Monday, January 30, 2017

900 NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.

NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.

Newsletter published on 19 December 2016

(1) NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.
(2) Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons - Israel Shamir
(3) Jewish Power is now British Law – It’s Official! by Gilad Atzmon
(4) Report: Mossad head briefs Trump staff during secret meeting
(5) Do Illegal Votes Decide Elections?
(6) A tale of two Hanukkah parties: Obama’s last and Trump
(International’s) first
(7) Israel wants ‘butcher’ Assad ousted, defense minister says
(8) Jewish Storm Builds Over David Friedman’s Appointment as Israel

(1) NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.

Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.

Books of The Times

By JAMES RISEN DEC. 18, 2016

Most C.I.A. memoirs are terrible — defensive, jingoistic and worst of
all, tedious. Others are doomed by the C.I.A.’s heavy-handed and
mandatory censorship.

There are exceptions, and that list includes the refreshingly candid
"Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein" by John

Mr. Nixon, the first C.I.A. officer to interrogate Hussein after his
capture in December 2003, reveals gobsmacking facts about that deposed
Iraqi leader that raise new questions about why the United States
bothered to invade Iraq to oust him from power. These details will
likely appall Americans who have watched their nation’s blood and
treasure wasted in Iraq ever since.

More broadly, Mr. Nixon offers a stinging indictment of the C.I.A. and
what he sees as the agency’s dysfunctional process for providing
intelligence to the president and other policy makers. The agency, he
writes, is so eager to please the president — any president — that it
will almost always give him the answers he wants to hear.

Mr. Nixon’s book comes at an extraordinary moment, when President-elect
Donald J. Trump is already at war with the C.I.A. He has attacked the
C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential
election to help his candidacy, and he has cited the agency’s failures
on prewar intelligence on Iraq as an example of how the C.I.A. is often

"Debriefing the President" will add fuel to the fire of the Trump-led
criticism. It will also send a chilling warning to anyone counting on
the C.I.A. to stand up to Mr. Trump once he is in office.

Mr. Nixon had been preparing for his interrogation of Hussein for years
before he ever met him. Mr. Nixon, 55, did graduate work at New York
University and Georgetown University, where he wrote about Hussein in
his master’s thesis. He joined the C.I.A. in 1998, and was immediately
assigned to be a "leadership analyst" on Iraq, which meant that his job
was the full-time study of Hussein.

Mr. Nixon was an analyst in Iraq when the United States military
captured Hussein, and he was asked to identify him so the Americans
could be certain they had the right man. Mr. Nixon confirmed Hussein’s
identity by checking for a tribal tattoo on the back of his right hand
and a scar from a 1959 bullet wound.

Once he began debriefing Hussein, though, Mr. Nixon realized that much
of what he thought he knew about him was wrong.

His most astonishing discovery was that by the time of the United
States-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Hussein had turned over the
day-to-day running of the Iraqi government to his aides and was spending
most of his time writing a novel. Hussein described himself to Mr. Nixon
as both president of Iraq and a writer, and complained to Mr. Nixon that
the United States military had taken away his writing materials,
preventing him from finishing his book. Hussein was certainly a brutal
dictator, but the man described by Mr. Nixon was not on a mission to
blow up the world, as George W. Bush’s administration had claimed to
justify the invasion.

"Was Saddam worth removing from power?" Mr. Nixon asks. "I can speak
only for myself when I say that the answer must be no. Saddam was busy
writing novels in 2003. He was no longer running the government."
Strikingly, Mr. Nixon says that the C.I.A. had some evidence that this
was the case before the invasion, but that "it was never relayed to
policy makers and emerged only after the war." By 2003, Mr. Nixon
writes, Hussein’s disengagement meant that he "appeared to be as
clueless about what was happening inside Iraq as his British and
American enemies were."

With Hussein increasingly detached, Mr. Nixon says that by 2003 Iraqi
foreign policy decision-making had fallen to his lieutenants, led by the
"unimaginative and combative" Iraqi vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan,
who "repeatedly missed opportunities to break Iraq’s international

Regarding Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, the justification
for the 2003 invasion, Hussein admits to Mr. Nixon that it was a mistake
for him not to make clear before the war that he had long since gotten
rid of them. "Saddam turned philosophical when asked how America got it
so wrong about weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Nixon writes. He quotes
him as saying that "the spirit of listening and understanding was not
there … I don’t exclude myself from this blame."

Hussein never understood the United States, and Mr. Nixon describes him
as repeatedly mystified by American intentions in the Middle East. After
the Sept. 11 attacks, Hussein fatally misread how America would react.
He thought the attacks would bring the United States and Iraq closer
together to jointly combat Islamic extremists.

"In Saddam’s mind, the two countries were natural allies in the fight
against extremism," Mr. Nixon writes, "and, as he said many times during
his interrogation, he couldn’t understand why the United States did not
see eye to eye with him."

