Getting to Yes

This appeared in the Jerusalem Post July 11th 2017

Many in the pundit world are scoffing at Jared Kushner’s brief trip to the region to meet with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Thinking that the administration is on a fool’s errand they have mocked them for their perceived naivety in wading into a perilous conflict.

They ridicule their lack of plan or progress and roll their eyes at the official readouts of the meetings with the leaders.

It’s important to remember that the President does not need to spend time or political capital doing this.  Mr. Trump can make a difference in the lives of millions scarred by decades of conflict. It serves no one to mock him or his team in their efforts. Looking at the outcomes of the latest trip, Mr. Kushner and Greenblatt did not leave empty handed. In each official account there exists the same operative statement:

“The United States officials and (Israeli/Palestinian) Leadership underscored that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.”

Both parties agreed publically to do everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking. Since the collapse of the previous rounds of talks, the effort of both leaderships has been to find reasons why the other is undermining the environment to peace building rather then trying to build such an environment themselves.

The Palestinians point to the creation of a new settlement deep in the West Bank and the continued growth of existing settlements. The Israelis point to the new dedication of a square in Jenin named for martyrs who killed Israeli civilians and the continuation of the incentives offered to those who attack Israelis through the martyrs fund.

Each claim to be held hostage by their political realities and the Americans get lost in the minute details trying to find wins amongst the ongoing wreckage.

Rather then going down the rabbit hole of previous efforts, the Trump administration should utilize the love for the President in Israel, and the curiosity of him in Palestine to find positive ways to lessen the incredulity of the average Israeli and Palestinian to the peace process itself. People simply don’t believe its possible, so there is no pressure on their leaderships to step outside of their comfort zone.

Belief is created through a change of facts on the ground and by shifting attitudes.  The fault line in the land for peace formula is that each side gives the other what they don’t want. While Israel’s leaders have spoken about their desire for peace, no land has been transferred from Israeli to Palestinian control in the West Bank since before 2000. While the Palestinian security cooperation has lessened violence, a culture of peace has not followed in the way that many Israelis believe necessary for a true peace to come.

The US Administration managed to get the Israeli cabinet to agree to some transfers of area C to PA control, and should continue focusing on getting real wins for those on the ground who believe land for peace is just a mirage. Simultaneously, a process needs to start that goes further then just a tri-lateral committee against incitement, where each side goes to the referee if they believe they have been maligned. A culture of peace is something that both sides want, and know is essential if they are not to bequeath this conflict to their grandchildren.

In other successfully resolved conflicts success can be seen not just through the reduction of violence, but from how optimistic the younger generation are about their attitudes to the other. Despite the stereotypes of the Oslo years, there was never a serious attempt on the civic side of the peace building equation, for each people to get to know the other and build a different reality together. As the populations got younger, they have become more distant and more distrustful of each other.

If Mr. Kushner and Greenblatt are serious about getting the parties to yes they need to create the political space for the leadership to take risks. Creating positive facts on the ground while draining the swamp of hate should be the twin pillars of their strategy.

The importance of President Trump’s political capital in making the ultimate deal

This appeared as the main print Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post on May 9th 2017

With Jeremy Saltan 

Despite the time, effort, and attention of the Obama administration, Israelis never trusted President Obama. No matter the level of security assistance, Israelis just did not like him and felt that he ignored public opinion. When trying to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, trust, fondness and respecting Israeli public opinion matters. Given the current global and regional security dynamic, Israel likely would have to take significant risks to agree to change the status quo. Any future final-status agreement would require that Israel reduce the access the IDF currently maintains within the West Bank/Judea & Samaria.

Israeli public opinion polling shows Israelis agree to make adjustments to the status-quo in three potential scenarios. A) If Israelis believe their security will increase after a deal is made because the threat emanating from the Palestinians will decrease. B) If Israelis believe they could place themselves in a worse position by saying no to a potential deal. C) If Israelis believe they will be more secure because there is an opportunity to enjoy a security pact with a world superpower. This requires a peacemaker they like and trust.

Israelis do not believe that a deal with the Palestinians will make them safer, and public opinion is trending downward. The latest poll conducted by Professor Mina Tzemech for the Jerusalem Center on Public Affairs found that support for the Clinton Parameters is the lowest on record with only 29% supporting. That number drops to 18% if the deal does not include full Israeli security control of the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. It becomes even more complicated with the non-security-based elements of the Clinton Parameters as just 10% of Israelis support the transfer of the Temple Mount to Palestinian sovereignty.

