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DRIVING THE CONVO — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg caused an uproar yesterday for comments that appeared to defend having Holocaust deniers on his platform.
“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened. I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with Kara Swisher on the Recode Decode podcast. “It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent. I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly. I’m sure you do. I’m sure a lot of leaders and public figures we respect do too, and I just don’t think that it is the right thing to say, ‘We’re going to take someone off the platform if they get things wrong, even multiple times.'”
Abe Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and former National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted: “Holocaust victims feared that after they were murdered- they would be forgotten and denied. Mark Zuckerberg did both!”
— ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt added in a statement: “Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews. Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination.”
— Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Abraham Cooper: “Holocaust denial is the quintessential ‘fake news.’ The Nazi Holocaust is the most documented atrocity in history, allowing the canard of Holocaust denial to be posted on Facebook, or any other social media platform cannot be justified in the name of ‘free exchange of ideas’ when the idea itself is based on a falsehood.” [JewishJournal]
— Deborah Lipstadt writes: “What Zuckerberg fails to understand — even though he claims this was not his aim — is that by saying deniers aren’t “intentionally” getting things wrong, he leaves open the possibility that they could be right.” [CNN]
Zuckerberg later tried to clarify his remarks: “There’s one thing I want to clear up. I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in an email to Recode… “These issues are very challenging,” he added, “but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.”
HELSINKI SUMMIT— As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity — by Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Anton Troianovski: “Important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday… Antonov also said that Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria. But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday… Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.” [WashPost]
— Trump will meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the Oval Office at noon.
Bret Stephens: “Assuming Mike Pompeo and John Bolton still have their own senses intact, they too should resign following the epic disgrace of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday. So should their senior staff.” [NYT]
Iran Says Trump Sought Meeting With President 8 Times at U.N. Last Year — by Rick Gladstone: “White House and State Department officials did not immediately respond to the Iranian assertion, made by President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, at a cabinet meeting… “Trump asked the Iranian delegation eight times to have a meeting with the president,” Mr. Vaezi said… Iran’s Foreign Ministry previously said an American request for a Trump-Rouhani meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly last September had been declined. Some Iranian state media have reported that Mr. Trump even invited Mr. Rouhani for dinner during that period.” [NYTimes]
STATE VISIT — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met this morning with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. At a joint press conference ahead of their meeting, Netanyahu called Orban a “true friend of Israel” and praised him for combatting anti-Semitism. [Video]
— “All of the Jewish citizens in Hungary are under the protection of the government,” Orban said, according to a Hebrew translation of his remarks to reporters in Hungarian… “We are proud that in Hungary, self-identifying Jews, who celebrate and preserve Jewish tradition can feel safe.” [Reuters]
— “President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday warned visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban against the rise of neo-fascism, in what appeared to be an unsubtle dig at the right-wing leader. “I know what you are doing against anti-Semitism. I know the efforts. But we have to remember, when we say never again — neo-fascism and neo-fascist groups are a real danger to the very existence of the free world,” Rivlin told Orban, speaking in English. “It brings racism, it brings hatred” against its targets’ faith or nationality, Rivlin added.”[ToI]
DEEP DIVE: Netanyahu and Orbán: An Illiberal Bromance Spanning From D.C. to Jerusalem — by Anshel Pfeffer: “The legendary political strategist Arthur Finkelstein… was recommended to Orbán and masterminded his 2010 reelection campaign. The New York State-based Finkelstein, who passed away last year, only made short, usually secret, appearances in the countries where he advised… The man Finkelstein sent as project manager for the 2010 Orbán campaign was his partner, George Birnbaum, who had previously lived in Israel and worked for Netanyahu as a senior aide in the ’90s. Members of the Chabad synagogue in central Budapest remember the Orthodox Birnbaum going there for prayers and Shabbat lunch, so he could be in walking distance of Orbán’s Saturday rallies.”
