U.S. complicit in Chechnya horrors

From The Washington Blade:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/05/02/opinion-holocaust-remembrance-day/

by Kevin Naff
May 2, 2017

Listening to President Trump deliver remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day last week proved yet another galling exercise in surreal hypocrisy.

The same president who tapped Stephen Bannon to serve as his top adviser had the nerve to criticize Holocaust deniers, adding “we must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth in our time.”

And so, let’s tell some truth.

Truth: Bannon established Breitbart News as “the platform for the alt-right,” as he boasted last summer. While clever enough not to openly espouse anti-Semitic views himself, he deliberately cultivated Breitbart as the go-to place for expressing misogynistic, white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke praised Bannon’s White House appointment, which alone should tell you all you need to know about this dangerous figure. Alt-right lunatics are now ensconced in the White House, including among the press corps. Two fake journalists recently flashed “white power” signs inside the White House press briefing room and shamelessly posted the photos to social media. As first reported by the Independent, “Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room. In the photo, they are making a hand sign that can be used to signify ‘white power.’”

Truth: According to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic attacks increased by 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Between January and March, the ADL reports there were 541 anti-Semitic incidents in the country compared to 281 during the same period last year. Trump’s gullible supporters — who are not influenced or constrained by facts, logic or reason — will dismiss those numbers as a coincidence. But for those of us with more than three functioning brain cells, it’s obvious that America’s deplorables have heard the dog whistles emanating from this White House and are acting accordingly. The bigots are unleashed and validated after being forced to endure an America led by a black man for eight years, their worst nightmare.

Truth: Speaking of dog whistles, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters recently that Adolf Hitler never used chemical weapons against his own people and referred to concentration camps and gas chambers as “Holocaust centers.”

Truth: As Trump belatedly and hypocritically condemned anti-Semitism — after empowering bigots and ignoring attacks on Jewish community centers and cemeteries — gay men are being rounded up, tortured and killed in secret prisons in Chechnya. Holocaust Remembrance Day sounds like an opportune time to condemn those prisons, which have been widely described in the media as “concentration camps.” But Trump didn’t mention Chechnya and hasn’t denounced the government’s actions to cleanse the country of gays. Hillary Clinton lambasted Trump over his silence on Chechnya. The State Department, which remains woefully understaffed such that it hasn’t been holding press briefings, is silent. Only Nikki Haley at the U.N. could be coaxed into denouncing Chechnya.

Why is that? Well, Chechnya is controlled by Vladimir Putin, whose own campaign against Russian gays is well known and documented. Trump’s ongoing love affair with Putin (or is our president being blackmailed by the Russian murderer?) precludes him from speaking out.

And so, amid cries of “never forget,” we do just that in Chechnya, turning away from the well-documented horrors being committed there against gay men. America’s pledge to respect the lessons of the Holocaust is now a hollow sham, a photo op that offers the appearance of caring while masking our government’s complicity in atrocity.

Trump’s ‘Religious Liberty’ Executive Order Should Scare The Bejesus Out Of Jews

From The Forward: http://forward.com/opinion/370998/religious-liberty-executive-order-should-scare-jews/

Jay Michaelson
May 4, 2017

Be careful what you wish for.

For years, the Christian Right, abetted by some Orthodox Jewish allies, has claimed that there’s a war on religion in America. Sometimes it’s the “War on Christmas,” sometimes it’s alleged persecution of Christians for practicing their faith, and sometimes it’s hard to articulate at all.

Well, today, the president of the United States bought into that rhetoric, and announced that he’s ending the war, signing an executive order that was heavy on symbolism and light on substance. Trump’s order focused on fake issues rather than real ones — good news for LGBTs and others who feared being targeted, but bad news for American Jews and other religious minorities.

On the substantive side, the Jewish backers of the action didn’t get anything they had wanted. No changes in funding for religious schools, no religious exemptions to allow discrimination.

But what we all got was an earful of gospel. In case there was any doubt about what “religious liberty” really means in a country that is 70% Christian, the audience in the Rose Garden got serenaded by Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman (one of his songs was a setting of the Lord’s Prayer) and preached to by televangelist Paula White (who sells “resurrection seeds” for $1,144).

 Oh, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. For a change.

In fact, the one substantive change of note will probably come back to haunt American Jews. That was the effective repeal by Trump of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment,” which prohibits nonprofit organizations — including religious ones – from political campaigning.

Critics had characterized the Johnson Amendment as a gag order on pastors, prohibiting them from preaching about politics. That’s hogwash.

Not only does the law not prohibit political sermons, it’s almost never enforced against churches – the Washington Post hasn’t been found only one investigation in the last 10 years.

But with the Johnson Amendment gone (it’s still on the books, but Trump’s IRS will not enforce it), pastors and rabbis and imams will be under more pressure to be more explicitly political. That’s why most grassroots evangelical pastors actually opposed the change. Can you imagine, now that the gloves are off, rabbis endorsing American and Israeli political candidates from the pulpit? Or being pressured to do so by their biggest donors? It’s a disaster.

Continue reading at: http://forward.com/opinion/370998/religious-liberty-executive-order-should-scare-jews/

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