As the Republicans take control of the White House and both the Senate and House of Representatives, one can envision that J Street will be attacking appointments, bills and positions over the next few years. The media and readers must keep in mind that the views of J Street are simply those of the opposition, and do not represent the Jewish community’s independent views on Israel.


Related First.One.Through articles:

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

J Street’s Select Appreciation of Transparency

Liberal Hypocrisy on Foreign Government Intervention

Is Hillary Clinton as Pro-Israel as George W Bush?

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