“Despite Orbán’s affinity with Trump, he wasn’t high on the new administration’s priority list. “The message that Orbán is in the Trump camp didn’t filter down fast enough to the State Department,” says a well-connected official in Budapest. “Bureaucracies are slow everywhere and Orbán looked to Netanyahu to help him out with that.” … During Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest last year, Orbán asked for assistance, and Israel’s ambassador and Netanyahu confidant Ron Dermer was set to work on opening doors to the administration.” [Haaretz]
The path to Washington passes through Jerusalem — by Ben Caspit: “Until recently, Netanyahu had been viewed in the global arena as a serial liar and con man who could not be trusted… Today, however, Netanyahu is seen as one of the strongest, most well-known leaders in the world, a mega celebrity in global halls of influence and a mover and shaker on the international stage. Everybody is knocking at his door. Netanyahu has transformed from persona non grata at the White House into the leader with the most influence over the current US president… Today, the path to Washington passes through Jerusalem. This fact is clear as day to leaders of the universe.” [Al-Monitor]
TALK OF THE NATION — Israeli parliament passes bill defining country as the nation-state of the Jewish people — by Noga Tarnopolsky: “The new law defines Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish nation, with “a singular right to national self-determination within it.” “This is a defining moment,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said immediately after the bill passed. “Long live the state of Israel!” … Arab members of Israel’s parliament confronted Netanyahu as he left the venue. “You passed an apartheid law, a racist law!” shouted Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Arab Joint List. “Why are you afraid of the Arabic language?” Netanyahu replied: “How dare you talk this way about the only democracy in the Middle East?”” [LATimes]
PIC OF THE DAY — Netanyahu was spotted reading the Economist magazine in the Knesset plenum as the vote proceeded through the night. [Pic] • Bibi also participated in a selfie with controversial Likud MK Oren Hazan, famously known for the Trump selfie [Pic]
TALK AT THE UN — Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN — by Edith Lederer: “The Palestinians are protesting the U.S. refusal to grant visas to six experts from the prime minister’s office to come to the United Nations to present a report on Palestinian implementation of U.N. goals for 2030. The Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told two reporters Wednesday that Israel “complicated the matter” by refusing to allow several of the experts to travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem where the U.S. Consulate is located to check on their visas.” [AP]
HEARD YESTERDAY — U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley explained the U.S. withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council is a speech at The Heritage Foundation: “The Human Rights Council has been, not a place of conscience, but a place of politics. It has focused its attention unfairly and relentlessly on Israel… No other country – not Iran, not Syria, not North Korea – has an agenda item devoted solely to it. Agenda Item Seven is not directed at anything Israel does. It is directed at the very existence of Israel.” [Video]
COMING SOON — Chris Christie to ‘set record straight’ in ‘Let Me Finish’ — by Hillel Italie: “Hachette Books confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the former New Jersey governor’s “Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics” is scheduled for next January 29. According to a statement from Hachette, Christie plans to “set the record straight” on his time as a key Trump campaign supporter in 2016 and being “unceremoniously booted” from the transition team after Trump’s upset victory… He will provide “frank appraisals” of such fellow Trump insiders as Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowski and Jared Kushner, whose father, Charles Kushner, was sent to prison when Christie was a federal prosecutor.” [AP]
DNC alleges Secret Service blocked it from serving lawsuit to Jared Kushner — by Kara Scannell and Noah Gray: “The Democratic National Committee tried and failed three times to serve Jared Kushner with a lawsuit at his Manhattan apartment and was turned away by a US Secret Service agent when it attempted to deliver the packet to the White House senior adviser’s Washington, DC, home… The Secret Service agent told the server “figure out another way to attempt service,” the DNC alleged.” [CNN]