While support for the Clinton parameters is at a historic low, desire for American involvement has increased strongly under President Trump. Israelis were asked if they could rely more on a settlement with the Palestinians under President Obama or under President Trump. 54.3% of Israelis responded they would rely more on President Trump’s involvement compared to 16.3% who responded Obama. A great majority of Israelis, 74%, answered that it is important the Americans are involved in any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

While Israelis clearly trust President Trump more than his predecessor his word is not enough. He will need to take action. His word only brings 31% to support a withdrawal from the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. However, if a final-status deal came with a guaranteed security pact with the United States, 51% of Israelis would agree to the Clinton Parameters. With his current approval ratings in Israel a narrow majority of Israelis believe that under President Trump a US security pact is strong enough to overcome their security fears of what a final-status agreement would require.

President Trump clearly has the political capital needed to make major progress towards the ultimate deal that he desires. He is in a better position than his predecessors. His unpredictable style also makes the 60% of Israelis who believe that the US-Israel special relationship is central to Israel’s security wonder what the President who is chasing the ultimate deal would do if Israel is the one who says no.

Starting from this strong position, President Trump’s trip to Israel is a key opportunity to increase his political capital so he can move closer to his goal. In addition to meeting politicians he needs to bring his case to the Israeli people with an approach that takes their public opinion into account. Prime Minister Netanyahu learned from his defeat in 1999 what it means to have a difficult relationship with a popular US president in the eyes of the Israeli public. President Trump’s challenge will be to show the Israeli people that they have placed their trust in someone who will not abandon them without cause and lives up to his commitments. In addition President Trump needs to show the Palestinians that he can move the ball meaningfully forward in a way that changes their day-to-day reality. Undoubtedly, this will be a difficult act to pull off.

Hope is a scarce commodity among the communities that have experienced failure for decades. Only 10.1% of Palestinians and 24.8% of Israelis expected President Trump to try his hand at restarting negotiations according to the latest joint polling. Given that few believed President Trump would attempt this so early, if at all, he suffers from none of the high expectations that followed President Obama into office. While it would gall many on the left that it could be President Trump who makes the ‘ultimate deal’, it would be a grave mistake and counterproductive for them to mock his efforts.

Despite the lowered expectations, no one should doubt President Trump’s commitment given he has chosen to visit both the Israelis and the Palestinians as part of his first international trip. When President Trump arrives in the region his mission will be to show that he has Israel’s back and that an eventual deal between Israeli and Palestinian people is possible. The data show he starts in a far stronger position than those who came before him. It is in the interest of everyone that we wish the President of the United States of America the best of luck.

 

We need to have a conversation about DAF’s in the Jewish Community

This first appeared in Ha’aretz April 29th 2017

Over the past year or so, stories of Jewish donor-advised funds blocking grants have started to appear. These moves by the Jewish community are both hypocritical and self-destructive. To understand why, it is important to understand what a donor-advised fund is.

 
If you had to guess what was the highest grossing non-profit in America by revenues received, a hospital, a university or major aid organization would probably top your list. But you would be wrong. The top receipt in 2016 was Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, a sponsor of donor-advised funds (DAF).

 
DAF’s are one of the biggest changes in the non-profit landscape and the Jewish community has been getting involved in the DAF business for a long time. DAFs are a tool in which a donor can transfer the totality of their charitable giving into a fund and get the tax benefit immediately. They then make recommendations to the fund on which registered charities they wish the fund to give to, and the grant is made on their recommendation.

 
By getting the Jewish donors to direct their giving through Jewish communal funds or the federation system, the established community maintains a link with major contributors and has the opportunity to pitch issues the Jewish community cares about.
When a donor uses a DAF they realize that they cannot utilize the funds to fulfill personal pledge commitments or buy tickets to galas or charity auctions. They also know that their recommended beneficiary must be a legal non-profit that does everything above board. Apart from that, the donors assume that the money is theirs to give where they choose.
While the vast majority of DAFs respect the recommendations of the donor, it appears they are not under any obligation to do so as events on the West Coast this past year have shown. In San Francisco, the Federation blocked donors from giving grants to American Friends Service Committee on the basis of guidelines on BDS that were passed after the donors had set up their DAF. In Los Angeles a grant to IfNotNow was blocked given their hostility to Jewish Institutions.

