Daily Kickoff: Leon Black’s media moves | On Israel, Kamala Harris seeks to separate from pack | Pulitzer Prize for Pittsburgh Tree of Life coverage
MEDIA WATCH — Is Leon Black Building the Next Fox News? — by William Cohan: “For Leon Black, as for many other Wall Street moguls, TV represents more than just a pure-play economic opportunity… It is a consolidating industry, which makes it an obvious target for private equity. But Apollo must also know that controlling local television stations brings with it a healthy dollop of power, especially when it comes to statewide political races, such as those for governor or the U.S. Senate. Having a measure of influence over the governor’s house and the U.S. Congress is good for all of Apollo’s businesses across a variety of industries, from chemicals and food to education, natural resources, and media.”
“‘It’s purely economic power,’ one Wall Street veteran said. ‘If you control a bunch of television stations that get senators elected, you have just a bunch of economic power. These guys are economic pirates, and they know that television is what gets senators elected. If you get senators elected, you get laws passed and help every industry you have an investment in.'”
“An Apollo source insisted the firm is not interested in political influence. ‘We’re financial people,’ the source said, adding that Apollo’s stations will ‘have the highest standards’ but in a ‘100 percent nonpartisan way’ — a smart business model, too, since Sinclair, Fox, MSNBC, and CNN are all going the more partisan route.” [VanityFair]
HEARD ON THE ACTUAL FOX NEWS — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during a live Fox News town hall last night: “I will do everything in my power, and I hope that every member of Congress will fight not only antisemitism, but racism and anti-Muslim activity so that we create a non-discriminatory society. But it is not antisemitic to be critical of a right wing government in Israel. That is not antisemitic.” [CNN]
During the televised town hall, Sanders admitted that Omar’s remarks about Israel and AIPAC were out of line and suggested she change the way she addresses the Jewish community. “I think that Ilhan has got to do, maybe, a better job in speaking to the Jewish community,” he told moderator Bret Baier.
Sanders insisted he spoke to Omar “about twice in my life” when the Fox News moderator referred to him as “a staunch supporter of congresswoman Ilhan Omar” also “looking to become the first Jewish president.” [Video]
DRIVING THE CONVO — President Trump and the Republican Party are continuing to hammer Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent remarks about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, prompting Democrats to leap to her defense.
Trump tweeted Monday morning: “Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!”
INBOX ― Democratic Majority for Israel President Mark Mellman said in a statement, “While we have serious disagreements with Congresswoman Omar, President Trump crossed an important line with rhetoric that incites violence and fans the flames of bigotry against Muslims.”
Omar’s allies, meanwhile, are upset that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t done enough to defend the freshman from attacks by President Trump and the Republicans and has undermined their policies and leaders, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Peter Beinart writes… “Ilhan Omar’s Deeply American Message:While Omar should have been more explicit in condemning 9/11 and warning about jihadist radicalization in the United States, she forcefully demanded that Muslims call one another to account… From a Jewish perspective, this too is deeply familiar… Why are American Jews more willing to criticize Israel? In part because they are more secure and thus believe they can do so without inflaming anti-Semitism. Omar was urging Muslims to act with the same self-confidence: If you don’t want to be treated like an outsider in America, don’t act like one.” [TheAtlantic]
HEARD THE OTHER DAY ― Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested that U.S. policy toward Israel should change after Netanyahu’s proposed annexation in an interview on Yahoo News’s ‘Skullduggery’ podcast, hosted by investigative journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, on Sunday:
Isikoff: Prime Minister Netanyahu was just apparently re-elected in Israel right after saying that he intended to annex the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Do you believe this should affect U.S. policy to the State of Israel?
Ocasio-Cortez: “I think so… I think these are part of conversations that we are having in our caucus. I think what we’re really seeing is the ascent of authoritarianism across the world. I think that Netanyahu is a Trump-like figure and I think that we — there are so many ways to approach this issue. [Rep.] Betty McCollum [(DFL-MN)] even has a proposal that she’s advanced asking the U.S. not to fund child detention in – Israeli child detention of Palestinian children. There’s different ways to signal it, I would hope and wish that a diplomatic approach could change — impact policy, it doesn’t all have to be legislative.”
