Two Suspects Arrested After Mechanic Shot And Killed By Stray Bullet In Front Of Auto Repair Shop

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two suspects have been arrested after a mechanic was shot and killed by a stray bullet in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia earlier this month. Michael Gleba, 56, of Bensalem, was struck by a stray bullet while working on a car in front of his auto repair shop on the 4800 block of Benner Street on April 11.

Police say they have arrested 19-year-old Shabazz Sweets and 25-year-old Eric Smith.

Both are charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and other related offenses.

Police say Gleba was shot when four men began shooting at each other during a drug deal, near Northeast Speedometer Services on Benner Street.

Two others have also been arrested in connection to Gleba’s shooting death: 20-year-old James MacGregor and 28-year-old Timothy Sherfield.

Police Asking For Public’s Help Finding Suspect Wanted For Easter Murder In Pottstown

POTTSTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – Police are asking for the public’s help finding a suspect wanted for the murder of a 25-year-old man on Easter. Authorities say 31-year-old Stephen Moore has been charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Joshua Smith at 625 Industrial Highway in Pottstown.

Police say Moore’s last known address is in Pottstown but has since fled. Moore has ties to both the Reading and Camden, New Jersey, areas.

Officials say Moore is a black male with black hair and brown eyes. He’s 5-foot-7 and weighs about 150 pounds.

Smith was found shot multiple times on Sunday.

According to police, at the time Smith’s body was found, an officer began following a silver Jeep speeding down Industrial Highway. The jeep crashed at the intersection of High and Wilson Streets and the male driver fled the scene on foot.

Investigators found that the jeep is owned by Moore’s wife and both Moore and Smith were seen leaving Smith’s residence earlier on Easter.

Police recovered two handguns and two cellphones from the jeep.

If you have any information about Moore’s location, call police at 610-970-6570.

NY Times’ Facebook investigation unearths George Soros, ADL and Chuck Schumer controversies

“Look who’s showing me the dirty pictures!” is the punchline to a great psychiatry joke about a patient who can’t stop thinking about sex.

We at JTA don’t think everything is about the Jews, but there is a strong Jewish thread — really, three threads — in the big New York Times investigation of Facebook. Wednesday’s story examined how Facebook struggled to fend off criticism over its role in the 2016 elections, its sharing of fake news from Russia and its oversharing of privacy data.

Dueling charges of anti-Semitism are part of the story, which has already led Facebook to fire a PR firm associated with its aggressive efforts at reputation repair.

Picture 1: Facebook asks the ADL for help

According to The Times investigation, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook execs knew early that bad actors were manipulating their social media site to spread disinformation during the elections. But instead of directly addressing the issues and coming fully clean, they fought back against its critics with “delays, denials and a full-bore campaign in Washington.”

Among those critics was a group called Freedom from Facebook, which showed up at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee weighing complaints against the company. As a Facebook executive spoke, members of the group “held aloft signs depicting Sandberg and Zuckerberg, who are both Jewish, as two heads of an octopus stretching around the globe.”

The Times reports that a Facebook official “quickly called the Anti-Defamation League” to complain that the imagery was anti-Semitic. That afternoon, ADL tweeted a warning that “[d]epicting Jews as an octopus encircling the globe is a classic anti-Semitic trope,”adding: “Protest Facebook — or anyone — all you want, but pick a different image.”

The Times notes that the criticism “was soon echoed in conservative outlets,” which also tried to link Freedom from Facebook to what one publication called “extreme anti-Israel groups.”

An ADL spokeswoman said the tweet was routine, and The Times says that while ADL and Facebook have teamed up in the past to fight online hate, ADL at times has also been sharply critical of the company. In a tweet Wednesday, Nick Confessore, one of The Times reporters on the story, reinforced that ADL’s tweet “was consistent with past warnings that ADL has made against employing similar imagery in other contexts.”

Picture 2: Again with George Soros?

Some of the juiciest bits in The Times expose involve Facebook’s decision to hire Definers Public Affairs, a Republican-led firm that uses political campaign-style tactics to help companies with a PR problem. Among its efforts on Facebook’s behalf was a research document blaming the liberal philanthropist George Soros with funding Facebook’s critics, directly and indirectly.

The Times acknowledges that Soros was a “natural target”: He has been critical of Facebook. Definers urged reporters to probe connections between Soros and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook.

Soros, of course, has also been cast as a villain in a web of conspiracies concocted by the right and far right. The ADL, among others, has noted that many of these conspiracies traffic in classic anti-Semitic themes about world domination (Soros himself has been depicted as an octopus in social media, and an alleged right-wing fanatic has been charged with sending a homemade bomb to his home).

On Thursday, Soros’ Open Society Foundations leveled the anti-Semitism charge explicitly. In a letter to Sandberg, its president wrote, “I was shocked to learn from the New York Times that you and your colleagues at Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to stir up animus toward George Soros. As you know, there is a concerted right-wing effort the world over to demonize Mr. Soros and his foundations, which I lead — an effort which has contributed to death threats and the delivery of a pipe bomb to Mr. Soros’ home. You are no doubt also aware that much of this hateful and blatantly false and Anti-Semitic information is spread via Facebook.”