2018 WATCH — Democratic House candidate (NY14) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed yesterday that she is learning more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from J Street, Jewish Voices for Peace, and “Palestinian rights organizations.” Ocasio-Cortez spoke at an event for Mic’s new Facebook Watch program “Mic Dispatch.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: New Pritzker investment fund takes in $1.8 billion [Crains] • Comcast Drops Out of Bidding War With Disney for 21st Century Fox Assets [Variety] • Viacom to Remain Independent Amid CBS Merger Push, Says CEO [HollywoodReporter] • CBS Directors Had Prior Talks on Contesting Redstone Control [Bloomberg] • Kushner Companies’ $500M plan to create a new mega mall gets OK from N.J. town [NJAdvance] • Martin Selig updates plan for tower on Seattle’s waterfront [BizJournals] • Madison Square Garden Announces Lease Deal with Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp for Vegas Sphere Venue [Billboard] • Robert Kraft close to buying Spanish soccer team [NBCSports] • Discovery Extends CEO David Zaslav’s Contract Through 2023 [Variety] • Seymour Stein Is Leaving Warner Music and Sire Records, the Label He Launched 51 Years Ago [Billboard]
MEDIA WATCH — Interview with CBS News president David Rhodes by Marisa Guthrie:
Your boss, Leslie Moonves, is in a very public skirmish with Shari Redstone, the major shareholder of CBS Corp. Many have speculated that if he loses this battle, he’ll have no choice but to leave the network. So what is CBS without Les?
Rhodes: Leaving aside the corporate governance drama we’ve all read about, we couldn’t have done any of the things you see us doing without not just his support but also his engagement. And that includes the talent, where he always has not just an opinion but an important role in working through these decisions with management.
Did you talk to him about firing Charlie [Rose]?
Rhodes: Every significant decision that happens here, he is a part of.
Including that one?
Rhodes: Absolutely. You wouldn’t do something like that without having the conversation anyplace, but especially here. Not just because that’s the hierarchy but also because he’s really good at this. [HollywoodReporter]
The Atlantic embarking on a hiring spree: “For more than 160 years, says Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine has been “preoccupied by issues of the American idea and American governance and the American presidency.” But the Atlantic is now embarking on a “radical expansion of our coverage,” says Goldberg, which entails ramping up daily coverage of these core areas.” [MorningMedia]
Gaza startup struggles to recover after Israeli airstrike — by Najib Jobain and Fares Akram: “The office of Haweya for Information Technology was among dozens of buildings damaged on Saturday in a flare up violence between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza… The startup was featured in an Associated Press story in 2015 as a model of the emerging high-tech entrepreneurship trying to overcome Gaza’s isolation and access restrictions… Its owner and founder, Mohammed Qudih, estimated the damages from the airstrike at around $13,000.” [AP]
With Weddings in Cyprus, Israelis and Lebanese Bridge a Divide — by Ben Hubbard: “Where are you from?” a Lebanese bride asked a wedding party at an adjacent table one morning. “Israel,” a man in the party responded. The bride’s eyes widened. She murmured that she was from Lebanon. “Ahlan wa sahlan,” the Israeli man said, Arabic for “welcome.” “Are you getting married today?” the Israeli bride asked. The Lebanese bride nodded. “Congratulations, and good luck,” the Israeli bride said. Later, the Lebanese couple asked that their names not be published for fear of legal trouble at home, where interactions with Israelis can be treated as a crime. “The media around you, they say it is forbidden to be in the same place, that they are the enemy,” the Lebanese bride said. “But they are people, too.” [NYTimes]
Israel Detains Conservative Rabbi for Performing non-Orthodox Weddings — by Aaron Rabinowitz, Josh Breiner and Noa Shpigel: “Rabbi Dov Haiyun of Moriah Congregation in Haifa… was detained following a complaint filed against him by the Rabbinical Court in Haifa for allegedly “marrying those who are not eligible to be married.” … The incident was the first time police attempted to enforce a 2013 law forbidding performing weddings outside the Rabbinate.” [Haaretz]
