DRIVING THE CONVO — The FBI released its annual report on hate crime statistics yesterday. The overall number of hate crimes in 2017 was up 17 percent from 2016, with a 37 percent rise in crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, which was highlighted by the ADL. Last year, 938 anti-Semitic incidents were reported, up from 684 incidents in 2016.
The findings call into question recent suggestions by Israeli officials that anti-Semitism is not on the rise in the U.S., despite incidents like last month’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. On November 1, Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett said he’s “not at all sure that there’s a surge in anti-Semitism in America.” Of the 2016 ADL report, he said, “I am not sure those are the facts. I am not at all dismissing the importance and the severity of the worst and deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of America. I am just saying that we have to look at the numbers and the facts themselves and adopt common-sense measures.”
Last week, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer cited the ADL statistics to show anti-Semitism is actually on the wane. “In 2016, according to FBI statistics, there were 684 hate crimes against Jews in America,” Dermer noted. “Many people feel that the heated rhetoric during the campaign in 2016 had contributed greatly to the rise of anti-Semitism. Perhaps it did. But here is something you probably don’t know: In 2008, those same FBI statistics show that there were over 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents in America. In the year 2000, there were over 1,100.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tells us: “The FBI data on hate crimes confirms what we have been saying all along: there was a clear increase of anti-Semitic hate crimes and other acts of hate against Jews in 2017. This report provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America. That begins with leaders from all walks of life and all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate whenever it occurs.”
THE CONVERSATION — Hearing senior Israeli politicians argue that data shows fewer anti-Semitic attacks in recent years struck some in the Jewish community as odd. As one observer pointed out, “When have we ever seen Israeli politicians take an opportunity to seemingly downplay concerns of anti-Semitism?” Yesterday’s FBI data doesn’t support the Israelis’ argument. And the question remains: What was motivating the Israelis to emphasize the decreased numbers?
Among the explanations we’ve heard is that PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett and Dermer genuinely believe America is different and Jews are much safer in the U.S. Other explanations point to the Trump factor.Israeli officials didn’t like how Trump was blamed for fostering the environment of hatred which influenced the Pittsburgh shooter, and sought to redirect a narrative that Jews are less safe under a President that Israel favors. Others speculate that the Israelis saw an opportunity to provide Trump with cover from criticism and in the process collect points that — with a rather transactional president — could be cashed in later regarding other policy matters important to Israel.
Perhaps a more generous reading of Bennett and Dermer’s talking point is that they didn’t intend to downplay anti-Semitism in the U.S. but rather to point out that hatred against Jews is not a new problem, and that in fact, it used to be much worse. However, by emphasizing how 2016’s numbers are significantly lower while cautioning against blaming the president, they came across as arguing that anti-Semitism has decreased in the Trump era.
Ed. note: As of press time, the Israeli Embassy in DC has not provided further comment.
Aaron David Miller tells us: “There’s a big difference between what’s appropriate and welcome — the Israeli government’s providing reassurance, support and a warm embrace to American Jews in the wake of the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history — and what’s not; launching a campaign days before the midterms to validate the performance of a US president and to defend him against charges that his rhetoric has not to some degree encouraged a climate of extremism and hate.”
“There’s no causality between Trump’s words and the Pittsburgh killer’s murderous deed. But you’d have to be willfully obtuse not to see any connection whatsoever between the increase of anti-Semitic incidents and his enabling language. Let Americans debate this on their own. We didn’t need Israel in the mix. As a member of the American Jewish community, I think the Israelis wandered way off the highway on this one and crossed the line.”
Abe Foxman: “Dermer is right that anti-Semitism in the U.S. goes back to the beginning of America. He is also right that we cannot afford to make anti-Semitism a political issue. Trump is not to blame for Pittsburgh, nor for the rise of anti-Semitism, regardless if it’s a 57 percent or 27 percent increase. But Trump needs to be held accountable. His rhetoric has been and is extreme, polarizing, and denigrating of minorities. He has destroyed all the taboos of civil discourse. And his hateful rhetoric has emboldened and legitimized anti- Semites and other bigots.”