The findings from Mr. Nixon’s interrogations of Hussein that cast doubt
on the Bush administration’s original justifications for the war, Mr.
Nixon says, were ignored by senior officials at the C.I.A. and the White
House. "The policy makers at the White House and the leadership on the
seventh floor at the C.I.A. didn’t want to hear that many of the reasons
for going after Saddam were based on false premises," he writes.

Mr. Nixon’s most scathing criticism is reserved for the C.I.A, which he
describes as a haven for yes-men excessively eager to please the White
House. When he joined the C.I.A., Mr. Nixon says, he was told that
analysts should "dare to be wrong" — in other words, be willing to take
chances when the evidence called for counterintuitive reasoning. But he
says experience taught him that the C.I.A. didn’t really reward
out-of-the-box thinking. "As I found out in the Clinton, Bush and Obama
years, the agency’s real operating principle was ‘dare to be right.’"

Mr. Nixon, who left the C.I.A. in 2011 when, he says, the work no longer
excited him, depicts a sclerotic agency not much different from the
Agriculture Department or any other large bureaucracy, complaining that
the agency "was governed by lines of authority that were often clogged
by people who got ahead by playing it safe and who regarded fresh
thinking as a danger to their careers." Since he had to submit the book
to the C.I.A.’s censors, he doesn’t identify the stultifying bureaucrats
and timeservers, although he does reserve special wrath for one boss he
names only as "Phil," who, he says, "as a schmoozer, had few equals."

Mr. Nixon thoughtfully argues that the C.I.A.’s overeagerness to please
the White House has led to a serious degradation in the quality of its
intelligence. Virtually the entire analytical arm of the C.I.A. is
focused on quickly pumping out short memos on the issues of the day that
are immediately read at the White House. But the agency has largely
abandoned its tradition of freeing up analysts to engage in deeper,
long-term research. As a result, Mr. Nixon writes, few analysts at the
agency now know very much about anything. "Expertise is not valued,
indeed not trusted."

The C.I.A.’s brief memos have become like "crack cocaine for consumers
of classified information," Mr. Nixon says. It’s as if the C.I.A.’s
analytical branch has been transformed from a college faculty into a
cable news network.

The trend toward quick-hitting but shallow intelligence reports — which
other former C.I.A. analysts have also criticized in recent years,
particularly since 9/11 — makes the agency much more susceptible to
manipulation and politicization, and to repeating the kinds of mistakes
it made when it inaccurately concluded that Hussein had weapons of mass

When it came to Iraq, Mr. Nixon writes, the "agency slavishly sought to
do the president’s bidding — as it usually does — in an effort to get a
seat near the center of power and justify its budget. That was the
institutional imperative."

Mr. Trump may soon test whether the C.I.A. has learned any lessons.

Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein
By John Nixon
242 pages. Blue Rider Press. $25.

A version of this review appears in print on December 19, 2016, on Page
C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Hussein, the C.I.A. and Me.

(2) Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons - Israel Shamir

Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2016 23:34:50 +0300
Subject: [shamireaders] Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons

Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons


DECEMBER 18, 2016

I learned of Trump’s choice for his ambassador in Tel Aviv ten days
before it was announced (and published that
<>in Russian), so I had enough
time to discuss the nominee with Palestinians and Israelis, as well as
with Russian diplomats. The nomination of David Friedman horrified
liberal Israelis, cheered Palestinian activists, befogged the Israeli
and Palestinian officials, and created a great rift among US Jews. With
one brilliant stroke Donald Trump made more mischief than one would
think possible. If you have no time for details, I’ll tell you: it is a
good, even very good development for Palestine and Palestinians, and it
is likely to save Trump’s skin back home.

For many years, liberal Israelis perpetrated a hoax (yes, I’ve said,
hoax) of "struggling against occupation" and wishing to divide
historical Palestine into two states, a Jewish state and a Palestinian
state. Israeli officials negotiated for years and years with the US,
with the quartet, with PA, and gave absolutely nothing in return for the
time they gained. Millions of dollars, of European and American
tax-payers were poured into soft life of these negotiators. How could
the Israelis achieve this glorious (for them) result? Thanks to liberal
progressive Israelis. Without liberal Israelis complicity, Jewish
moderate nationalists of Bibi Netanyahu wouldn’t be able to slowly and
at peace devour and digest Palestine piece by piece.

Every year they confiscate a few hundreds strategically located square
miles, and plant there a few thousand of settlers. Step by step, they
ate Palestine like mouse eats cheese. Now they are shocked that their
charmed life will soon be over and their fraud is out.

Hard Jewish nationalists always wanted to annex the whole of Palestine.
The moderates and the liberals thought it would implode the Jewish
state, as in the new one state the Jews will hardly be in majority.
There are various statistics and different assessments, but by the most
optimistic (for Jews) count, they will present 50% of the population.
The One state won’t be "Jewish" or it won’t be "Democratic", is a usual
answer. The hard nationalists answered that "we’ll see". Let us get
there, and we shall work it out.

The smart moderate bastards and their liberal crypto-supporters would
answer: we’d love to, but America does not allow us to do it. And the US
obediently provided the Israeli Jews with alibi: yes, we would not allow
you to annex Palestine, yes, we want you to negotiate in order to reach
Two States’ Solution. Now this is over, too.