Definers defended its oppo research on Soros, saying all of its work is “entirely factual and based on public records.”

Nevertheless, Facebook must have decided, among things, that identifying itself with an effort to discredit a public figure who too often is depicted as the head of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy (on their own site, no less) was not a good look.

On Thursday, the social media giant said it had ended its relationship with Definers.

Picture 3: Chuck Schumer for the defense

Among the friendly politicians that Facebook turned to for help was Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who in 2016 “raised more money from Facebook employees than any other member of Congress,” The Times reports. Schumer also has a personal connection to the company: His daughter works at its New York office.

In July, a Facebook employee told The Times, Schumer confronted Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a Facebook critic and author of legislation to regulate the company and other big tech firms. “Back off,” Schumer told Warner, according to The Times account.

The post NY Times’ Facebook investigation unearths George Soros, ADL and Chuck Schumer controversies appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Pompeo Refuses to Say What U.S. Would Do if Israel Annexes West Bank

Israel is the largest terrorist state in the world and stealing land which is a direct violation of international law….
Asked at a Senate hearing Tuesday whether the United States still opposes Israeli annexation of the West Bank, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We are in the process of laying down our vision.”CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to tell Congress on Tuesday what the United States would do if the Israeli government tried to annex the West Bank, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently promised to do if re-elected.

Mr. Pompeo’s silence on the issue is a break from the actions of previous administrations. Senior American officials have long and explicitly discouraged any formal attempt by Israel to extend sovereignty over some or all of the disputed territory of the West Bank and its population of 2.6 million Palestinians.

In a last-minute bid to win votes in Tuesday’s neck-and-neck Israeli elections, the conservative Mr. Netanyahu said in a weekend interview that he would “apply sovereignty” to some or all of the West Bank. Mr. Netanyahu has hinted that he would get a nod for any such action from President Trump, who last month recognized Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights and earlier moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a contested city.

Mr. Pompeo appeared Tuesday afternoon at a hearing of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to discuss the Trump administration’s 2020 budget request for the State Department and the primary United States aid agency. Last month, Republican and Democratic members of the House criticized the budget that proposed cutting State Department funding by more than 23 percent.

In a long exchange, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, asked Mr. Pompeo whether the United States still opposes Israel’s annexation of any or all of the West Bank.

Mr. Pompeo did not directly answer. “We are in the process of laying down our vision,” he said.

Mr. Van Hollen rephrased his question several times, noting that “things could move very quickly” if Mr. Netanyahu wins a fifth term as prime minister. (Polls at the close of the general voting in Israel showed Mr. Netanyahu in a dead heat with his main rival, Benny Gantz, a centrist.)

“And today you cannot tell us what U.S. policy is on this issue,” Mr. Van Hollen said.

“I think I’ve answered the question as I’m going to answer the question,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Many evangelical Christians also support Israeli annexation of the West Bank because of a biblical prophecy that God promised the land to the Jews. Mr. Pompeo has openly spoken about his evangelical Christian beliefs in the context of foreign policy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel campaigning on Monday in Jerusalem. Locked in a tight election, he recently promised to annex the West Bank.CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times

 

Previous American presidents and international officials regard the West Bank as the foundation of a Palestinian nation in a long-discussed, but never realized, two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his interview on Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu said he would extend Israeli sovereignty well beyond established Jewish settlements in the West Bank that have been widely condemned by Palestinians and international observers.

Given that Mr. Pompeo had refused to affirm support for a two-state solution, Mr. Van Hollen said, would the secretary support Palestinians having “full and equal political and legal rights with other citizens of that state?”

Mr. Pompeo dodged that question, too. “I’m not going to engage in this conversation,” he said. “Ultimately, the Israelis and Palestinians will decide how to resolve this.”

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, has been working on a framework for peace negotiations that is not expected to insist on a two-state solution or on ceding any sovereignty to the Palestinians.

Senators also pressed Mr. Pompeo on the Trump administration’s lackluster response to October’s gruesome killing by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident.

Shortly after Mr. Khashoggi’s death, a bipartisan group of 22 senators demanded that the Trump administration report back within 120 days on whether senior Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were responsible. The order for the determination was made under the Global Magnitsky Act.

On Tuesday, questioned by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, Mr. Pompeo falsely said the administration had “fully complied” with the legal mandate. The administration has issued no report to Congress, despite repeated requests made after officials had missed the deadline.

 

“When we find the facts, we will apply the law appropriately,” Mr. Pompeo said.

On Monday night, the State Department announced that it was putting 16 Saudis on a travel ban list for their roles in Mr. Khashoggi’s death. Prince Mohammed was not on the list, even though the C.I.A. has concluded that he ordered the killing.

The White House said Mr. Trump had a call with the crown prince on Tuesday in which “they discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring Middle East stability, maintaining maximum pressure against Iran and the importance of human rights issues.”