Gal Beckerman writes… “American Jews Face a Choice: Create Meaning or Fade Away: A shared sorrow may have provided the briefest taste of unity after Pittsburgh, but anti-Semitism is not what defines the experience of Jews in America today; assimilation is. To hear the professional worriers in the Jewish community, it’s love, not hate, that poses the bigger existential challenge… The infrastructure of Judaism, from the synagogue to the long-established liberal denominations, is being steadily abandoned.”[NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — Israel’s Defense Chief Resigns, Slams Netanyahu for ‘Surrendering to Hamas Terror’ — by Chaim Levinson: “Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday and called for elections to be held as soon as possible… “There is no other definition, no other significance, but a capitulation to terror,” [Lieberman] said, adding: “What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security.”
“Habayit Hayehudi (headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett) said that unless the defense portfolio goes to Bennett, the party will also quit the coalition.” [Haaretz]
A Battle in Gaza Neither Side Wanted Ends Quickly — by Isabel Kershner and David Halbfinger: “That the battle began at all was unexpected. Neither Israel nor Hamas wanted a fight. Both had been taking steps, with Egypt’s mediation and Qatar’s financing, to cool tensions along their border and ease Gaza’s growing economic desperation… Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst of Palestinian politics, said the Gaza factions sensed that Israel’s eagerness to contain the fighting and avoid a full-blown ground conflict gave them unusually capacious room to maneuver.” [NYTimes] • How Israel’s Freakish Air Defenses Stop Gaza’s Rockets [DailyBeast]
ON THE HILL — Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) spoke to Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh about Sen. Cory Booker’s recently-announced support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, bipartisan legislation Cardin co-sponsored, in the hallways of the Senate Russell Office Building yesterday: “It’s the right thing to do. This bill clearly protects American companies from being intimidated to boycott Israel. So it’s a bill that should pass without much controversy, and I’m pleased to see Senator Booker, who’s well respected here, supporting it.”
Could this lead to other potential 2020 candidates, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, coming out in support of the bill?
Cardin: “Yeah, I don’t believe this bill should be controversial. What it does is protect companies from being intimidated to participate in a foreign boycott. It doesn’t prevent anyone from doing what they want to do from the point of view of their own personal activity. It’s a bill that is important for America. It was important 40 years ago when we passed the Arab Boycott bill. It’s important today to deal with international organizations, and that’s what this bill does.”
Cardin on the Democratic wins in the midterm elections: “I think it’s good to have the House under Democratic control. I think it will act as a check and balance on the President and his use of powers. But I don’t think it will affect a lot of the foreign policy issues because I think there’s general agreement. Certainly, our relationship with Israel is strongly supported by both Democrats and Republicans.”
2020 WATCH — Mike Bloomberg talks to The Associated Press about the timing of a possible presidential bid — by Steve Peoples: “[Bloomberg] said his decision would have little to do with other Democratic presidential prospects… “Thanksgiving, Christmas and then maybe a few weeks into January — that’s when you really gotta sit down, talk to your advisers and say, ‘Look, do I have a chance?’ I think I know why I would want to run. I think I know what I think this country should do and what I would do. But I just don’t know whether it’s possible,” Bloomberg told the AP… Yet this political season marked a permanent shift in his political identity, he said. “I will be a Democrat for the rest of my life,” Bloomberg said.”