If the Jews will annex Palestine, their long systematic fraud of
"occupation" and "struggle against occupation" will be over. They will
give Palestinians equal rights, including the right to vote for Knesset,
and then there will be power-sharing, and other fruits of democracy. If
they won’t give Palestinians equal rights, there will be something
simple and clear to struggle for, namely for equal rights and against
vestiges of apartheid.

This is a view of a marvelous activist from Bethlehem, Prof Mazin
Qumsiyeh, the Director of Palestine Natural Museum, previously of Yale.
Qumsiyeh signs himself "A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home",
and he is a scion of an old Christian family. Reflecting on this
nomination of Friedman, Qumsiyeh writes: "This maybe better as it can
remove the fog and perhaps the last fig leaf covering the absurdity that
is the endless "negotiations" for "two-state solution" (aka mirage to
hide ongoing apartheid and colonialism)".

This is more or less what I
<> wrote in
long-gone 2001: "the idea of two states in Palestine is, and has always
been, a bluff. No Israeli politician, including the late lamented Mr
Rabin, has ever seriously considered relinquishing any part of
historical Palestine. The endless negotiations have been a sideshow
designed to mollify the public. Behind the smoke screen of ‘temporary
military occupation’, the hard-nosed Israeli leadership has confiscated
Palestinian fields and houses to make room for Jewish settlements, and
imprisoned and killed thousands of Palestinians. A succession of leftist
and rightist Israeli regimes perpetuated this legal fiction in order to
deny the civic rights of the conquered population. It was a brilliant
idea, worthy of the Jewish genius: to carry on negotiations forever
while giving lip service to the idea of two states.

My Palestinian and Israeli friends, you’ve been duped. Our wise men
played a cruel game with you, teasing you with empty promises like the
stale old ‘tale of two states’. There have always been only two paths
for the Palestinians to emerge from serfdom. One is to beat Israel; the
second is to join it. The third option, of a new partition, is just an
illusion: a juicy but unreachable carrot dangled in front of the donkey.

If I were a fan of conspiracy theories I could well imagine that these
good people of the Israeli peace movement intentionally supplied this
left leg to our shaky apartheid structure. By continually re-painting
the [old armistice] Green Line, they have endorsed the non-citizen
status of the Palestinians in their own land. By calling some lands
‘occupied territories’ they have exempted themselves from the need to
battle against the exclusion of Palestinians from the country’s
political life. By combating the annexation of the territories they have
helped to concoct the fraud of independent Palestinian Bantustans.

Even a kid watching James Bond movies eventually understands that the
hero won’t be eaten by crocodiles and won’t die in the flames, and that
there is no reason for expecting these eventualities. There is even less
reason for expecting that an Israeli government will sign a just peace
with the Palestinians. They will always deploy an exit-strategy in the
`peace process’.

A better strategy leads through annexation of Palestinian territories
and full equality for all dwellers of historical Palestine. The Jews do
not like to give, but can’t restrain themselves from taking. The result
can be the same. There is an old oriental story about the wise joker
Haji Nasreddin, who passed by a lake and saw a drowning man. Many
bystanders tried to save him. They stretched their hands and shouted:
Give me your hand! But the drowning man was going down. Who is this
man?- asked Haji. – He is a moneylender, people replied. That is not the
way to save a moneylender, – said Haji. Moneylenders do not know how to
give. Instead, shout: "Take my hand!" and he will clutch at it. This is
what Haji Nasreddin did, and saved the drowning man.

Using his advice, we should say to the Jews, "Annex the territories, but
give the Palestinians full equality." The way out of present situation
is not partition into two states but absorption and equality". (Galilee

For this reason, I am not scared by nomination of Mr Friedman. Let him
lead Israel into annexation of Palestine, and equality for its dwellers.
He seems to be a fair man, as much as a Jewish lawyer can be. He even
established a rehabilitation clinic for Jewish AND Palestinian kids in
the South of Israel.

Sure, a US ambassador in Israel has less powers than a Roman prefect of
Judaea had. But it would be difficult for an Israeli leader that he does
not annex Palestine because of American veto. After annexation, we shall
all push for equality with greater ease.

This solution makes more sense as there is great dissatisfaction in the
Palestinian territories. Last elections were held in 2006; for last five
years Mahmud Abbas’ PNA rules without a people’s mandate, by virtue of
Israeli permission. For this Israeli support, the PNA swore to "security
cooperation" with the Jews. Israeli soldiers and police can (and do)
come into Palestinian territories anytime they want and seize whoever
they wish. People are unhappy about this cooperation, as PNA police
arrests demonstrators against Israeli occupation. They see the PNA as a
junior partner in the Israeli occupation apparatus. It is not necessary
to compare them with Vichy France, with Quisling of Norway or with
Jewish Judenrat: the situation is different, and people need some local
authority to sweep the streets and deliver mail.