‘Antifa Mob’ assault case takes center stage in unconventional war between Philly judge and Larry Krasner

Common Pleas Court jurist fires back after progressive DA wants him recused from all cases after girlfriend complained she was fired for being white

Judge Scott DiClaudio Brian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio (middle, white shirt) talked about job prospects with a pair of men on hand to perform community service with him in March 2018. The judge finds himself warring with District Attorney Larry Krasner, whose office is the subject of a complaint filed by DiClaudio’s girlfriend.

This is the story of a probation-friendly Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge whose girlfriend claims in a Human Relations Commission complaint that she was fired from the District Attorney’s Office two months ago because she’s white.

This is also the story of Larry Krasner – the district attorney who wants to end lengthy probation and parole sentences – who, according to court filings, wants to disqualify Common Pleas Judge Scott DiClaudio from hearing all criminal cases because “a reasonable person would question Judge DiClaudio’s impartiality in any case in which the Office represents a party.”

Finally, this is a story in which questions were raised – hypothetically – about the impartiality of three defense attorneys who worked to get Krasner elected, and their effort to negotiate a “non-trial disposition” for the “Antifa mob” which allegedly attacked two U.S. Marines in Old City last November.

Suffice it to say, Wednesday morning was an interesting time at the Criminal Justice Center as a Krasner subordinate saw the motion denied by DiClaudio, who treated the bench as if it were a pulpit.

Paul George, assistant supervisor of the district attorney’s law department, immediately noted that the office would appeal the decision to Pennsylvania Superior Court. He also said any case heard in the meantime would be done under protest from the District Attorney’s Office.

“Your protest is noted,” said DiClaudio, in a response punctuated with two emphatic slams of the gavel around 9:35 a.m. to end a heated hearing in his ninth-floor courtroom as dozens of defendants looked on quizzically. “I look forward to that hearing.”

While it had been simmering before Wednesday, per the CJC’s rumor mill, the DiClaudio vs. Krasner battle formally kicked off on Monday.

That’s when the judge received motions asking him to recuse himself from more than three dozen cases on the next day’s docket. (That number would soon reach nearly 60 cases, according to DiClaudio’s docket.)

Marinating overnight with the thought that it was an act of revenge, DiClaudio grilled George on Tuesday, asking whether the DA’s office was arguing that he couldn’t be a fair arbiter of justice despite four years on the bench without such complaint.

As that was happening, defendants showed up to court only to learn their hearings would not go off as scheduled. They would leave with subpoenas to return at a later date.

‘THAT IN NO WAY AFFECTS MY ABILITY TO BE FAIR’

Hostilities were renewed Wednesday morning, when Krasner passed on DiClaudio’s invitation to appear before him and sent George in his stead. (“Mr. Krasner voluntarily chose not to be here,” the judge said.)

The courtroom seats were filled with defendants, and the walls lined with attorneys

“The commonwealth says I can’t be fair enough to give you a date,” DiClaudio told one defense attorney before revising the recusal issue stemming from “an alleged conflict” around 9:10 a.m.

George maintained that an active discrimination complaint filed by the judge’s girlfriend – former Assistant District Attorney Catherine Smith – translated into the “appearance of impropriety” in cases heard by DiClaudio, who maintained he had nothing to do with that filing.

“My girlfriend is suing the DA’s office for alleged discrimination,” DiClaudio would later tell those in Courtroom 905 directly during a brief break in the hostilities. “That, in no way, affects my ability to be fair.”

“I have no animosity for the District Attorney’s Office.” – Common Pleas Judge Scott DiClaudio

What ensued – before DiClaudio took up the cases on his Wednesday docket – was an airing of dirty laundry replete with confrontation and innuendo that made it feel as if Krasner was being tried in absentia.

Beyond statements made on the record, George deferred comment to District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ben Waxman, who later told PhillyVoice that “I don’t think we have any immediate response.”

One day earlier, though, the Inquirer quoted a “district attorney’s spokesperson” as saying, “Rather than leave the bench for the day at 10 a.m., the court could have granted the recusal and sought another judge to handle the matters.” (DiClaudio referenced that statement in court on Wednesday, noting the near-impossible nature of having cases scheduled in front of other judges due to motions filed late in the afternoon the day before.)

Among the issues that arose during the tense back-and-forth discussion were texts that DiClaudio sent to Anthony Voci – chief of the DA’s office’s homicide unit – asking whether he knew what was going on.

As the commonwealth argued that the text qualified as “ex parte communication,” the judge threatened to have Voci called to his courtroom to testify under oath on Wednesday to vouch for it not having been that.

“That’s so far from the truth it’s farcical,” an indignant DiClaudio said, not following through with sending Sheriff’s Office deputies to bring Voci to his courtroom.

Stock_Carroll - Philadelphia District Attorney Larry KrasnerThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

 

As George stood before the bench, DiClaudio explored the very nature of appearances of impropriety in city courts, specifically whether they existed in cases being handled by the law firms where Krasner once worked in a defense capacity before his election as district attorney.

