Fiscal cliff coverage at

In addition to a long version of “What to watch in 2013: From fiscal cliff to Iran,” which we published in short form in our print edition, we’ve just posted “Jewish umbrella groups fight looming ‘fiscal cliff’ cuts” on our website. Both stories are analyses by JTA’s Washington reporter Ron Kampeas about what Jewish groups are advocating inside the Beltway as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner attempt to strike a grand bargain on looming tax hikes and budget cuts.

Get to know your candidates

We received this information too late to appear in last week’s issue but thought some might be interested in attending a Republican primary congressional debate tonight and a Meet the Candidates evening tomorrow night.

Here are the details:

The Monday night debate is between Travis Grantham and Martin Sepulveda and moderated by William J. Wolf, host of the Middle East Radio Forum.

The debate starts at 7:45 p.m. and will be held at Young Israel of Phoenix. Attendance is free and audience members will get a chance to ask questions.

Tomorrow night, Chabad of Scottsdale will host a Candidates Night at 7:15 p.m. All candidates for the state legislature representing Districts 23 and 28 have been invited to speak briefly about why they are running. The free event will be followed by mingling and light, kosher refreshments.

RSVPs are appreciated but not required.

Sinema’s email chain on ‘demilitarized Palestine’

We’ve obtained an email from someone who identifies himself as Ahmed Al-Sidawi that appears to have been sent July 11 to candidates for the District 9 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Dear candidates,

I have been working with one candidate to educate her on the importance of human rights in Palestine. I would like to open that opportunity for dialogue with all other candidates. Would you be interested to learn the real truth about the Middle East Peace process?  If each candidate can send a one paragraph statement on their position on Palestinian issues, I will work to begin this dialogue. Please e-mail a time and date that work for you to meet with leaders of the Muslim community.


Ahmed Al-Sidawi

Below that note is a string of emails between Al-Sidawi and Kyrsten Sinema, the former Arizona state senator who is running in the Democratic Party’s primary in the district. To make a long story short, Al-Sidawi presses Sinema on her position paper that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What had him up in arms was that her position paper calls for the potential Palestinian state to be demilitarized. He writes: “You talk about how there should be a ‘demilitarized Palestine.’  Please explain – this is no different than saying you cannot have a state for Palestine. This is not acceptable. This is a violation of international law and goes against everything we know is right.”

Multiple emails are exchanged. And in one of her responses to him, Sinema writes: “I have never even used the term demilitarized Palestine, so I have no idea where that came from.”

He presses her for a meeting with the local Palestinian Arab community, saying: “we would like you to remove offensive language from your policy paper. That would include ‘demilitarized’ and it should include a statement that you believe in US ‘neutrality’ as Israel and Palestine negotiate a two-state solution.” Then, he suggests: “We understand if you cannot alter your statement as it is done but we would need private assurance that this is your position – that you disavow the offensive language from your policy paper and that your position, as you said to me, is US neutrality as Israel and Palestine negotiate.”

Her response on June 23, concluded: “Thank you SO much for contacting me. Running a campaign for Congress is busy and difficult, and one relies on staff immensely. I also rely on friends in the community to help ensure that all our materials accurately reflect my opinion. Thank you for being that friend.”

This is where the email stream ends in Al-Sidawi’s missive to the other candidates, which according to the time stamp was sent July 11.

As soon as we obtained this email, we contacted Sinema’s campaign chief, Rodd McLeod, who responded by forwarding an email stream that included all of the above (except for Al-Sidawi’s note to all the candidates) and more communication between Al-Sidawi and Sinema that took place from June 26 through July 11.

McLeod highlighted Sinema’s final note to Al-Sidawi, which is time-stamped 7:21 p.m. July 11, about four hours after Al-Sidawi sent his note to other candidates: “I am eager to hear more from you and the Palestinian and Muslim communities about your perspective.  After researching the issue, I do stand by the terminology used in the position paper and I’m eager to talk about why — and hear your concerns — with the Muslim community.”

So she ultimately said she would not change the position paper, which supported a demilitarized Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution, after Al-Sidawi sent his note to everyone else in the race.

A column she sent to Jewish News regarding Israel and peace efforts was consistent with this stance.

These are the facts — at least as much as can be determined by looking at email chains. But here’s a question to ponder, how did someone like Al-Sidawi, who is clearly seeking a backroom deal with Sinema (that effort to get private assurance regardless of what she put out as a public position paper), become so naive that he sends the whole conversation to her political rivals to help make mincemeat of her?

For the politically minded

This is the election cycle in which new State Legislative and Congressional districts go into effect. There was controversy over whether Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission did the job of reapportionment in a nonpartisan manner or whether it was as partisan in drawing new boundaries as state legislatures have proven to be. Regardless of the kvetching over that issue, the districts are what they are for the present and foreseeable future, so if you’re wondering where the new Congressional District 9 (he subject of our previous staff blog) is or where any of Arizona’s other Congressional or Legislative Districts are, here are some valuable tools.

If you want to know which district you’re in? Go to the district locator. Type in your home address and ZIP and it will tell you.

If you want to see full maps of the various districts, go to the district maps page. The Congressional maps are at the top of the page, and you can download them in jpg or pdf formats or can be accessed via a link to Google! maps. The Legislative maps are lower on the page and available in the same file formats and through Google.

(Can you tell we’re readying our Primary Election Voter’s Guide, which we’ll publish July 27?)

A look at CD 9

While researching the race for the seat in Arizona’s new Congressional District 9 — which features two Jewish candidates, David Schapira and Andrei Cherny — we found this video of a candidates’ forum that lets you hear the views of most of the candidates running.

They don’t discuss foreign policy, such as U.S. policy toward Israel, although there’s some discussion of war and its cost to the economy and how defense cuts might affect our security.

Running on the Democrats’ side are Cherny, Schapira and Kyrsten Sinema. On the Republican side are Lisa Borowsky, Leah Campos Schandlbauer, Travis Grantham, Vernon Parker, Wendy Rogers, Martin Sepulveda and Jeff Thompson. Of these, Borowsky and Campos Schandlbauer did not participate in this forum, hosted by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

The format is a round robin where each candidate has two minutes to answer a specific question. It’s not a debate, so there’s no rebuttal or crossfire. However, because the forum focused on domestic issues, the candidates do  come back to themes that overlap the specific questions they’re being asked and so respond to one another’s arguments in that way.

While the policy views may be polarized, the candidates seem extremely civil in the forum. Issues that are touched upon are resolving the budget deficit and tax policy, the Affordable Care Act, energy, jobs, and specific programs the candidates would cut and specific taxes they would raise to help balance the budget and retire the debt.

It took place June 4, but it’s still relevant as residents of District 9 consider their options in the primary race. Here’s the video. Warning, it’s roughly two hours and six minutes long (there’s about two minutes of a public service announcement at the end of the video), so make sure you have an unhurried chunk of time to view it.

We’ll provide links to more of these videos as we find them during the campaign season.