“Bloomberg acknowledged he has already formulated his justification for a presidential bid, but he declined to share it when asked. Still, he offered a message to any critics who might not think he belongs in today’s Democratic Party. “I don’t think anybody has done more on the environment, on gun safety, on immigration, go right down the list,” Bloomberg said… “If you find anybody that’s done more on these issues than I have… please give me a call. I’d like to hire ’em.” [AP]
Peter Beinart writes… “Will the Left Go Too Far? Facing militant GOP opposition, Obama abided by a series of restraints—based upon custom, not law—that circumscribed his agenda. The next Democratic president is less likely to do so. That’s partly… because the next Democratic president will likely face much more pressure than Obama did from the activist left… That will leave future Democrats with a choice. They can limit their ambitions to whatever Republicans won’t block. They can dramatically expand the use of reconciliation, which might require replacing the Senate parliamentarian. Or they can make it harder—or even impossible—to filibuster legislation. These latter steps would… enrage Republicans and fuel the sense that, post-Trump, anything goes.” [TheAtlantic]
DRIVING THE DAY — President Trump to announce support for criminal justice overhaul proposal — by Jeremy Diamond: “Trump is scheduled to announce on Wednesday that he is supporting the latest iteration of the First Step Act, a bill that his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has been working to craft and build support for alongside a bipartisan group of senators… The President has wavered on whether to throw his support behind the bill in recent months, but the sources said he was swayed to back the bill on Tuesday after meeting with Kushner.” [CNN]
PALACE INTRIGUE — Top Pence aide resurfaces as leading candidate to replace Kelly — by Christopher Cadelago, Andrew Restuccia and Ben Schreckinger: “Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers has reemerged as a leading candidate to succeed White House chief of staff John Kelly… [Ayers] enjoys warm relations with some of the most important figures in the President Donald Trump’s orbit: his eldest son, Don Jr., his eldest daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner… At the White House’s election night gathering last Tuesday, Kelly steered clear of the president and his family. Ayers, meanwhile, was seen huddling with the president.” [Politico]
TRUMP DIPLOMACY — Inside Trump’s Paris temper, election woes and staff upheaval — by Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker: “As he jetted to Paris last Friday, President Trump received a congratulatory phone call aboard Air Force One. British Prime Minister Theresa May was calling to celebrate the Republican Party’s wins in the midterm elections… but her appeal to the American president’s vanity was met with an ornery outburst. Trump berated May for Great Britain not doing enough, in his assessment, to contain Iran.”
“The president also was angry and resentful over French President Emmanuel Macron’s public rebuke of rising nationalism… And that was after his difficult meeting with Macron, where officials said little progress was made as Trump again brought up his frustrations over trade and Iran.” [WashPost]
—Trump, stung by midterms and nervous about Mueller, retreats from traditional presidential duties — by Eli Stokols: “Jordan’s King Abdullah was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.” [LATimes]
Trump Nominates Retired General as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia — by Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt: “President Trump announced on Tuesday that he will nominate Gen. John P. Abizaid, a retired commander of forces in the Middle East, as his new ambassador to Saudi Arabia… The selection, if confirmed by the Senate, will finally give the president a representative of his own in Riyadh at a time when the relationship with Washington has grown strained over the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”[NYTimes]
Elliott Abrams emails us: “It has been a great mistake to leave the post vacant for two years, and that mistake was increasingly clear during the Khashoggi crisis. The Saudis usually ask for someone who’s personally close to the president but no such person was available, so the next best thing was a prominent general. Abizaid has experience in the region and speaks Arabic. I hope he gets confirmed and out there very fast, and not months down the road.”
Graham Calls Saudi Prince ‘Unstable’ and Sees Sanctions Ahead — by Steven Dennis and Karen Leigh: “An influential policy hawk in Congress who frequently advises President Donald Trump, [Senator Lindsey] Graham said he and other like-minded colleagues don’t yet have a plan of action, but lambasted the leadership of Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old de facto ruler, widely known as MBS. Prince Mohammed “has been unstable and unreliable and I don’t see the situation getting fixed as long as he’s around,” Graham said.” [Bloomberg]
TRANSITION — Trump taps Neomi Rao to succeed Brett Kavanaugh on D.C. Circuit court — by Felicia Sonmez: “President Trump announced Tuesday that he has nominated regulatory czar Neomi Rao to fill the seat vacated by Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Rao [is] administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.”[WashPost] • Rao is married to Alan Lefkowitz [News18]
FLORIDA RECOUNT — Bill Nelson lawsuit asks federal court to waive recount deadline — by Scott Powers: “What we are saying is all counties should be committed, understanding that they need to work expeditiously and they need to work under the statutory regime as it exists; but paramount to that is that they assure accuracy and completion in the work,” Nelson’s lead recount lawyer Marc Elias said in a news conference Tuesday evening. “And if that means they need to have some additional time they ought to be able to have that time to assure that everyone’s vote is treated equally and with equal dignity.” … Elias argued Tuesday night that Nelson’s team just wants to give counties enough extra time to be careful, not some big, indefinite period.” [FloridaPolitics; TheHill]
Charlie Spies, a Republican election law attorney, emails us… “Rick Scott has already won the election. Scott won by over 12,500 votes, and no recount in the post-HAVA (Help America Vote Act of 2002) era has changed anything close to that number of votes. The Democrat efforts aren’t even a Hail Mary pass because they are already out of plays, now they are simply trying to change the rules of the game and find a way to add votes after the time expired. The effort won’t work, Scott will be certified as the winner, and law enforcement will evaluate what action to take regarding Broward and Palm Beach counties flouting of Florida law in the administration of elections.”