PNA is not terribly bad; the majority of officials are good and sincere
people, though their ability to do something good is very limited by
Israelis. Lack of democracy is a problem: in the last elections, the
majority voted for Hamas, a moderate Islamic party similar to one of
Erdogan in Turkey, but at Israeli and American insistence, the winners
went mainly to jail, instead of forming the government. Since then, the
PNA finds new reasons why to postpone new elections: they do not believe
they will win.

Hamas runs Gaza, where they succeeded in coming to power legitimately,
but people there are also tired of their rule. Palestinians say, the
Hamas-controlled Gaza would vote for Fatah, while Fatah-controlled West
Bank would vote for Hamas. Perhaps. Last month, there were violent
clashes between PNA police and supporters of Mr Mohammed Dahlan, an
exiled ex-minister, who wants to become the new president. Mahmud Abbas
does not want to part with his presidential seat despite his age (over

Israeli and Palestinian observers think that the PNA is likely to
collapse this year. Abbas said many times that he is ready to return the
keys to Israel: let them rule, for they made his job impossible.

Palestinians would prefer to be absorbed into Israel, with its limited
democracy, law and order and relative prosperity. No Palestinian village
in Israel would agree to be absorbed in the PNA-ruled Palestine: this
was discussed many times, and the offer had no takers. Palestinians are
smart enough to run a country, but limitations imposed by Jews are too
severe to manage. So let it be annexation and equality.

Palestine/Israel will be transformed into a democratic state, where Jews
and Palestinians will live happily ever after, as equals. But the
Democratic State wouldn’t be a Jewish state, people would object. That
is the best part of it, I would say. The Jewish state is as bad as the
Aryan state, or the Islamic state, and whoever rejects the Aryan state
and the Islamic state, should reject the Jewish state, as well. This
would impact the Obscure Entity: Israel has an important place in their
plans, and disappearance of the Jewish state will undermine these plans.

Without the Jewish state, the Jews of the US and other lands will return
to their normal life, will forget the wet dreams of the world domination
and become law-abiding citizens of their respective countries.

And how this nomination will save Trump? It will mobilise hard-core
Zionists to support him against their moderate and liberal brethren. The
hard-core Zionists fought against moderate Zionists in Palestine in
1947-48, and they can easily fight against liberal Jews.

Though for the reasons of political correctness people refer to Jews as
"Zionists", it is just a figure of speech. Their priorities are very
different. The liberals want to establish New World Order, that would
have a good and generous place for the Jewish state. For the hard-core,
the world is of little importance, they want Palestine now.

The hard-core Zionists are not clever enough to understand that the
moderates are going in the same direction. They want to take what they
can now. That’s why they will get carried away by the idea of the whole
hog now. I think they will support Trump, and perhaps this support will
help him to get through Scylla of Electoral College and Charybdis of the
House of Representatives.


So, do not be afraid of bad Mr Friedman. He is likely to do a lot of
good. And definitely he can’t make things any worse. Nobody believes the
Jews will give some parts of Palestine to Palestinians, anyway. So let
them take all of it and make it a democracy. This will undo the Zionist
enterprise faster and better than any war can do.

Israel Shamir can be reached at

(3) Jewish Power is now British Law – It’s Official! by Gilad Atzmon

Jewish Power is now British Law – It’s Official!

By Gilad Atzmon on December 16, 2016

Gilad Atzmon — Dec 13, 2016

For years I have argued that Jewish power is the power to silence
criticism of Jewish Power. Now, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has
confirmed that my observation is spot on. PM May has decided to accept
the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of
antisemitism and to integrate it into British law.

According to the IHRA, "antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews,
which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical
manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish
individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions
and religious facilities."

Pretty lazy definition I’d say. Substitute the word ‘antisemitism’ with
‘bigotry’ and the word ‘Jews’ with ‘one people’ and you end up with a
reasonably good definition of hatred itself. But our Theresa thinks Jews
deserve special protection. And why? Because although in Britain, as in
the USA, Germany and France everyone is equal in the eyes of the law,
Jews are somehow more equal than others.

Sir Eric Pickles, government envoy for ‘post-Holocaust issue’s, is also
committed to the Jews and the primacy of their suffering, so much so
that he has morphed into a giant gefilte fish.  As Pickles told the BBC,
the new definition "catches up with modern antisemitism". It was, he
said, "important not to conflate Jewish people with Israel." I couldn’t
agree more. We should never conflate Jews with Israel.

First, Jews are wonderfully, innocent, peace loving people – except
perhaps the 14 million or so of them who support Israel and give the
entire tribe a bad name – and second, it would be an absurd  to ignore
the five or so  Jews who oppose Israel and truly support Palestine.
Maybe Pickles should use his position and influence to lobby the Israeli
government to stop defining Israel as the "Jewish state" – now,
wouldn’t that stop people conflating the Jews with their state!

According to the IHRA, antisemitism can include denying the Jewish
people their right to self-determination. Again, I couldn’t agree more.
Since Britain supported the rise of ISIS and armed its battalions, it’s
only fair that it should also support the Jews-only state. And it’s
never too late for Britain to admit that maybe an Aryan-only State is
also a pretty kosher idea. And what about a White state? Do white people
not also have the right to self-determination? I think we should be told.