He referenced that Krasner had sued the Philadelphia Police Department and specific officers now being called to testify on behalf of the prosecution.

“I wouldn’t be happy if I was sued by an attorney who is now calling me as a witness in a trial,” DiClaudio said.

It could be perceived as an “appearance of impropriety,” he noted, if an attorney from a previous  Krasner firm worked to negotiate reduced charges in a given case.

Then, he cited the case of two U.S. Marines allegedly assaulted in Old City by three suspects who were held on (felony) aggravated assault charges.

A trio of attorneys – Michael Coard, Thomas Ivory and Marni Jo Snyder – represent the suspects in that case. All three worked in various capacities to help get Krasner elected.

DiClaudio noted that their negotiations with the DA’s office in an attempt to reach a “non-trial disposition,” and hold hearings without having the suspects come to the court, could be perceived as having the “appearance of impropriety.”

“This is a specific example that happened in my room,” DiClaudio said, before asking George a question. “Are you going to tell me with a straight face that that isn’t an appearance of impropriety?”

“Yes,” George responded.

None of those attorneys mentioned agreed to comment to PhillyVoice on Wednesday.

“I have no animosity for the District Attorney’s Office,” said DiClaudio, noting that just last week, he voluntarily sent over a list of 2,500 cases in which some of those on probation could benefit from Krasner’s push to lessen post-conviction penalties. “If anyone thinks I cannot be fair – victims or witnesses – I will recuse myself upon request.”

LAWYERS OFFER SUPPORT FOR THE JUDGE

The battle between judge and district attorney has people on edge throughout the legal community and specifically in the CJC.

Specifically, there are worries about how it could impact people awaiting trial. Keir Bradford-Grey, chief defender in the Defender Association of Philadelphia, was in and around Courtroom 905 throughout the proceedings.

She said she didn’t know much about the war between DiClaudio and Krasner, but “just wanted to make sure that our clients are able to get their day in court.”

Nino Tinari, a longtime defense attorney in Philadelphia, said he’s never heard any complaints about DiClaudio’s work on the bench.

He said in court that “the defense bar” believes that he is a “fair-minded” judge. In the hallway outside, he said that he’s never seen anything like this happen in a Philadelphia courthouse.

“This is totally new for me,” he said. “He is a competent judge.”

Israel approves thousands of new West Bank housing units

A Defense Ministry committee approved plans for the construction of at least 3,659 new housing units in the West Bank.

It is the largest group of West Bank housing units advanced since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. The Trump administration is expected to roll out an Israel-Palestinian peace plan after the Israeli elections.

Some 73 per cent of the units, or 2,656, are in settlements that Israel likely will have to evacuate under a permanent peace agreement, according to Peace Now. Some 1,226 of the homes received final approval for construction.

The Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration approved the 28 plans last week.

The prime minister and the defense minister must approve the plans; Benjamin Netanyahu currently holds both positions.

“The construction of the settlements only makes it harder to end the occupation and to get to a two states peace agreement and is bad for the Israeli interest to remain a democratic and secured state,” Peace Now said in a statement, which noted that Netanyahu announced that he will annex the West Bank if he is re-elected.

In Big Win For Israel, Airbnb Reverses Ban On West Bank Listings

Airbnb reversed its controversial ban on listings in Israeli West Bank settlements Tuesday night, ending a five-month dispute over the legality of the measure.

The online hospitality service announced its decision in a blog post on its website and said it will be donating profits generated from the 200-plus West Bank listings to “non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid.”

“Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” the post said. “Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses, or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform. We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JANUARY 13: The Old City is seen from the Mount of Olives on January 13, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. 70 countries attended the recent Paris Peace Summit and called on Israel and Palestinians to resume negotiations that would lead to a two-state solution, however the recent proposal by U.S President-elect Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and last month's U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank have contributed to continued uncertainty across the region. The ancient city of Jerusalem where Jews, Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for thousands of years and is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound or for Jews The Temple Mount, continues to be a focus as both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued since 1947 when Resolution 181 was passed by the United Nations, dividing Palestinian territories into Jewish and Arab states. The Israeli settlement program has continued to cause tension as new settlements continue to encroach on land within the Palestinian territories. The remaining Palestinian territory is made up of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The reversal was mandated in part of a settlement with a pro-Israel law organization that sued the company over its West Bank ban. The lawsuit accused Airbnb of discriminating against listings posted by Jewish hosts.

Airbnb announced it would also implement the non-profit donation model in other disputed territories around the world, in what seems to be an effort to avoid alignment in political hostilities.

Such an end-goal is becoming increasingly challenging to achieve for Airbnb and similar international corporations.

The Airbnb announcement came as Israeli voters were taking to the polls to elect their Prime Minister in the general election last night. The Likud party’s coalition alliances look to have established a clear pathway for the continued tenure of incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu — who promised to annex Jewish West Bank settlements if reelected.