 
The hypocrisy and self-destructive nature of these moves cannot be stressed enough.
Blocking these donations is hypocritical as they only apply to the left of the political spectrum, but not the right. If you support BDS or the goal of a single democratic state, you will be denied a platform and the donors who have placed their resources within the community will be prevented from supporting you. If however you support annexation, settlement or groups that attack equal rights for Israel’s citizens, there is no platform or funding test. In the case of San Francisco, a grant was made to the Hebron Fund even though it was shown to give a stipend to a Jewish terrorist.

 
The blocks are also self-destructive as donors have the choice to remove their funds and go to a fund like Fidelity or any of the thousands of other hosting agencies for DAFs that have none of the hang-ups of the Jewish community. The opportunity to move ones money elsewhere means that the Jewish community does not have the luxury of being the only provider of DAF’s to add politics into the mix.

 
The Jewish community DAFs are one of the few places left where both the right and left of the community use the same resources. It bonds the donor to the Jewish community as they see it as their gateway to giving to Jewish and non-Jewish causes allowing them to express their Jewish values in their largesse. The desire to control where donors can and can’t place their philanthropic dollars will kill this public commons to the detriment of us all as the community will lose one of the last elements of the institutional glue holding back the partisanship.

 
There is a way to save the public commons and keep Jewish donors using Jewish mechanisms for their giving but it requires a shift from control to conversation. On the right or on the left, the donor community will never accept a committee telling them where they can or can’t place their gifts (as long as they are a legitimate charity). Rather then demanding control, the Jewish DAFs should require that donors engage in conversation with each other if they wish to make grants that the fund feels is not within the mainstream of the majority of donors. This should be applied evenly on the right and the left. This can be through the same committee structure that is currently blocking grants. We need to move our mind-set from control to education.

 
Being invited to explain why you wish to support a group, with the express understanding that the grant will be made in any case, utilizes the fund as a platform for dialogue and conversation between our fractured community and keeps everyone invested in it. Donors enjoy the opportunity to evangelize about their chosen causes and the conversation that comes out of these discussions can keep difficult conversations within a common space, something that we are losing.

 
The Jewish communal funds are things that are worth saving. To do so we need to remember our communities strength is not a monolithic approach, but a vibrant never ending passionate conversation, one that we all can be invested in.

Establishing a Culture of Peace

This appeared on Times of Israel and Matav Blog

As with any insider view, Michael Herzog’s eye opening account of what happened during the last round of Israeli Palestinian negotiations contains fascinating details.

There is a confirmed backchannel of Dennis Ross, Isaac Molho and Hussein Agha. We learn of what turned out to be a confusing shuttle diplomacy strategy by the Americans. The timeline of the collapse is clarified and the internal discussions of the Israeli side are revealed in greater depth.

As commentators and analysts go through the details, deducing lessons for future efforts, much attention will be paid to the mistakes in process and the reality of the gaps in the positions.

In the zone of possible agreement section, Herzog gives the readers a glimpse of where the parties were on key issues. Much was already suspected. He goes through the question of Jewish State, something that Kerry would later publicly pick up in his last speech on the issue, telling the world that there had been progress made on a regional level on this issue. He details the security work that General Allen’s team undertook, something that the Commanders for Israel’s Security and the Center for a New American Security later spelled out in greater detail. The refugee question got updated to include the plight of Jews from Arab lands (though the conversations were never concluded) and Jerusalem was punted.

All of this was pretty much suspected if not known by the end of the Obama administration. Yet Herzog finishes his account of the possible agreement with a surprising final line.

“Finally, a new section initiated by Tzipi Livni on the “Culture of Peace” was introduced.”

Herzog offers no analysis or explanation but a footnote to an interview that Livni held with David Horowitz, the editor of the Times of Israel, in September 2014.

Towards the end of the interview Livni revealed that there was agreed text of what a culture of peace should look like. Below is the full part of the interview.

That’s not my point. What I’m asking is why you haven’t focused on the centrality of the need to put an end to the incitement against Israel, and to create a more honest narrative?

You’re wrong. I suggested at the start of the negotiations (in 2013) that we finalize the clause relating to the so-called “Culture of Peace” in the future agreement. First of all, implementing that clause need not wait for a full agreement. Let me see if I can find you the text. (Livni searches in her i-Pad.) It has been a while. I’m not talking here about the bilateral committees on incitement, where each side ran to complain about the other. This is something (we worked on) with Abu Mazen, which did not get implemented but which I really think has to be done.