Nor should it surprise us that man-of principle Jeremy Corbyn and his
Labour Party rushed to back May’s move. After all, who more than that
‘man of the people’ Jeremy Corbyn would understand the need of British
workers to attach themselves to Jewish sensitivities?

The Jewish Chronicle was kind enough to list the names of the Jewish
leaders that congratulated the move. For example, Chief Rabbi Ephraim
Mirvis saluted the Prime Minister for her commitment to tackling the
scourge of anti-Semitism and Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies
president also welcomed the government decision. I wonder, is there not
one Jewish leader who can see that such a move, one that makes Jews
special in the eyes of the law, is a recipe for disaster? Does any
Jewish leader really believe such a law will make British Jews loved or

Jewish history actually proves the opposite. It is always Jewish
exceptionalism that evolves into Jewish disaster.

(4) Report: Mossad head briefs Trump staff during secret meeting

December 18, 2016 12:38pm

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The head of Israel’s Mossad national intelligence
agency made a secret visit to the United States to meet with members of
President-elect Donald Trump staff and give a security briefing.

Mossad Director Yossi Cohen briefed the Trump staff members on the
Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, terror threats and the
Palestinian issue, Ynet reported Saturday. The report did not say when
the briefings took place.

The security delegation was organized by Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, according to Ynet, and was led by National Security Council
head Yaakov Nagel. Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer
reportedly also attended the meetings.

The Israeli officials also reportedly discussed with Trump officials a
proposed regional conference to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process to be held in Egypt and an anti-settlement United Nations
resolution by the Palestinians and backed by New Zealand.

(5) Do Illegal Votes Decide Elections?

Hans von Spakovsky · Dec. 17, 2016

Editor’s note: This piece is coauthored by John Fund.

Donald Trump’s claim that illegal voting may have cost him a
popular-vote majority has touched off outrage. Widespread voter fraud,
the media consensus suggests, isn’t possible. But there is a real chance
that significant numbers of noncitizens and others are indeed voting
illegally, perhaps enough to make up the margin in some elections.

There’s no way of knowing for sure. The voter-registration process in
almost all states runs on the honor system. The Obama administration has
done everything it can to keep the status quo in place. The Obama
Justice Department has refused to file a single lawsuit to enforce the
requirement of the National Voter Registration Act that states maintain
the accuracy of their voter-registration lists. This despite a 2012
study from the Pew Center on the States estimating that one out of every
eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate. About
2.8 million people are registered in more than one state, according to
the study, and 1.8 million registered voters are dead. In most places
it’s easy to vote under the names of such people with little risk of

An undercover video released in October by the citizen-journalist group
Project Veritas shows a Democratic election commissioner in New York
City saying at a party, "I think there is a lot of voter fraud." A
second video shows two Democratic operatives mulling how it would be
possible to get away with voter fraud.

The Justice Department has opposed every effort by states — such as
Kansas, Arizona, Alabama and Georgia — to verify the citizenship of
those registering to vote. This despite evidence that noncitizens are
indeed registering and casting ballots. In 2015 one Kansas county began
offering voter registration at naturalization ceremonies. Election
officials soon discovered about a dozen new Americans who were already
registered — and who had voted as noncitizens in multiple elections.

How common is this? If only we knew. Political correctness has squelched
probes of noncitizen voting, so most cases are discovered accidentally
instead of through a systematic review of election records.

The danger looms large in states such as California, which provides
driver’s licenses to noncitizens, including those here illegally, and
which also does nothing to verify citizenship during voter registration.
In a 1996 House race, then-challenger Loretta Sanchez defeated incumbent
Rep. Bob Dornan by under 1,000 votes. An investigation by a House
committee found 624 invalid votes by noncitizens, nearly enough to
overturn the result.

How big is this problem nationally? One district-court administrator
estimated in 2005 that up to 3% of the 30,000 people called for jury
duty from voter-registration rolls over a two-year period were not U.S.
citizens. A September report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation
found more than 1,000 noncitizens who had been removed from the voter
rolls in eight Virginia counties. Many of them had cast ballots in
previous elections, but none was referred for possible prosecution.

The lack of prosecutions is no surprise. In 2011, the Electoral Board in
Fairfax County, Va., sent the Justice Department, under then-Attorney
General Eric Holder, information about 278 noncitizens registered to
vote in Fairfax County, about half of whom had cast ballots in previous
elections. There is no record that the Justice Department did anything.

A 2014 study by three professors at Old Dominion University and George
Mason University used extensive survey data to estimate that 6.4% of the
nation’s noncitizens voted in 2008 and that 2.2% voted in 2010. This
study has been criticized by many academics who claim that voter fraud
is vanishingly rare. Yet the Heritage Foundation maintains a list of
more than 700 recent convictions for voter fraud.