Klaidman: Would you be in favor of reducing military or economic aid to Israel?
Ocasio-Cortez: “I mean I think it’s on the table, I think it’s certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed. I also acknowledge my role in this as well, in that I think that I hope to play a facilitating role in this conversation and a supportive role in this conversation, but I also know that there are people that have been leading on this for a long time, like Congresswoman McCollum. I think we need to expand what those policy conversations are because I would — as just a citizen of this country, I would be very concerned if Trump started really pursuing more and more and more, increasingly dangerous policies and everyone just standing aside and saying this is normal, this is just like before.” [Video]
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said in a statement, “We are pleased Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recognizes she is NOT a leader on Israel in Congress. We recommend she engage with Dem leaders Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, and Ted Deutch before contemplating the future of U.S. military aid to Israel. U.S.-Israel ties must supersede politics.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh,“The U.S.-Israel alliance is absolutely essential. It’s vital to America’s national security, and especially in the fight against Hamas and Hezbollah. Given that Hezbollah is on the march to the Mediterranean, I think now more than ever, and with threats of terror increasing, we must obviously stand by our key ally to keep democracy in the region for their security, but also for our security. And I feel that the idea that we would in any which way, walk away from that relationship is unacceptable.”
Professor Eugene Kontorovich told JI that he agrees that U.S. aid to Israel should be reduced but the request should come from Israel’s side. “It limits Israeli independence in defense procurement, and disadvantages Israeli defense contractors as much of the money must be spent in the U.S.,” he explained. “It (unjustly) creates a sense among some American taxpayers that they are subsidizing Israel and thus should be able to determine its destiny. While the subsidy goes in large part to American defense contractors, and the U.S. benefits greatly from its defense cooperation with Israel, the perception persists, and under another administration, could be used to justify policies inimical to Israel.”
Kontorovich added: “Ocasio-Cortez doubtless wants to cut the funding to harm Israel, but in fact it may help. Or to paraphrase a friend of hers, it’s not all about the Benjamins.”
CFR’s Martin Indyk tweeted: “AOC is wrong on this one: Israel is a robust democracy — 69% of Israelis turned out to vote. Much as I dislike Netanyahu’s policies and racist tactics, he was elected by the people and he is being held to account by Israel’s independent judiciary. To label Netanyahu an authoritarian is to do Israel’s robust democracy a disservice and to help Trump drive a wedge between American Jews and the Democratic Party. We need to be smarter than this.”
J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami posted: “Nuanced position from AOC in wake of Netanyahu annexation pledge: open up discussion of US-Israel relations. J Street view: US can assure Israeli security w/o funding activities that run counter to US values, interests such as annexation, demolitions.”
Michelle Goldberg writes about the U.S. decision to bar entry to Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the BDS movement ― “You could argue, I suppose, that Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state should not be up for discussion. If you do, realize it’s the exact same sort of argument that certain campus leftists make when they refuse to debate people they see as racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted. Sometimes this refusal is justified, because certain ideas shouldn’t be dignified with discussion. But sometimes it just makes the people unwilling to test their ideas in public look scared.” [NYTimes]
ON THE HILL ― by JI’s Laura Kelly: The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus put its weight behind a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and in support of a two-state solution on Monday.
It is the first public support by a joint and bipartisan group for a resolution, introduced last month by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY), that puts Congress on record as opposing BDS and expressing its harmfulness to achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY), agree to vote together when three-quarters of the 48 members agree on a bill. Other caucus members supporting the anti-BDS resolution include Reps. Steve Watkins (R-KS), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Max Rose (D-NY) and Joe Cunningham (D-SC).
