Should Politicians Be Able to Block Critics on Twitter?

A US Appeals Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that it is unconstitutional for Trump to block critics on Twitter. The ruling cements the status of the presidential Twitter account as an “official” presidential platform. Does this mean AOC will also have to stop blocking trolls on Twitter?

Trump’s Twitter account isn’t his private property or a government-controlled space. It’s something else: property controlled by Twitter Inc. Consider that neither Trump nor anyone else has free reign to say absolutely anything on a Twitter feed. Twitter has rules for content moderation — and those trump even Trump.

The idea that Trump’s motive in tweeting is to provide a forum for a robust exchange of ideas is the legal fiction to end all legal fictions. And even if @realDonaldTrump is classified as an official presidential platform, the Supreme Court has held that “government speech” doesn’t create a public forum. Otherwise Trump’s critics would be entitled to equal time at his news conferences.

He routinely announces personnel and policy decisions there. And he does it not only with his own two plump thumbs, but with aid of on-the-clock government staffers. As such, the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals rightly ruled, Trump can’t willy-nilly block Twitter users who disagree with him.

When an individual is blocked, as one member of this Editorial Board is, he can’t even see the president’s tweets, short of going through frustrating workarounds.

Is the US-UK “Special Relationship” in Trouble?

Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the US, has resigned in the wake of leaked cables in which he refers to Trump as “insecure” and calls his administration “inept” and “dysfunctional.” Trump said he would no longer work with Darroch, but some see this incident as a troubling picture of bigger issues in the US-UK relationship.

Mr. Darroch’s cables were condescending, but Mr. Trump’s overblown response reminds the world how sensitive to criticism the President is and what a fickle friend he can be.

…the real issue is not the embarrassment caused by the cables, but the true state of the connection between the United States and the UK — which has been called the “special relationship” ever since former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used the phrase in his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946. By almost any measure, that special relationship is now defunct — politically, militarily and economically, even if it still lives on at a vestigial, cultural level.

The real reason Darroch stepped down is more disturbing than Trump’s tantrums: Boris Johnson, a Trump clone likely to replace May as prime minister later this month, refused to support the ambassador. The likely ascendancy of Johnson reflects the astonishing British political parallel to America’s current political dysfunction.

Are Intersectional Politics Breaking Jewish Solidarity?

A number of high-profile left-wing causes have championed “intersectionality” in the past year to the perceived exclusion of Jews and/or Zionists. A new report from the nonprofit organization Reut argues that intersectional politics (which connect the Palestinian issue with American social causes) don’t just exclude Jews, but threaten to break up cohesive Jewish communities. More at Jewish Press.

According to the report, American Jews are often omitted from intersectional spaces, despite a history of standing with African Americans during the civil rights era, because contemporary American Jews are not seen today as marginalized but as privileged… Shayshon said this exclusion of Jews from intersectional spaces is anti-Semitic.

For years, mainstream Jewish institutions have openly struggled over how to reach the younger generation in order to get them to engage in communal Jewish life, as well as to promote a positive Jewish identity. But as these institutions are wringing their hands, younger Jews are being integrated into a Jewish community – one that happens to be anti-Zionist.

Reut Group CEO Eran Shayshon said that, “Since the 2014 Ferguson Uprising, supporting the BDS movement has been widely adopted as a core and prominent threshold for solidarity by several marginalized groups. This challenge makes it increasingly difficult for the Jewish community to build consensus surrounding Israel.”

This growing tendency to disengage from Israel will only exacerbate the identity crisis of American Jewry, further erode communal cohesion and deepen internal fissures, the report warns.

Is Immigration Reform a Jewish Value?

American Jews are leading the charge against practices and conditions at ICE detention centers and U.S. border detainment centers. These activists are citing Jewish history and values as their motivation, but not everyone agrees on what Jewish values should mean.

I am not particularly religious and consider myself a secular Jew, but I cannot deny the impact the teaching of religious leaders in my community has had on me. As Jews, we are taught to question everything, including our own religion. The Talmud is literally the director’s commentary of the Torah: clarifications made to our religious texts as our society, morals, and priorities as a community change. This questioning of even our holiest literature speaks to the strain of forward-thinking progressivism in some Jewish communities.

