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October 5, 2018     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 5, 2018
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 5, 2018 PAGE 3.A. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic can- didate running for governor of Florida. By Jackson Richman (JNS) Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Demo- cratic candidate running for governor of Florida, has associated with the radi- cal left-wing group Dream Defenders, whose founder, Phillip Agnew, has ties to Ah- mad Abuznaid, a supporter of the U.S.-designated terrorist group the Popular Front for the:Liberation of Palestine This development comes amid Gillum's opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, attack- ing the Democrat in a TV campaign ad for having"anti- Semites around him," such as welcoming the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) during the Florida Muslim Capitol Day in 2016, an annual gathering of ap- proximately 200 statewide Muslim leaders and activists. Gillum promptly respond- ed to DeSantis's accusation by labeling the congressman as "unstable." In September 2014, Gil- lum posted a picture of himself and Agnew, along with the caption, "Could not be prouder of Phillip Agnew and [Miami City Commission Chairman] Keon Hardemon." Four years beforehand, Gillum wished Abuznaid, a co-founder of Dream De- fenders, a happy birthday on Facebook. During a Democratic gu- bernatorial primary forum, Gillum gave a shout-out to Dream Defenders, citing their demonstration at the Florida State Capitol build- ing in July 2013 in response to the acquittal of neigh- borhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old African-Ameri- can Trayvon Martin. "There are two of us here on this stage from Tallahas- see, and I was proud to be the only one. When you all slept in for 30 days on the cold, hard marble floors of the state capitol, I was pleased and proud to sneak food into you every night so you could eat," said Gillum. "To stand up for you and to stand beside you because you all have been standing in the gap on behalf of marginalized communities, shaking up the political process, having politicians across this state run scared because they are afraid of your power." "And I hope you keep at it, good luck," he added. Race for key battleground state heats up The accusations against the Gillum come as the race for governor of the key battleground state heats up as the November elections near. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Gillum has a 4.5 percentage point lead over DeSantis in a state with a high percentage of Jewish residents. The campaign has also drawn national attention. Gillumhas been the favorite of progressive wing of the Democratic Party backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sand- ers, while DeSantis, a three- term congressman and Iraq War veteran, has been a fervent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has strongly backed the president's pro-Israel record. However, the DeSantis campaign has made head- lines as well. The candidate has been accused of accept- ing $20,000 from a pro-Israel Republican donor who tweet- ed that President Obama was a "MUSLIM n*gger." Although the campaign denounced the rhetoric, it returned all but $2,000 of the contribution. Meanwhile, controversial left-wing megadonor George Soros, who has funded anti- Israel groups such as Break- ing the Silence, B'Tselem, Yesh Din and al-Haq, has contributed $1.2 million to Gillum's PAC. The Dream Defenders, founded in 2012 and whose members volunteered and fundraised for Gillum's pri- mary campaign, advocates for the anti-Israel narrative, including the BDS move- ment, exemplifying the trend of black anti-Semitism in the United States. The organization has la- beled Israel as a "continued settler colonial project" whose treatment of the Palestinians is similar to an "apartheid" nation. Without acknowledging Hamas fre- quently launching rockets from schools and other civil- ian centers from Gaza into Israel, while using women and children as human shields, Dream Defenders has accused Israel of devel- oping "its latest military weaponry by attacking the civilian population of Gaza." Agnew, whose name is now Umi Selah, has par- ticipated in multiple trips to the disputed territories over the past few years, led by Abuznaid, who claimed that these delegations are to "build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation." During a January 2015 trip, Dream Defenders met with Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS move- ment, and Diana Buttu, who served in the Palestine Lib- eration Organization during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, when the PLO perpetrated attacks against Israelis on buses, and in restaurants and other public places. The delegation also met with artist Ayed Arafah in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, which is recognized as a PFLP camp. "Andrew Gillum's associa- tion with the Dream Defend- ers, a group that views Israel as an apartheid state and glo- rifies the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is deeply disturbing," Stephen Lawson, communications director for Ron DeSantis, told JNS. "Mayor Gillum has said himself that he 'could not be prouder' of Phillip Agnew, the co-founder of Dream Defenders." "Ron DeSantis will con- tinue to fight for Israel and stand up to anti-Semites," said Lawson. "Apparently, Andrew Gillum will not." However, a Gillum cam- paign spokesman accused the DeSantis campaign of desperation in its latest attacks. "There Ron DeSantis goes again, lying to voters in a desperate attempt to save his campaign," a campaign spokesperson told JNS. "Ron DeSantis is running from his record of voting to take away pre-existing condition protections for Floridians and more devastating revela- tions about his campaign's troubling ties to white su- premacists and neo-Nazis. "Fortunately, the people of Florida are rejecting the Trump-DeSantis brand of politics and are rallying be- hind Mayor Giilum's vision of a state," continued the spokesperson, "where health care is affordable, education is funded, and wages are