In a conversation with Jewish Insider on Monday, Gottheimer urged the House leadership to bring the bipartisan measure for a vote. “Our leadership has told us that it’s going to come to the floor this summer. I think that it’s essential that we bring this to the floor for a vote. It’s time, and I don’t think we should wait beyond this time.”
The New Jersey representative didn’t say whether he would support the Republican push to force a vote on the BDS measure passed earlier this year by the Senate (S1), known as a discharge petition, if Democrats fail to act. He said, “I’m hoping that that is a good forcing mechanism to get it to the floor for debate and a vote. My leadership has told me that they’re going to bring it to the floor. So I’m hoping that that’s what’s going to happen.”
Gottheimer also added his support to a statement released by four prominent pro-Israel Democrats on Friday, warning the Israeli government against taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank. “I believe in a two-state solution and I think it’s important that we stress that, and I largely agreed with that statement,” he said.
2020 WATCH ― Sanders released a decade’s worth of his tax returns on Monday, showing an annual income that exceeded $1 million in 2016 and 2017… 2020 Democrats raising less money as donors sit on sidelines… Cory Booker unveils plan to cut taxes for half the country… Pete Buttigieg’s campaign launch event on Sunday was interrupted by a group of protestors who held up banners with an ‘Open your heart 2 Palestine & Golan’ message. “This is not only about Pete,” Jude Ash, one of the protest organizers, told Newsweek. “It is also directed towards all of Democrats.”… Chemi Shalev offers the 2020 Democrats 13 lessons from Netanyahu’s victory last week… Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announced that he will mount a Republican primary challenge against President Trump.
On Israel, Kamala Harris breaks with liberal 2020 pack — by Emily Cadei and Michael Wilner: “In 2014, Harris married Doug Emhoff, a Jewish attorney, who accompanied her on the 2017 visit to Israel and the West Bank. ‘Her support for Israel is central to who she is,’ Harris’ campaign communications director, Lily Adams, told McClatchy… Adams said that the California senator has no plans to stray from the positions she has laid out on Israel since being elected to the Senate. “She’ll continue to support the U.S.-Israel alliance and peace through a two-state solution as a senator, as a candidate, and as president. For the senator, Israel should not be a partisan issue,” Adams said.” [McClatchyDC]
KAFE KNESSET ― Avigdor Lieberman issues his demands — by Neri Zilber: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, flying high after last Tuesday’s election, was given less than a week’s grace period before being dragged back to the ground-level realities of Israeli politics. In a speech to party activists last night — in part carried live by Channel 12 — Lieberman finally said he would recommend Netanyahu to be the next PM, which he formally did earlier this morning to President Reuven Rivlin.
But Lieberman also issued his demands: passage of a stalled ultra-Orthodox military conscription bill, hardening of Israeli policy vis-a-vis Hamas in Gaza, the defense ministry, and the immigrant absorption ministry. “If we’re forced to choose between giving up on the [ultra-Orthodox] draft law to remain in the coalition, or sitting in the opposition, we will go to new elections,” Lieberman said. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]
What’s next for Netanyahu? ― Dov Lieber and Rory Jones report: “Should Mr. Netanyahu overcome these initial government-building challenges, he still may need to rethink his coalition following the release of the Trump peace plan, which the White House said would be presented some time after Israel’s elections. United Right, which has five seats… would likely oppose any plan that would see Israel give up any control over the West Bank… ‘If Trump brings his deal of the century, if this deal is real, then Netanyahu might find himself with a problem,’ said Ofer Kenig of the Israel Democracy Institute.” [WSJ]
David Horovitz writes… “The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel: Over 57% of counted votes went to right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. This is the highest proportion in Israeli history… The people want to live in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel. The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them. Israelis’ choice. Israelis’ consequences.” [ToI]
STATE-SIDE — Two major Texas state agencies — the Employees Retirement System of Texas and the Texas Permanent School Fund — have begun to divest nearly $72 million worth of stock in DNB ASA, a Norwegian financial services company said to be supporting the BDS movement — the first financial move after a year-old law that bars Texas agencies from investing in such companies.
Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — joined by Chemi Peres, son of former Israeli President Shimon Peres — signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at forging an enduring partnership between “technology and innovation ecosystems” in Chicago and Israel. The idea of an international partnership, led by the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and World Business Chicago, was raised by Emanuel during a 2017 trip to Israel.
The American Museum of Natural History has come under fire for honoring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at its annual gala on May 14, especially following his Holocaust remarks. According to a report by Page Six, influential donors are saying they will hold back their money if this Bolsonaro event goes ahead. Mayor de Blasio has also called for the museum to cancel the event for Bolsonaro, who he described as “a dangerous human being.”
HAPPENING TODAY — Senior Trump administration officials will meet with a selected group of Jewish American leaders at the White House this evening for a discussion on “pertinent issues impacting the community.” Some mainstream Jewish groups were not invited, according to a JTA tally. Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein confirmed his attendance to Jewish Insider.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Mark Zuckerberg leveraged Facebook user data to fight rivals and help friends, leaked documents show [NBCNews] • WeWork Is Making $3 Billion of Debt Securities Look Riskier, S&P Says[Barrons] • American Eagle Outfitters CEO Jay Schottenstein rang the opening bell of the NYSE in New York City yesterday in celebration of the 25th anniversary of his company’s initial public offering [Video] • 24 Square 1 bank veterans jump to form new VC group at Signature Bank [WralTechWire]
STARTUP NATION ― Israeli Researchers Print 3D Heart Using Patient’s Own Cells ― By Michael Arnold: “The heart the Tel Aviv University team printed in about three hours is too small for humans — about 2.5 centimeters, or the size of a rabbit’s heart. But it’s the first to be printed with all blood vessels, ventricles and chambers, using an ink made from the patient’s own biological materials. ‘It’s completely biocompatible and matches the patient,’ reducing the chances of rejection inside the body, said Tal Dvir, the professor who directed the project.” [Bloomberg]
ENTERTAINMENT ― Seeing Inside the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Community on the Netflix Series ‘Shtisel’ — by Ruth Margalit: “Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon readily admit that they didn’t write ‘Shtisel’ for Haredim. (For one thing, most ultra-Orthodox households don’t own a television.) But almost as soon as it aired, something strange happened. ‘Shtisel’ became ‘cultlike’ among Haredi viewers… Elon was buoyed by the show’s popularity among Haredim — ‘I felt only happiness,’ he said — but Indursky felt conflicted… He had purposely asked his parents — to whom he had shown ‘Shtisel’ on a flash drive, on their Internet-less computer — not to let his nieces and nephews watch the show. ‘A Haredi who watches a representation of himself will inevitably change after watching it,’ he explained.”
“‘Someone wrote to tell me that Hasidim in Williamsburg are bummed that the show is on Netflix and not on Amazon Prime, because they all have Amazon for their business. But you know what? I’d rather they subscribe to Netflix and take this extra step and be made aware of the price they pay for watching it.’”[NewYorker]
PROFILE — A Boxing Promoter’s Trickiest Move Is Observing the Sabbath — by John Eligon: “Dmitriy Salita, a 37-year-old former welterweight, is the rare Orthodox Jew in big-time boxing and, as such, he observes the Sabbath. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, he adheres to the faith’s prohibitions on phones, television or internet, and perhaps most difficult for his line of work, handling money… For Salita, it has long presented a challenge in an occupation in which some of the most important work happens at the very time his faith demands he cloister himself. When he was a boxer, it had limited his ability to fight in the summer when the sun sets late. As a promoter, he has had to miss some of his fighters’ matches and use creative scheduling to make payments.” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE NATION ― Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wins Pulitzer Prize for Tree of Life coverage ― by Joyce Gannon: “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Monday won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for its coverage of the shooting deaths of 11 people Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. The judges called the staff’s work ‘immersive, compassionate coverage… that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief.’ … David Shribman, emeritus executive editor of the Post-Gazette who led the staff when the tragedy unfolded, asked the newsroom to take a moment of silence for the victims.” [PittsburghPostGazette]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Measles Outbreak: Yeshiva’s Preschool Program Is Closed by New York City Health Officials — by Tyler Pager: “New York City closed a preschool program at a yeshiva in Brooklyn on Monday for violating a Health Department order that required it to provide medical and attendance records amid a measles outbreak. The preschool at United Talmudical Academy, which serves 250 students between the ages of 3 and 5 in the Williamsburg area, is the first program to be closed by the city, as it escalates efforts to stem the country’s largest measles outbreak in decades.” [NYTimes] • Measles outbreak tests Mayor Bill de Blasio’s relationship with ultra-Orthodox community [Politico]
ACROSS THE SEA — France Starts Task Force on Art Looted Under Nazis — by Aurelien Breeden: “A new task force in France has been given a broader mandate to search for and return artwork that had been looted or sold under duress during the Nazi occupation, after years of criticism that its restitution efforts were not proactive enough… It will also try to determine whether any other pieces acquired by French institutions have dubious origins… ‘We are not starting from nothing, but we are amplifying the work,’ David Zivie, a Culture Ministry official who is expected to lead the new task force, said in an interview.” [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Born and raised in Miami Beach, he is Israel’s ambassador to the United States since 2013, Ambassador Ron Dermer turns 48… SVP of Schnur Associates, a marketing, PR and lobbying firm, he was previously a deputy director for AIPAC, Joel L. Schnur turns 71… Chasidic singer Mordechai Werdyger, known by his stage name Mordechai Ben David, turns 68… Olympic track-and-field athlete, and survivor of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, Esther Roth-Shachamorov turns 67… Actress Ellen Barkinturns 65… Chairman and CEO of private equity fund manager JZ Partners, David Wayne Zalaznick turns 65… Physician, venture capitalist focused on the biotechnology and life-sciences industries, founder of development stage biotech companies, Lindsay Rosenwald turns 64… Professor of international affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Woodrow Wilson School’s Center for International Security Studies, Aaron Louis Friedberg, Ph.D. turns 63…
Filmmaker, he directed the 2011 documentary “Paul Williams Still Alive” and the 1997 slapstick comedy “Vegas Vacation” starring Chevy Chase, Stephen Kessler turns 59… Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School since 2016 and former Director of the Congressional Budget Office (2009-2015), Douglas Elmendorf turns 57… Deputy Secretary of State (2015-2017) and Deputy National Security Advisor (2013-2015) under President Barack Obama, he is now managing director of the Penn Biden Center at UPenn, Antony John (“Tony”) Blinken turns 57… Television producer and writer, he was a writer for The Wonder Years and The Dennis Miller Show and he co-created and produced Will & Grace and Boston Common, David Sanford Kohan turns 55… Long Island native, he is a Los Angeles pharmacist since 1990, Jeffrey D. Marcus turns 55… Former Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey (2009-2018), Dawn Zimmer turns 51… Member of the House of Commons of Canada since 2015, she represents the riding of Toronto-Danforth, Julie Dabrusin turns 48…
Board member of Brandeis Marin, a Jewish day school that serves K-8 students in San Rafael, California, Ellen K. Finestone turns 46… Senior communications officer for global policy and advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 2017, Alex Glass turns 41… Principal of Arlington, Virginia based Dark Horse Strategy Group, Geoff Middleberg turns 29… Student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Uriel Kejsefmanturns 28… Singer, pianist, and composer, he is best known as half of the folk-rock duo the Portnoy Brothers with Sruli, his older brother, Mendy Portnoyturns 27… Associate at NYC’s Global Infrastructure Partners, he was a White House staffer in 2017, Matthew Saunders turns 26… Grassroots account manager at Quorum (computer software for public affairs professionals), Adam Gotbaum turns 25… Chairman of The Israel Project, Allan A. Myer… Josh Goldstein… Sarah Wolfson…