…what leading Democrats are now proposing in terms of decriminalization and entitlements for illegals goes beyond even the granting of amnesty for those who are already in the country without legal permission. Their stands are now indistinguishable from open borders. The idea that open borders, as opposed to compassionate treatment of immigrants, is somehow consonant with Jewish values or history is pure fiction.

We must reclaim our power as the children of the Holocaust from those who are weaponizing our trauma – those who set up camps against other communities, or those who take “ownership” of our history so we are dissuaded from making the analogy we see with our own eyes.

And so we say: Never Again.

Can Birthright Handle a Little Competition?

Birthright regularly comes under fire for being too “one-sided” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. J-Street, the left-wing Israel lobby, has now launched its own Birthright alternative to take control of the narrative. They aren’t the only ones.

In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish… Adam DeSchriver, 21, a clarinet student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., said he had been wowed on the trip’s first few days by the “renaissance of Hebrew culture” he discovered in Israel.

“What breaks my heart,” he said after Sunday’s eye-opening itinerary, “is seeing it at the expense of others.”

While the debate around Birthright has received significant national attention, there are some Israel tours for college students that are going unnoticed. These trips are led by organizations with explicit right-wing political agendas that have a dangerous potential to affect young US Jews’ understanding of Israel and the occupation in the years to come… What I saw and heard on these tours shocked me. It was reprehensible and even dangerous.

…no, Birthright Israel doesn’t offer “multiple narratives” – students get that from the media, at university, online. And no, Birthright Israel isn’t about the Palestinians – it’s about the Jews. Imagine Birthright Ireland. Would anyone expect its organizers to invite the queen to rationalize why the British were so tough on the Irish? Imagine Birthright South Korea. Would anyone expect to travel north of the 38th parallel to endure a North Korean reeducation camp? So why would anyone expect Birthright Israel to jump-start young Jewish journeys by steeping Jews in the Palestinian narrative rather than our Jewish story? Don’t we have enough catching up to do in 10 days?

Was the Lunar Landing a Hoax?

This month marks fifty years since one of the most significant events in human history – the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing. Why are so many Americans convinced it was a hoax? And could they be right? (Spoiler: not likely).

As with the Kennedy assassination, they formed a new kind of conspiracy theorising.

These theories reinterpret the publicly available evidence, finding inconsistencies in the official record, rather than uncovering suppressed information. Visual evidence is crucial: for all their scepticism, their starting point is that seeing is believing.

I’m not a space travel expert, an engineer or a scientist. I am a filmmaker and lecturer in film post-production, and – while I can’t say how we landed on the moon in 1969 – I can say with some certainty that the footage would have been impossible to fake.

If I’ve learned anything from flat Earthers, Obama birthers, steel beamers, and whatnot, it’s that some people will not be swayed even in the face of insurmountable evidence. You can debate them on TV or on the radio, you can show them pictorial proof, or even let them speak to people involved in the event. It doesn’t matter. They won’t believe you.

Roundtable Extra: Is Trump the Cancer or the Cure?

This week at the Jewish Journal, we present two opposing takes on an issue. America seems to be more divided than ever. Is Trump the cause? Or the cure?

While many had hoped Trumpism would be a relatively benign phenomenon, the hatred, divisiveness and indecency of our current president has proven malignant and metastatic, and the Jewish community has been one of many victims. Some have translated anti-Semitism from Trump’s campaign rhetoric and symbolism into violence, which is why nearly three-quarters of American Jews feel less safe today than before he became president.

Trumpism is an attempt to put into remission, if not cure, what clearly ails the United States.

A shared complaint of both the political left and right in the U.S. is a fear of bullying and betrayal by the federal government, which ignores whom Trump calls the “forgotten men and women” in favor of self-serving multinational corporations, Silicon Valley “masters of the universe” (as Financial Review terms them), elite business leaders plotting at Davos and K Street lobbyists in “The Swamp” — all who promote agendas beyond the common public interest.

Today’s Hot Issues

Should Politicians Be Able to Block Critics on Twitter? Is the US-UK “Special Relationship” in Trouble? Are Intersectional Politics Breaking Jewish Solidarity? Is Immigration Reform a Jewish Value? Can Birthright Handle a Little Competition? Was the Lunar Landing a Hoax? Roundtable Extra: Is Trump the Cancer or the Cure?