We also need to look at ourselves. I’m Israeli. I want to protect Israel. That’s my chief interest. But to say that our texts…

… and our maps that don’t show the West Bank. No, we’re not perfect.

Or describing the Palestinians as “shrapnel in the butt” (a reference to Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s likening of the Palestinian conflict last year to shrapnel in the rear end — DH).

So, I’m very much in favor of the Palestinians being okay, but we should be too. And one doesn’t contradict the other. Both sides have to be okay. (Livni finds a document and shows it to me on her i-Pad.) This was a text on civil society and the culture of peace. It was meant to be part of any agreement. Here we set out…

Can I have a copy of this?

 No, there’s a limit. (She laughs.) But you can look. You can see there are clauses against “supporting incitement.” A whole section… (The section of the document Livni shows me deals with preventing racism and discrimination, and features language highlighting the imperative to “promote mutual understanding, tolerance and respect.”)

If you implement steps like these, it might be gradually possible to help create a different atmosphere.

I wanted to do it simultaneously. Not to halt everything. I thought it could be implemented. That didn’t happen. 

Again, surely he should have an interest in implementing this.

Who do you mean by “he”? 

The leader you’re not representing in this interview.

(Livni laughs.) And you’re assuming that he’s the one who refused? Look, it didn’t happen. You know what, it didn’t happen. We immediately also got into the core issues. I suggested it to the Americans.

This “Culture of Peace” proposal also included clauses relating to incitement by religious leaders, media…?

Everything. Everything. Actually, I think we had an agreed text. I’ll check again. Had we extended the talks (last spring), I think we were going to implement it during the extended negotiations. But we didn’t reach an agreement to extend the negotiations.

I think it’s something that should be implemented anyway. I’m telling you, I suggested it at the very beginning.”

One of the challenges of the negotiations between Israel and the PLO has always been that ‘nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon’. The linkage means that incremental process is invalidated unless a final deal is achieved. This keeps key concessions locked away until every part of the deal is worked out so it can be sold to both populations as a package deal.

Yet the problems that a deal will solve metastasize in its absence, making compromises harder and harder to reach. The most obvious and well known is that of settlements. The longer there is no agreement on borders the more that settlements grow, making it harder to generate the political will to pull back by creating new facts on the ground.

While the settlements are a physical manifestation of a barrier to progress, no less significant is the fear, mistrust and hate that the conflict has generated between the populations. While the power balance between Israelis and Palestinians is asymmetric, the mistrust and fear is equal. If political will is needed to open the space to get to an agreement between the parties, then the agreement of creating a culture of peace cannot wait until a full agreement is signed. It is needed as a necessary precondition.

Livni in her interview recognizes this, stating that this clause should be implemented anyway.

With the collapse of the negotiations, the Quartet report of July 2016 became the next key document to lay out a way forward. The final recommendation of the report requested that,

“Both parties should foster a climate of tolerance, including through increasing interaction and cooperation in a variety of fields – economic, professional, educational, cultural – that strengthen the foundations for peace and countering extremism.”

Since then legislators in the US and UK have advanced a concept of an International Fund for Israeli Palestinian Peace, whose aim would be to actualize a strategic, scalable attempt to create a culture of peace through dedicated funding. It is based off the successful International Fund for Ireland. Later this month the United States Institute of Peace is holding a half-day conference on the lessons that can be learnt between the two funds. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who oversaw the Good Friday agreement and was the Quartet representative for many years, has endorsed this idea.

What these efforts toward the fund realize is that one of the consequences from previous failures has been an incredulity gap that now exists between the two peoples. If this cannot be bridged, Israelis and Palestinians will continue to drift further apart, making any deal politically impossible for the parties to sign. The ‘culture of peace’ work is needed to ensure that the populations move their leaders closer together, rather than drive them further apart.

With the revelation that there is agreed upon text out there, it should be released and form the basis for the proposed fund to sit upon. While borders, Jerusalem, security, refugees and the other final status suffer from a linkage that makes them rise and fall together, it is never too early to start the excruciating, necessary work of trying to break the barriers of mistrust and hate. While a culture of peace cannot survive in the absence of a political horizon, a political horizon cannot be created without a population who believes that peace is possible.

Nervous Times for Jews in America

This post appeared in the Jerusalem Post February 7th 2017

Over the past month, there have been 57 bomb threats to 48 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) around the United States. Jewish infants sleep at our JCCs in daycare, our toddlers learn their first Hebrew letters in the JCC classrooms, our children attend camps held across the JCC network and our community comes together to learn within the JCC halls. The JCC movement has been the beating heart of the American Jewish experience, and it is now under terrorist threat, yet no one outside the Jewish community seems to care much.