Israel is the land of terrorists and thieves

Israeli democracy is rotting from the inside

 

Israel’s 2019 election results are in, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is all but certain to stay in office for a record fifth term. The consequences of his victory for both Israelis and Palestinians could very well be catastrophic.

The past several years of Netanyahu’s time in office have been characterized by drift in two illiberal, anti-democratic directions.

The prime minister has tried to buy off the independent media, further marginalized Israel’s Arab minority, and gone after civil society groups critical of his policies. Some of this behavior was, according to Israel’s attorney general, actively criminal; Netanyahu is likely to be indicted in the coming months but is expected to try to pass a law shielding himself from prosecution while in office.

In essence, this apparent victory could allow Netanyahu to continue his scorched-earth campaign to maintain power at all costs — up to and including doing serious harm to the foundations of Israeli democracy.

It has also become obvious that he has no interest in a negotiated solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, and seems content to indefinitely occupy Palestinian land without concern for the harm the occupation does to the Palestinians. At the end of the 2019 campaign, Netanyahu vowed to take this further and begin annexing West Bank settlements — a move toward permanent occupation and, ultimately, apartheid.

These two axes of authoritarianism — weakening Israel’s democratic institutions while perpetuating rule over the Palestinians without granting them political rights — are connected. The conflict with the Palestinians has destroyed Israel’s left and empowered a seemingly ever-more-radical right. In Netanyahu’s fifth term, this connection could become even more explicit: Experts on Israeli politics are concerned he might support a more concrete annexation plan as part of a Faustian bargain for the extreme right’s support in his quest for immunity from prosecution.

Israel has survived existential threats before, including two invasions that nearly wiped out the young Jewish state. Yet the threat to Israeli democracy today is not external, but rather of Israelis’ own making — a long-running illness that could soon turn acute.

The threat to democracy

If Netanyahu is still in office by the summer, which seems extremely likely, he will become the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history — passing David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, who has often been referred to as Israel’s George Washington. But if Ben-Gurion is remembered as the midwife of Israeli democracy, Netanyahu could be remembered as its gravedigger.

Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel passed a law declaring that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — an exclusive vision of national identity that excludes Arabs and other non-Jewish minorities. It passed a law aimed at silencing NGOs that monitored the Israeli military’s human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories, and passed a law removing a significant check on the prime minister’s power to take the country to war.

Perhaps the single most worrying example of authoritarian drift in Israel is Netanyahu’s efforts to suborn the media.

One of the hallmarks of democratic backsliding is the government exerting control over independent media outlets — as a compliant media allows the government to get away with other kinds of wrongdoing. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has either gotten cronies to buy up independent media outlets or pressured other publications into shutting down through punitive tax policies. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a less subtle route, jailing journalists and seizing control of independent newspapers.

Two of the legal cases against Netanyahu, known as Case 2000 and Case 4000, allege that he has attempted a smaller-scale version of these anti-media actions.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu allegedly attempted to strike a deal with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest newspaper: He would pass a law limiting circulation of one of its rivals, the already pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom, in exchange for more favorable coverage in the Netanyahu-skeptical Yedioth.

In Case 4000, Netanyahu allegedly manipulated regulatory powers in order to benefit Bezeq, a major Israeli company. In exchange, the Bezeq-owned news organization Walla gave the prime minister more favorable coverage. Unlike Case 2000, this apparently went beyond the conspiracy stage, with Netanyahu trading regulations for good press over a five-year period.

These attempts to manipulate the media, Israeli observers warned, were a clear and present danger to their democracy.

“What many of the allegations against Netanyahu point to is a systematic attempt to skew media coverage of the prime minister in his favor. And this is no piffling matter,” writes eminent Israeli journalist David Horovitz. “If a leader can line up most or even many of the ostensibly competing media organizations that cover national events reliably on his side, he can subvert their role as independent watchdog, misdirect the reading and watching public, and advance a long way toward cementing his position as prime minister — his non-term-limited position as prime minister in Israel.”

Israeli protestors opposed to the “nation-state” law last August.
Israeli protesters opposed to the “nation-state” law last August.
Amir Levy/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced plans to go after Netanyahu on bribery and “breach of trust” charges for these media conspiracies, and will formally indict him pending a hearing. Unlike in Hungary and Turkey, where would-be authoritarian leaders managed to cement control over the media, the Israeli legal system is treating Netanyahu’s ability to do the same as a crime.

But Netanyahu has been framing the election as a referendum on his fitness for office. If he wins, the logic goes, indicting him and forcing him out would be a way of overturning the people’s just-expressed will. Hence the justification for the immunity bill, which he is almost certain to pursue as a top priority.

The brazenness of Netanyahu’s argument — that it would be undemocratic to prosecute him for his efforts to undermine Israeli democracy — is matched only by its danger. While some of the prime minister’s allies in the Knesset have expressed opposition to an immunity law, it’s best not to underestimate Netanyahu’s ability to convince them otherwise. He’s a canny politician who cares first and foremost about survival and will do whatever he can to undermine the legal case against him.