A postelection survey conducted by Americas Majority Foundation found
that 2.1% of noncitizens voted in the Nov. 8 election. In the
battleground states of Michigan and Ohio, 2.5% and 2.1%, respectively,
of noncitizens reported voting. In 2013, pollster McLaughlin &
Associates conducted an extensive survey of Hispanics on immigration
issues. Its voter-profile tabulation shows that 13% of noncitizens said
they were registered to vote. That matches closely the Old
Dominion/George Mason study, in which 15.6% of noncitizens said they
were registered.

Fixing this problem is very straightforward. The Trump administration
should direct the Department of Homeland Security to cooperate with
states that want to verify the citizenship of registered voters. Since
this will only flag illegal immigrants who have been detained at some
point and legal noncitizens, states should pass laws, similar to the one
in Kansas, that require proof of citizenship when registering to vote.
The Justice Department, instead of ignoring the issue, should again
start prosecuting these cases.

The bottom line is that the honor system doesn’t work. There are people
— like those caught voting illegally — who are willing to exploit these
weaknesses that damage election integrity.

(6) A tale of two Hanukkah parties: Obama’s last and Trump
(International’s) first

A tale of two Hanukkah parties: Obama’s last and Trump (International’s)

By Ron Kampeas December 16, 2016 11:28am

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Weird paradoxes have been packed into Hanukkah
observance forever.

It’s the holiday about killing infidels that is now celebrated as a
victory of religious pluralism. It’s the unofficial little Jewish
holiday that a U.S. congressman once tried to turn into a major American
holiday. It’s the Jewish holiday with terrible songs written by Jews
competing with the Christian holiday with wonderful songs, also written
by Jews.

Add this to the ironies: When eight or so Jewish organizations dropped
out of a Hanukkah party this year because of its associations with
President-elect Donald Trump, ambassadors from Muslim countries replaced

For all the laughs packed into Wednesday’s marathon of D.C. Hanukkah
celebrations, there was also earnestness: a loving, if mournful,
farewell delivered by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to
the Jewish community.

A few blocks away, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations and the Azerbaijan Embassy co-hosted a Hanukkah party at
the Trump International Hotel.

Eight liberal Jewish groups said they would not attend the event because
of its associations with Trump, some citing his broadsides against
Muslims, Mexicans and other groups, and others questioning the propriety
of making payments to a business owned by the incoming president. Some
groups also objected to the association with Azerbaijan, an autocracy
that scores low on the human rights index even as it becomes more
friendly with Israel. Another three or four centrist groups did not
attend, they said, because of scheduling conflicts. (The rancor over the
venue was item No. 1 on the agenda of a Presidents Conference meeting in
New York the evening previous, sources told JTA.)

That didn’t diminish the holiday spirit, according to folks we spoke to
who attended: Every seat was filled, and Malcolm Hoenlein, the
Presidents Conference’s executive vice president, presented 13 envoys –
including seven from Muslim majority nations – with commemorative
menorahs for the assistance by their countries in putting out last
month’s devastating forest fires in Israel.

"Not can we only light candles together, we can douse flames together,
and the fact that all of you represent countries who in our hour of need
were there for us is deeply appreciated, and I want to thank each and
every one of you for doing that," said Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.,
Ron Dermer.

One remarkable presence among the honorees, given the near total
breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian Authority relations, was Maen Areikat,
the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy. The P.A. assisted in
putting out the fires.

The event, participants told me (it was closed to the media), had the
air of the incoming administration. Among those attending were Elliott
Abrams, the former senior national security counselor in both Bush
administrations who reportedly is under serious consideration for a
deputy secretary spot at the State or Defense departments in the
incoming Trump administration.

The groups on hand leaned more hawkish on foreign policy, particularly
on Israel: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B’nai B’rith
International, the Middle East Forum, the Zionist Organization of
America and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. The
National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry was also present, having
close relationships with some of the embassies represented.

"It had a good turnout, but it was pretty obvious which organizations
weren’t there," said Shai Franklin, a veteran Jewish insider who
attended. "There were not a lot of liberal Jews there."

Edwin Black, an author who in recent years has investigated liberal
nonprofits critical of Israel, said the Trump hotel event was "historic"
and chided those who were not present. The event "strengthened the
visible and growing ties between Israel and many Muslim countries," said
Black, who posed for a selfie with Areikat.

Dermer in his remarks tipped his hat to the venue in an allusion to
Trump’s campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again": Hanukkah, he
explained, commemorates a period that "made Jews proud again."

Clever slogans abounded as well outside the hotel, where about 200
demonstrators joined a protest of the event by IfNotNow, the mostly
millennial group that in recent years has arisen to claim that the
establishment Jewish agenda does not reflect the community, and
especially its younger members.

"Worst Hanukkah Party Ever," said one placard, and "We want none of
Trump’s hate" – with the word "none" represented by the Hebrew letter
"nun" on the side of a dreidel.

There was also a small contingent – about a dozen or so folks — from a
group calling itself Jews Choose Trump. Both sides, armed with
megaphones, sang dueling Hanukkah songs.