At the largest civil rights marches in the past twenty years, the women’s march did not mention the threats to the Jewish community during the intersectional speeches given on the National Mall. The Trump administration has been silent in the face of hundreds of Jews being evacuated on almost a weekly basis from their community centers.

Outside of the bomb threats, we have had Neo-Nazi marches planned against a Jewish community in Whitefish, Montana, swastikas pop up across the New York mass transportation system, and a shul in Chicago’s windows smashed in. A sense of anxiety has crept into the American Jewish community that the hard won safety of US Jewry might be shifting.

American Jews, unlike their European counterparts, have, since around the 1960s, considered themselves as part of the white majority. When I arrived in the US five years ago from the UK, I was surprised when my wife told me to tick the white box on the ethnic surveys that I had to fill out on various government forms. Growing up in the UK I, like most other European Jews I knew, had always ticked the other box on the census and written in ‘Jewish’ in the space provided.

The otherness of European Jewry was not controversial. We did not suffer persecution from the government for not being part of the majority. It was just how things were. You knew that those in the majority saw you as different, and you made your peace with it or you left. I enjoyed full and equal treatment in the UK as a British-Jew, and also suffered from some anti-Semitism, but generally enjoyed life as a minority group.

In the US, the integration of the American Jewish community into the majority of the US population was a shining achievement of the community. Joe Lieberman as a vice-presidential nominee was seen as the height of integration and no one saw Sen. Bernie Sanders’s faith as something that would be questionable in his campaign- if anything, his lack of religiosity was called into question. The hyphenated identity of all US Citizens, being a nation of immigrants, allowed the Jewish-American to be just as American as the Italian-American or the Irish-American.

Yet with the steady beat of the neo-Nazi ‘alt-right’ within the 2016 election campaign and the nativist appeals that undergirded President Trump’s win, the question of the place of American-Jews within the fabric of US society seemed to open up again. Op-Eds on if Jews were white started to appear, much to the glee of racists like David Duke and Richard Spencer. Just days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration the bomb threats started and the anxiety started to grow.

As Jews were feeling a little nervous, the women’s march came and as I watched the power of millions of American’s marching, I was a little annoyed that the threats to the JCCs somehow were left out of the many speeches going through the various challenges minorities were facing in this new era. It felt like a betrayal of solidarity and an extension of the campus debates of whether the Jewish experience fitted into the intersectional struggle.

Yet this nervousness changed to fear during the embarrassing and shambolic episode of the White House’s handling of the Holocaust Memorial Day statement. I was not particularly upset by the administration’s oversight in leaving Jews out of their statement, mistakes happen. But when called out on it the administration went out of their way to insult and denigrate everyone who disagreed with them. The White House chief of staff first came out saying that ‘everyone suffered in the Holocaust.’ I am not sure how Mr. Priebus’s family suffered, but my grandparents, who came over to the UK as part of the Kindertrasport while their families were murdered, suffered a little more than the general population at the time.

After the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA) and the Republican Jewish Committee (RJC) issued gentle criticism of the statement, Sean Spicer, the White House Press secretary called ZOA and the RJC “pathetic”. Mr. Spicer’s defense was that the author was Jewish, or as Saturday Night Live put it, “the guy who wrote the statement was super-Jewy, so back off.”

The idea that if a Jewish member of staff has written something it is immune from complaint demonstrates the fallacy in believing that Mr. Trump’s Jewish picks will protect us from his neo-Nazi white nationalist supporters.

As US Jews attempt to come to terms with the changing environment we should be aware that we do have allies. The state representatives in Montana came out in support of the community against the neo-Nazis, passengers riding in the cars cleaned off the graffiti on the subway in New York, and the Chicago catholic diocese pledged solidarity with the Chicago Loop Synagogue that was attacked.

Yet for this nervous moment to pass we need both our government, and the resistance to it, to recognize that American Jews are feeling a little frightened right now and some kind words and solidary are needed sooner rather then later.

My Immigration Story

This post first appeared in Haaretz and then the Forward

My grandfather Joe was 14 when he left Fulda and my grandmother Ruth was 11 when she left Leipzig as part of the 10,000 members of the Kindertransport that left Germany for the U.K. They arrived with nothing.

I was thinking of them this week in the furor of President Donald Trump’s executive orders and as I came to the end of my own immigration story. On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, I, Joel Braunold, became a U.S. citizen.