If passed, an immunity law would represent a double blow to Israeli democracy: both legitimizing the prime minister’s efforts to neuter the media and blocking an independent check on wrongdoing by the premier. It would not yet put Israel in the company of faux-democracies like Hungary and Turkey, but it would push the country in that direction — continuing Israel’s slide down what feels like a very slippery undemocratic slope.

Netanyahu’s dangerous annexation pledge

The Saturday before the election, Netanyahu went on Israel’s Channel 12 to make the case for his election. He promised something astonishing: that he would annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he said, per an Associated Press translation. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

Annexation of any West Bank territory would be a renunciation of the premise behind the two-state solution, that the final status of all West Bank land would be determined by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations rather than Israel unilaterally. Even if he only annexed a handful of settlement blocs near the border that would likely go to Israel in any peace deal, it would still dash the already slim hopes of an agreement in the foreseeable future.

But annexation on the scale Netanyahu seemed to be suggesting here would render a Palestinian state essentially impossible. The “isolated settlements” dot the West Bank in such a way that annexing them to Israel would cut off Palestinian population centers from each other, essentially turning them into the holes in Swiss cheese. A Palestinian state would be impossible under these conditions; Israel would in effect be asserting permanent control over Palestinian territory without granting the Palestinians basic rights like the ability to vote in Israeli elections.

You would have an Israel that ruled Palestinians permanently as a separate, legally inferior population, practically the dictionary definition of apartheid. No serious person could consider Israel a liberal democracy — or a democracy of any kind — if this were the way its political system worked.

Netanyahu’s annexation proposal should have destroyed his campaign in a just world. But Israeli public opinion has drifted so far to the right in the past roughly two decades that it in all likelihood helped him.

A protest along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
A protest along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Labor, the center-left party that dominated Israeli politics for most of its early existence, was decimated in this election — winning a scant six seats in the Knesset out of a total of 120. After the failure of the peace process and the subsequent violence of the Second Intifada, Israelis lost faith in a two-state solution and are increasingly punishing parties associated with it and elevating ones that threaten to torpedo it.

Now the question is this: Just how serious is Netanyahu about turning this threat into a reality?

That’s very difficult to say. It’s possible he was just posturing, trying to win over right-wing voters in the end stages of the election. We have to hope that’s the case. But there are two reasons to believe it might not be.

First, President Donald Trump has pursued what’s best described as a “blank check” policy toward Israel. Trump took a hardline pro-Netanyahu stance during every flare-up with the Palestinians and has done quite a bit to bolster Netanyahu politically. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and, just before the election, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — both signs that Trump is fine with Israeli territorial maximalism. Netanyahu likely believes that with this president, he can get away with murdering the two-state solution (in fact, some believe he already has).

Second, Netanyahu may have strong political incentives to conduct at least a limited annexation. More than anything, he wants to stay out of jail — and his coalition partners know it. He needs their votes for an immunity bill, and they can demand a steep price in exchange for it. The extremist United Right party might very well condition their support on Netanyahu annexing some settlements to Israel.

If that comes to pass, it would be an utter catastrophe for Israeli democracy. The prime minister would simultaneously be dismantling checks on his power within its recognized borders and moving Israel towards apartheid outside of them. The world’s only Jewish democracy would be in mortal peril.

This, ultimately, is what this election means. It is not merely a narrow victory for a legally embattled incumbent — but rather a signal that Israeli democracy is about to enter a period of acute crisis.

It’s very possible, maybe even likely, that it survives this crisis. Maybe the immunity bill fails and Netanyahu backs away from his annexation promise. Maybe Netanyahu’s indictment breaks his government and another one — one more open to a truly democratic vision of Israeli society — takes its place. Maybe.

But then again, maybe not. The forces that have pushed Israel in this dark direction are deep and fundamental, the result of Israel’s particular historical traumas and political institutions. Even if Netanyahu’s remaining time in office proves to be short-lived, the threats to Israel’s democratic survival likely will not.

There Is a Taboo Against Criticizing AIPAC — and Ilhan Omar Just Destroyed It

Prominent N.J. sports official admits making Hitler remark, apologizes for calling him a ‘good leader’

Longtime Nutley High Athletic Director Joe Piro, who admitted Tuesday he was the guest speaker who described Adolf Hitler as a “good leader” during a presentation at Madison High, apologized for his remarks and said he was trying to make a point that badly missed the mark.

Piro’s apology comes three days after he gave a presentation on leadership to student athletes at Madison High and used Hitler as an example of a “good leader” with “bad moral character and intentions.” During the presentation, Piro showed images of notable leaders, including a picture of Hitler shown side by side with Martin Luther King Jr.

Piro said he was trying to “make a point that a leader could have strong leadership skills that influence people in a negative way.”

“The presentation was not to offend anyone in or outside the Madison public school district. I am truly sorry if I did,” Piro said. “As a 20-year educator who has worked with a wide variety of students that come from very diverse backgrounds, I fully understand and recognize that Adolf Hitler was an evil man who used his skills in a horrific manner.”