I hope you never have to live through a battle of Hanukkah songs, but
having done so, I can tell you, the leftists won. They rendered almost
tuneful renditions of "Esh Tamid Tukad Al HaMizbah LoTikveh," "The
Eternal Flame" and "Sura Hoshech, Halaa Shachor" ("Begone Darkness").

The Jews Choose Trump presented English-language versions of "Rock of
Ages" and "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel," and then "Trump, Trump, Trump" set
to the melody (I think) of "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel." Their Hanukkah
repertory exhausted, they ran the gamut of patriotic songs from "The
Star-Spangled Banner" through "My Country, ‘Tis of Thee."

Two robustly built Armenian gentlemen bearing placards protesting
Azerbaijan wandered between the two groups.

The Trump International Hotel is a block or so from the White House – at
the corner of 14th and Pennsylvania — and the Presidents
Conference/Azerbaijan Embassy party was timed in part so guests could
attend the festivities at both venues. (The Obamas will be in Hawaii
during Christmas break, hence the party predating the actual holiday by
10 days.)

But there wasn’t much crossover – Dermer and the Presidents Conference
chiefs, as well as AIPAC officials, were present at both events. So was
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the president of American Friends of Lubavitch, who
koshered the White House kitchen ahead of the party. That was pretty
much it.

Which perhaps was appropriate: Shifting the mood from the White House
(morose and sentimental) to the Trump Hotel (upbeat and expectant) might
have been too jarring by half.

The day started with special White House briefings for those in
attendance on the robust health of the U.S.-Israel security relationship.

The panels were off the record, but I’m not giving anything away to say
that the tone was one of defiant woundedness – of an administration and
its supporters who wondered why the closeness between security
establishments never supplanted the tensions between Obama and Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the preeminent narrative.

Obama was rushed by adoring fans at both receptions, with many
lamentations about how this would be the last chance to introduce their
families to a president they admire.

A White House staffer eagerly guided guests to a display about the
letter George Washington wrote to the Jewish community of Rhode Island
pledging religious tolerance. Obama read from the letter at the evening
reception, and implied a rebuke of Trump’s campaign call for a ban on
Muslims entering the United States: "Washington assured the Jews of
Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States ‘gives to bigotry no
sanction, to persecution no assistance,'" he said to applause. "He went
on to write that all that is required of those ‘who live under [the
nation’s] protection’ is that they be ‘good citizens.’"

The president thanked his Jewish guests and said, "The story of this
community and the work you continue to do to repair the world forever
reminds us to have faith that there are brighter days ahead."

There was some jaded laughter and Michelle Obama interjected, "They’re a
little cynical."

Obama rejoined, "No, no, no, they’re not cynical."

Six years ago, at the inaugural White House Jewish American Heritage
Month reception, Obama celebrated Jewish heroes and celebrities who, to
me and other observers, defied Jewish stereotypes, including athletes,
military figures and astronauts.

Now, on his way out, he honored the memories of Elie Wiesel, the
Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Shimon Peres, an
Israeli founding father.

By honoring them and inviting their families, Obama seemed to have
internalized that Jews were not simply American and that their history
stretches back millennia, through unimaginable loss, across the globe,
and into a difficult nation state. And he emphasized the idea that
friends don’t always agree — indeed, Obama at times had a contentious
relationship with Wiesel, who opposed the president’s Iran policies.

At the afternoon reception, describing the menorah designed by Wiesel’s
young granddaughter, Obama said, "It’s got bolts and tiles and glue, and
it looks like some balsa wood."

Shira Wiesel interrupted: "It’s actually melted wax."

Obama smiled. "Over the years, your grandfather also corrected me
several times," he said. "And it was always very helpful."

(7) Israel wants ‘butcher’ Assad ousted, defense minister says

December 16, 2016 4:29am

(JTA) — The removal from power of Bashar Assad is an Israeli interest
and ultimate goal, Israel’s defense minister said amid claims that
troops loyal to the Syrian president were perpetrating a massacre in Aleppo.

Avigdor Liberman made the remarks, which constitute an unusual departure
from Israel’s policy of nonalignment in Syria, on Thursday in Eilat,
where he was speaking before participants of that city’s Limmud FSU
conference on Jewish learning.

"Assad is a butcher who has massacred people," Liberman said, adding:
"The State of Israel has said ‘never again,’" a reference to the
rejection of genocidal policies following the Holocaust perpetrated by
Nazi Germany and its allies against Jews during the Holocaust. "This
massacre, occurring in plain view with chemical weapons, is morally

But Liberman said that Assad’s removal was an "ultimate goal" for Israel
as opposed to an immediate one.

Many thousands of people, including a large number of civilians, have
been killed during the fierce fighting in Aleppo between Assad’s forces
and rebels who have controlled parts of the city for the past four years.

More than 3,000 people were taken out of the fighting zone on the first
day of the evacuation on Thursday, but the United Nations said that as
many as 50,000 are still trapped, the BBC reported Friday.

The U.S. accused the Syrian government of carrying out "nothing short of
a massacre" in the city.