SPORTS BLINK — ‘Not an Ending, But a Beginning’ for Israel Lacrosse — by Hillel Kuttler: “Forty-six national teams stood behind their flags for the opening ceremony of the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship last Thursday evening at Netanya Stadium. The pageantry — rhythmic gymnastics-like dancers, songs, official welcomes, referees’ oaths and fireworks — capped a stunning doubleheader for David Lasday, Israel Lacrosse’s chief operating officer. Moments earlier on the same turf, his club had defeated Jamaica, 11–3, in its opener.” [USLaxMag]
More than 140 survivors of sexual abuse honored with Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPYs — by Michael Rothman: “Aly Raisman listed off the many years that women spoke up and then were told, “You are wrong.” “For too long, we were ignored,” she said… Raisman appeared on “Good Morning America” the morning of the awards show to speak about what this honor means to her and the other survivors. “Getting that award with this incredible army of survivors is very, I mean, it’s hard to put into words,” she said. “I don’t even know if it’s really sunk in yet.” “We’ve all been through something really horrible, but we’re all gonna get through it together,” she added.” [ABCNews; VanityFair]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Lakewood church marks 150 years amid rapid growth of Orthodox Jewish faith — by Stacey Barchenger: “While Lakewood has become a bastion of faith, it’s not the kind that keeps parishioners coming through the white, lattice-windowed front doors of First Presbyterian. Today, Lakewood is best known for its thriving Orthodox Jewish population. An estimated two-thirds of the township’s more than 100,000 residents are Jewish, an increase from about a third of the population in 2000.” [AsburyParkPress]
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life Immortalized In Song — by Nina Totenberg: “The new album Notorious RBG in Song is available now on Cedille Records. Some of the lyrics are based on letters to RBG, which her husband Marty compiled into a book for the Justice’s 50th birthday.” [NPR]
DESSERT — Inside Beyond Meat’s innovative future food lab — by Rina Raphael: “Beyond Meat is no longer the small startup competing against the humble black bean burger. The plant-based meat substitute maker has sold 13 million burgers since its 2016 debut and just last week admitted it is having trouble meeting demand after multiple Whole Foods stores ran out. Beyond Meat constantly tweaks its bestselling burger–the brand plans to soon release its third iteration. Constant tweaking isn’t simple for a company that refuses to incorporate gluten or GMOs, which competitors like the Impossible Burger rely on.” [FastCompany]
Subres Grill Brings the Middle East to North Miami — by Juliana Accioly: “In 1980, Etty Weinberg was vacationing in her native Israel when a friend introduced her to Eli, a young man who, like her, loved to travel and eat. Their hunger for running a business together and experimenting with various cuisines is at the heart of Subres Grill, their kosher restaurant in North Miami.” [MiamiNewTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz turns 65… Johannesburg resident Monty Lasovsky turns 83… Interactive designer, author and artist, in 1986 he married Caroline Kennedy, Edwin Arthur “Ed” Schlossberg turns 73… Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, he served in the Dutch Senate (1999-2010) and then as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (2010-2012), Uriel “Uri” Rosenthal turns 73… Entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, often referred to as the creator of the boutique hotel concept, he gained fame in 1977 as co-founder of NYC’s Studio 54, Ian Schrager turns 72… Author of three books on baseball, long-time sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN writer and co-host, Jayson Stark turns 67… Chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings (owner of retailers Sears and Kmart), Edward Scott “Eddie” Lampert turns 56…
Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times reporter and author of “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men,” Eric Lichtblau turns 53… Israeli actress, model and film producer, Yael Abecassis turns 51… Spokesperson to the Arab media in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office, Ofir Gendelman turns 47… Co-Chairman and CEO of of CheckAlt, an independent provider of treasury and lockbox solutions, Shai Stern turns 44… Entrepreneur, two-time author and strategic marketing consultant, Alexis Blair Wolfer… Founder, CEO and Director at TradeRoom International, Ezra David Beren turns 33… ProPublica reporter Isaac Arnsdorf turns 29… Henry Emmanuel Hublet… Zach Houghton…