Having lived in the States for the past five years on a student visa, then a Green Card, the anxiety that the new administration has created for foreign nationals in the U.S. has been extreme. It is not simply, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, an inconvenience or a delay to Green Card holders at the airports. Reports of people being coerced to give up their residency rights, orders that indicate that if a removable alien is charged with a crime (not convicted) that they will be deported, spread anxiety and terror amongst a community that has already been extremely vetted.

To understand the cruelty of what started this weekend, I wanted to share my own immigration story so that those who have not been through the process can understand the seriousness of what currently is taking place.

I have lived as a Green Card holder in the United States for the past four years. Before that I was a student on an F1 visa for nine months and before that I came and went on the visa waiver program as I was dating my future wife, Jorie, over a two year period (staying for a few days or a week every two to three months). While we were dating, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was suspicious that I was trying to live in the U.S. (I was not) and a note was placed on my file. I was subject to secondary processing a few times when I came to the States, often for hours. I was told that despite the fact that it was clear I had never overstayed my visa (or even got close to doing it), the note was in my file and would be there forever. When I applied for my student visa during my interview in London in 2011, this note almost led to the rejection of my application. The officer went through every one of my stays and saw that I was telling the truth and issued my F1. As an F1 I attended graduate school, having to go to Israel for my grandfather’s funeral, and went back to the U.K. once or twice. I got married as an F1 and started the process of applying for my Green Card. Getting the card took three months, lawyers, around 200 pages of evidence and applying for parole to leave and work (which were granted) that allowed me to leave the country and work while I waited. I received my temporary Green Card (for two years) and would receive my full Green Card on the condition that Jorie and I stayed married, paid taxes, informed the government of where I was living and did not get into any legal trouble.

After two years, I hired the same lawyers, and ten months later I got my full Green Card. Five months after receiving it I was eligible to apply to be a U.S. citizen based on three years of marriage with my Green Card. The process took nineteen months, the bulk of the time on an FBI name-check that took over a year to clear. I had to count every day out of the country I had spent to ensure I had not been outside as a collective for more then six months and list every charity or group I had ever belonged to. Given my Middle East travel they felt the need to do further checks on me. I got a second set of biometric prints, did my interview where they told me they could not confirm if I was eligible as they had not had time to read my file (which by then looked like something out of Kafka, it was maybe 15 inches thick). I had, by this point, submitted for my citizenship application almost 500 pages of evidence.

Six weeks after my interview I was informed that my oath ceremony will take place on January 31st.

Now all of the above took five years, cost around $3,500 (excluding lawyers) and in my view was totally fair. U.S. citizenship is a wonderful privilege and the U.S. should not just give it out willy-nilly. It was an intense, very stressful process. It created a level of status anxiety that U.S. citizens can’t imagine. Even Jorie would, from time to time, tease me about being so cautions or too worried, but I knew that any screw up and it was over.

Given the extreme vetting that is already in place, the wait times, the cost, the evidence required (for starters), what the administration subjected Green Carders to was horrendous. These are people who have been vetted and checked. They are allowed to travel unlimitedly – conditional that they don’t spend more then six months out of the country. Folks who have waited years for this freedom just had it removed. Some are separated from their families and lives as they were traveling on business, on family issues or for any other reason. They will have to wait on a case-by-case wavier that who knows how long it could take.

Trump’s order also affects F1 students who travelled home, J1 holders, professors and post-docs and every single foreign national from those countries who are not on diplomatic visas. Reading the order, the list of countries can be added to at his or discretion. We have no way of knowing if the list will be broadened in the next 90 days and a whole class of documented foreign nationals will find themselves in limbo.  At my oath ceremony I was sworn in alongside 113 other new citizens. Even for a naturally cynical born-and-bred Londoner, it was a deeply moving occasion. When the officer conducting the ceremony did a roll call of the countries represented smiles broke out amongst all of us as Iraq, Sudan and Yemen were read out and the citizens of those states stood.

The ceremony itself featured videos and speeches reminding us of the diversity of America, its creed of welcoming its arms to those seeking liberty, the ingathering of the exiles of the world which forms the bedrock of America’s civic-patriotism. We 114 were the newest members of a covenant that truly makes America great and is the keystone of American exceptionalism.

After receiving our certificates of naturalization collectively we 114 new citizens of the United States all performed our first civic act. We exited the double doors of the auditorium and, one by one, registered to vote.