Piro, 47, is one of the most prominent athletic officials in New Jersey and has been instrumental in shaping some of the state’s most important sports policies. Four years ago, he helped create the Super Football Conference, a 113-team league that spans seven counties and is considered a model for other leagues across the nation. Piro currently serves as SFC president.

Madison superintendent Mark Schwarz did not identify Piro in a letter co-signed by three other administrators and sent to parents on Sunday, but said his presentation was not screened in advance and was “unnecessarily provocative and insensitive.”

After Piro’s presentation, Schwarz wrote that some students and parents “voiced serious concerns that the speaker referred to Hitler as a ‘good leader’ in any regard.” Schwarz added the “Madison school district shares those concerns.”

Some parents in attendance told NJ Advance Media they were not offended by Piro’s presentation and gave it little thought until they saw parents discussing it later on Facebook.

Nutley superintendent Julie Glazer said in a statement the district was not aware Piro participated in the leadership conference at Madison and that it “shares his regret to mention Adolf Hitler alongside examples of positive leadership and over the inclusion of this insensitive reference.”

Glazer added her district “condemns all acts of bigotry, racism and hate.”

“We believe in using this incident as an opportunity to highlight cultural responsiveness and sensitivity within our schools, curriculum and community,” she said.

School suspends official for comment on Hitler’s leadership

A New Jersey sports official who told student athletes Adolf Hitler was a “good leader” with “bad moral character and intentions” has been suspended.

The Nutley Board of Education took the action Monday night against high school athletic director Joe Piro, who made the remark last month while addressing Madison High School students during an assembly aimed at promoting positive leadership.

Piro has said he was trying to make a point that “a leader could have strong leadership skills that influence people in a negative way.” He says he understands “Hitler was an evil man who used his skills in a horrific manner.”

The Madison district’s superintendent has said Piro’s presentation was “unnecessarily provocative and insensitive.”

Piro showed a photo of Hitler as part of a side-by-side comparison with Martin Luther King Jr.

Facebook is finally banning white nationalist content

The new ban, which will also apply to content supporting white separatism, comes after months of advocacy from civil rights groups.

 

One hundred cardboard cutouts of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stand outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, in April 2018.

 

Facebook has announced a ban on content that includes “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” — a significant policy shift that comes after months of criticism from civil rights groups.

The change, which was first reported Wednesday by Motherboard, will go into effect next week and will also apply to Instagram. The platform will also direct users who try to post this content to Life After Hate, an organization that helps people leave hate groups.

In a blog post published on Wednesday, Facebook explained its decision, noting that the new policy is the result of months of discussions between Facebook and outside groups. Previously, Facebook had banned content promoting white supremacy (generally, the belief that whites are superior to other races).

But the platform allowed white nationalist content (which promotes a belief that a white majority should control the social and political direction of predominantly white countries) and white separatist content (which argues that whites should create a separate ethnostate devoid of people of color). While their proponents argue that these ideologies are very different, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center argue that the latter two often express a belief in white supremacy, making them all very similar.

Facebook says additional conversations with civil rights groups and experts “confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups,” leading the social media platform to expand its policy on hate language.

The ban will focus on explicit language and will not target more implicit statements supporting white nationalism and separatism. While civil rights groups want Facebook to work harder to eliminate racism and bias on its platform, they say the new policy is a crucial first step.

The ban comes less than two weeks after a mass shooting at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, and after much criticism over Facebook’s previous policy. In a May 2018 investigation, Motherboard found that internal Facebook moderator training documents allowed explicit support for white nationalism and separatism, claiming that these ideologies are not always rooted in hate or racism and were different from support for white supremacy.

The social media platform also argued that banning white nationalism would also require banning other forms of nationalism (like black nationalism and Zionism) on the platform. Historians and civil rights groups said this argument was flawed and ignored the unique historical impacts of white supremacy, adding that the platform’s distinction between white supremacy, white nationalism, and white separatism was unnecessary and based on a “mere technicality.”

Months later, Facebook says it agrees.

“We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can’t make a meaningful distinction between them,” Brian Fishman, policy director of counterterrorism at Facebook, told Motherboard.

Facebook initially said white nationalism and white separatism were significantly different from white supremacy. Experts disagreed.

Less than two years ago, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended with the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer and injuries to other counterprotesters.

In the weeks after the violence, Facebook began making external and internal changes to how it handled white supremacy on the platform. The changes included drawing the distinction between white supremacy, white nationalism, and white separatism.

Historians and civil rights groups disagreed with the distinction, noting that the differences among the three ideologies are minimal, and that white nationalists and separatists often openly express a belief in white supremacy.

“Anyone who distinguishes white nationalists from white supremacists does not have any understanding about the history of white supremacism and white nationalism, which is historically intertwined,” American University historian Ibram X. Kendi told Motherboard last year.