"The only remaining question is whether the Syrian regime, with Russia’s
support, is willing to go to Geneva prepared to negotiate
constructively, and whether or not they’re willing to stop this
slaughter of their own people," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Syria and Russia have repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

Assad on Thursday hailed the "liberation" of Aleppo after more than four
years of fighting, saying that history was being made.

(8) Jewish Storm Builds Over David Friedman’s Appointment as Israel

Nathan Guttman

December 16, 2016

President-Elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint David Friedman as his
ambassador to Israel is brewing into a Jewish battle royale for
supporters and detractors of the two-state solution.

For the Jewish left, Friedman appointment has quickly emerged as a
banner for rallying troops already concerned with the impact the Trump
presidency will have on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. On the
right, Trump’s choice of a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer as chief
envoy to Israel is seen as ushering in a new era of settlement expansion
and changing the fundamentals of American policy toward the conflict.

The importance of Friedman’s appointment cannot be overstated, according
to former ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer.

"Every thing an ambassador says and does has an impact on policy," said
Kurtzer. He added that usually an ambassador implements policies set by
the administration, but Friedman seems intent on forging his own stands.
To prove the point, Kurtzer referred to Friedman’s comment in the
official statement on his appointment in which he expressed his
intention to work "from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital,

"The president hasn’t been sworn in yet, the Secretary of State hasn’t
spoken about this, and he’s already talking about the policy he is going
to change," said Kurtzer. "This is unheard of."

But what Kurtzer and others see as an alarming development, pro-settler
activists view as a blessing, hoping it will herald a shift in American
policy toward the settlements and Jerusalem.

"Friedman has a deep love for all of the land and people of Israel,
including those in Judea and Samaria," said Oded Revivi, spokesman for
the settlement council Yesha.

"David Friedman is the first ambassador that tells the truth and
promotes the truth," said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist
Organization of America in an interview. This truth, according to Klein,
is that "the Arabs want to continue killing Jews" and they refuse to
accept Israel as a Jewish state.

Morton Klein, of the ZOA, praised Tump in a Thursday statement.

Klein also expressed his conviction that with Trump as president and
Friedman as ambassador, the Israeli government will be free to expand
building within the boundaries of the existing settlements without the
U.S. administration limiting its actions. "We will now see the prime
minster building more because he will no longer have the fear of
consequences imposed by the United States," Klein said.

Friedman, who was largely unknown in the organized Jewish community
before joining the Trump campaign, has been reaching out to Jewish
officials recently, even before being announced as Trump’s pick for
ambassador to Israel. But in the meetings and discussions, Friedman has
made no attempt to bridge the gaps with the liberal wing of the
community. Last week he met with members of the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York and laid out,
according to a Jewish leader who attended the meeting, his belief that
America should move beyond discussing the issue of occupation and
highlight what he sees as Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a
Jewish state.

David Friedman Raised Millions for Radical West Bank Jewish SettlersJudy
Maltz (Haaretz)December 16, 2016

The newly appointed ambassador, speaking in a closed forum in early
December, was given the opportunity to retract his comments, made before
the elections, stating that the left-leaning pro-Israel lobby J Street
"are worse than kapos." Friedman chose to stand behind his accusation
comparing the left wing lobby’s actions to those of Jews who cooperated
with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

J Street, under attack, sought to leverage Friedman’s disdain to the
group into a mobilizing and fundraising effort.

"Trump’s newest pick said something about you," read an email soliciting
donations sent out by J Street Friday morning. The pitch, according to
officials within the group, brought in tens of thousands of dollars
within a few hours.

But the group is hoping for more than an end-of-year fundraising bonanza.

Since the announcement Thursday night, J Street has been working to
mobilize its supporters in an effort to derail Friedman’s Senate
confirmation. With Republicans in full control of the Senate, it is a
tall order, which will require all Democrats to vote against Friedman’s
confirmation as well as at least three Republican senators who will have
to cross party lines.

J Street pitch targets mainstream Republicans warning them of the
consequences a change in policy driven by Friedman would entail. "Given
that Mr. Friedman’s hostility to a two-state solution is such a
departure from longstanding bipartisan policy, we’re already starting to
see real discomfort among many lawmakers from both parties about Mr.
Friedman’s positions," said Dylan Williams, the group’s vice president
for government affairs.

One lawmaker to already speak out against Friedman is Democrat Jerrold
Nadler from New York. "Mr. Friedman’s views and comments about a
two-state solution are not only a total break from decades of American
and Israeli policy, but are fundamentally out-of-step with the views of
the majority of American Jews," Nadler said in a statement. He noted
that both J Street and AIPAC support a two-state solution.

But those looking, either in fear or in expectation, for a shift in
American policy taking place in the near future as Friedman assumes his
position, may have to wait.

On Friday, the Trump transition team already put a damper on Friedman’s
promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Jason Miller, Trump’s
senior adviser made clear that while the president-elect still firmly
supports moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it would be "premature" to
present a timetable for such a move.

Meaning Friedman may have to at least start his term as ambassador in
the same old Tel-Aviv office as his predecessors.

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