rising." Scorn and pushback from pro-Israel groups This latest development surrounding Gillum has earned scorn and push back from some pro-Israel groups and individual members of the American Jewish com- munity. The Middle East Forum's Oren Litwin told JNS that Gillum's connection to the Dream Defenders cannot be ignored. "The Dream Defenders openly and repeatedly sup- ports the murderous Le- ninist terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, going so far as to call them 'heroes' in [its] Blacked Out His- tory curriculum. [Its] com- mitment to the boycott of Israel is so deep that it is willing to fracture the Black Lives Matter movement over it and alienate Jewish supporters," he said. "It is astounding that Mayor Gil- lure would associate with such an organization; he needs to speak out against the normalization of hatred under cover of civil-rights activism and reject the sup- port of Dream Defenders." Former Democratic strate-~ gist Peter Waldheim voiced concern with Gillum and the far-left trend in his party. "Andrew Gillum isn't the kind of candidate I would support," he told JNS. "I have long been worried about the growth of extreme-left influences in the Democratic Party." "Right now, there's no question that the leftist- most wing of the Democratic Party has the energy on its side," he added. "But there's also no question that the majority of Democrats don't hold those political prefer- ences themselves." However, electoral analyst Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of "Inside Elec- tions," told JNS that Gillum could win despite his labels. "I think Gillum can win because he's a Democrat in a competitive state in a Democratic-leaning year," said Gonzales. "He might win in spite of his ideology, not because of it." Neff Strauss, the digital director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, told JNS that Gillum is enabling hate through his support of Dream Defenders. "The people of Florida deserve better than the values that the Dream De- fenders embrace," Strauss said. "Anyone who affiliates with such a hateful group is enabling hate." Ron Klein, chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, told JNS that despite the Dream Defenders' anti-Israel activ- ism, Gillum supports the Jewish state. "I've personally known Andrew Gillum for many years, and we have talked at length about his support for Israel and the local interests of the Jewish community. He understands the impor- tance of Israel, and the rela- tionship between the Jewish state and the Sunshine State," he said. "One of the things that he is interested is to build more business opportunities between our communities." Klein continued, saying "as far as the Dream De- fenders, specifically, [he] was interested in their work on criminal-justice reform, which is avery important is- sue, and disagrees with them when it comes to Israel." WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Two-thirds of Democrats in the Senate and a third of the entire body signed a letter to President Donald Trump urg- inghim to reinstate assistance to the Palestinians, saying the cuts risk exacerbating tensions in the region. "Eliminating funds for programs that provide clean water, food, education, and medical services for Palestin- ians will exacerbate poverty, fuel extremism, further re- duce the chance of a future peace agreement and threaten Israel's security," said the let- ter sent Friday and signed by 34 senators who caucus with the Democrats. Trump's cuts, penalizing Palestinians for backing away from efforts to revive Israeli- Palestinian peace talks, in- clude $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and $300 million in contributions to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The letter noted that Con- gress authorized the assis- tance and that it does not go directly to the Palestinian Authority. "We are deeply concerned that your strategy of attempt- ing to force the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table by withholding humani- tarian assistance from women and children is misguided and destined to backfire," the let- ter said. "Your proposed cuts would undermine those who seek a peaceful resolution and strengthen the hands of Hamas and other extrem- ists in the Gaza Strip, as the humanitarian crisis there worsens." The letter was supported by J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group. "By exacerbating the humanitar- ian nightmare in Gaza, these cuts promote instability and increase the security threat to Israelis," the group said in a statement. The letter was initiated by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md Diane Feinstein, D-Calif and Chris Coons D-Del. Jewish signatories include Feinstein, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. Signatories believed to be contemplating presidential runs include Sanders, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California. WASHINGTON (JTA)--A letter from 55 U.S. House of Representatives Repub- licans to President Donald Trump asks him to direct the State Department to allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birth country on their passport. "Despite the progress in moving the embassy, the State Department has not yet fully implemented the administration's policy of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital for purposes of registration of birth, cer- tification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem," said the letter sent Sept. 17. The letter was released to media on Friday by Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y who initiated it with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. Previous administrations have resisted allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to list "Israel" as their birth country, saying that it would be de facto rec- ognition of Israel's claim to the city. The Supreme Court in 2015 upheld the executive branch's right to maintain that policy, although Congress in 2002 passed a law requiring the State Department to allow listing "Israel." Trump in December recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and in May moved the U.S. embassy to the city.