In a September 2018 letter, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law argued that Facebook was ignoring “centuries of history, legal precedent, and expert scholarship that all establish that white nationalism and white separatism are white supremacy. ”

“When we met with your company this summer, both our staff as well as the staff at Facebook, were unable to identify an example of white nationalism or white separatism that was not white supremacist,” the group said. They also pointed to specific Facebook pages with names like “It’s okay to be white” and “American White History Month 2” to further make the point that content considered to be white nationalist or separatist still often supports a belief in white supremacy.

On Wednesday, the civil rights group said it supported Facebook’s decision, but it wants the platform to take additional action. “While we are pleased that Facebook is taking long overdue action, we know well that communities are still reeling from the rise in hate and racially motivated violence, and that extensive remedial action must be taken to ensure that hate is eliminated root and branch across the platform,” Kristen Clarke, the organization’s president and executive director, said in a statement.

Other groups agreed. “We are glad to see the company’s leadership take this critical step forward in updating its policy on white nationalism,” Rashad Robinson, president of the online racial justice group Color of Change, said in a Wednesday statement.

Last week, Facebook settled a group of civil rights lawsuits and complaints, promising that it would change its advertising tools to limit the ability of some groups to target people based on race, gender, age, and other categories.

While cvil rights groups support these changes, they say that Facebook is really late to addressing these issues and must work to seriously enforce the ban it has finally put in place.

“It’s definitely a positive change, but you have to look at it in context, which is that this is something they should have been doing from the get-go,” David Brody, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Motherboard. “How much credit do you get for doing the thing you were supposed to do in the first place?”

Police say ‘no credible’ threat to far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson from Dundee

Tommy Robinson
Tommy Robinson

Remember FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

Facebook says it will now block white-nationalist, white-separatist posts

March 27 at 1:00 PM

Facebook said Wednesday that it will begin banning posts, photos and other content that reference white nationalism and white separatism, revising its rules in response to criticism that a loophole had allowed racism to thrive on its platform.

Previously, Facebook had prohibited users from sharing messages that glorified white supremacy — a rhetorical discrepancy in the eyes of civil rights advocates who argued that white nationalism, supremacy and separatism are indistinguishable and that the policy undermined the tech giant’s stepped-up efforts to combat hate speech online.

Facebook now agrees with that analysis. In a blog post announcing the ban on “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism,” the company said, “It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services.” The new policy also applies to Instagram.

The rise and spread of white nationalism on Facebook were thrown into sharp relief in the wake of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, when self-avowed white nationalists used the social networking site as an organizing tool.

The following year, Motherboard, a tech publication owned by Vice, obtained internal documents meant for training and guiding content reviewers that revealed Facebook treated the terms differently: The materials showed that Facebook permitted “praise, support and representation” of white nationalism and white separatism “as an ideology.” The policy drew sharp rebukes from civil rights advocates, who have argued for years that the terms are interchangeable.

Facebook’s decision comes one week after the company made another announcement to appeal to long-standing complaints from civil rights advocates: The company prohibited advertisers from excluding minorities and other protected groups from ads for housing, employment and credit.

While Facebook long had banned white supremacy, the company said in its blog post Wednesday that it “didn’t originally apply the same rationale to expressions of white nationalism and separatism because we were thinking about broader concepts of nationalism and separatism — things like American pride and Basque separatism, which are an important part of people’s identity.”

But conversations over the past three months with civil rights groups and academics led Facebook to rethink its practices, executives wrote. As part of the dialogue, the company reviewed a list of figures and organizations and found overlap between white nationalism, separatism and supremacy.

Civil rights groups applauded the move. “There is no defensible distinction that can be drawn between white supremacy, white nationalism or white separatism in society today,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Wednesday in a statement.

The organization had pushed Facebook for months to change its policies, pointing to pages such as “It’s okay to be white,” which has more than 18,000 followers and has regularly defended white nationalism. Another, called “American White History Month 2,” often posted white-supremacist memes, according to the Lawyers’ Committee. A cached version of the page from late February showed it had more than 258,000 followers before it went offline.

Facebook’s new policy comes as the company continues to struggle to take down other content that attacks people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin and a host of other “protected characteristics.” Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2018, Facebook took action against 8 million pieces of content that violated its rules on hate speech, according to its latest transparency report. Facebook is not legally required to remove this content, but its rules prohibit it.

To help enforce its policies, Facebook has developed and deployed artificial-intelligence tools that can spot and remove content even before users see it. But the technology isn’t perfect, particularly when it comes to hate speech. The company removes only about 50 percent of such posts at the moment users upload them, it said last year. As a result, such content still can go viral on Facebook — a reality the company confronted this month when users continued to upload videos of the mass shooting in New Zealand that left 50 people dead. The shooter specifically sought to target Muslims, authorities said.

To that end, civil rights groups said, Facebook still had considerable work to do to address the spread of hate speech on its platform.

“As we have seen with tragic attacks on houses of worship in Charleston, Pittsburgh, New Zealand, and elsewhere, there are real-world consequences when social media networks provide platforms for violent white supremacists, allowing them to incubate, organize, and recruit new followers to their hateful movements,” Clarke said.

 

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