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Ratner family feels cheated by $11.4bn Forest City sale [FinancialTimes] • SoftBank has committed $3 billion to WeWork in a deal that values the company at about $45 billion [WSJ] • Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, says Facebook is addictive like cigarettes [MSNBC] • Steve Cohen raises $5bn from outside investors [FinancialTimes] • Joshua Kushner’s start-up Oscar Health sues Florida Blue for allegedly running Obamacare insurance monopoly [CNBC] • Richard Plepler’s HBO has announced that the final “Game of Thrones” season will debut in April [CNN] • Dexia Israel accepts Discount Bank’s $181 mln cash offer [Reuters] • Dips and spreads lift Israeli foodmaker Strauss’s third-quarter profit [Reuters]
WeWork’s Rise: How a Sublet Start-Up Is Taking Over —by Andrew Ross Sorkin: “WeWork has gobbled up leases for so much space in so many cities, there’s a compelling case to be made that its landlords wouldn’t be able to afford for it to go under. Because of WeWork’s size, “they have more power in a down market,” said Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the longtime real estate investor and founder of Colony Capital.” [NYTimes]
Architects, activists slam Jerusalem Old City cable car plan — by Isabel Debre: “An Israeli plan to build a cable car to Jerusalem’s historic Old City has united architects and Palestinian activists in opposition to a project they say is both an eyesore and a ploy to entrench Israeli control over the city’s contested eastern sector. Developers say the proposed project is meant to relieve snarling traffic and will ferry some 3,000 tourists an hour… The cable car would run 1,400 meters (nearly one mile), launching from the First Station, a popular food and cultural center in West Jerusalem, sailing over the city’s ancient valley, stopping at Mount Zion… and proceeding through the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan before alighting at the tourist center.”[ABCNews]
JERUSALEM MAYORAL RESULTS — Moshe Leon elected Jerusalem Mayor in dramatic finish — by Tal Schneider: “In the tightest of races for Jerusalem Mayor, right-wing candidate Moshe Leon beat his independent secular rival Ofer Berkovitch in a nail-biting dramatic finish in the second-round runoff by 51.46% to 48.54%… Leon, an accountant and former director-general of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, will become the first-ever mayor of Jerusalem of Sephardi descent… This election exposed the deep rift in the Jerusalem ultra-orthodox community with the Hasidic (Agudat Yisrael) wing failing to endorse Leon, while the Lithuanian-Haredim (Degel Hatorah) backed Lion. Berkovitch, who led for most the vote counting, said, “The result was not good but does give the foundations of hope for a new Israel.” [Globes]
Shalom Lipner emails us… “As the dust settles on the race for City Hall, Jerusalemites – and their new mayor, Moshe Leon – will wake up to confront the same mundane problems as before, including: the exodus of young people and income earners from the capital, a housing crunch and failing municipal services. Low voter turnout reflects a general malaise, with plenty of residents ready to lament their predicament, but not even ready to cast their ballots. Moving forward, the acute challenge for Leon will be to govern as representative of all the city’s inhabitants, at a time when he holds no independent power base — Leon’s faction did not win one single City Council seat — and will thus be entirely beholden to the special interests who helped him win election and will comprise his coalition.”
TALK OF THE TOWN — Camp Hess Kramer and Camp Hilltop helped give life to the Chicano movement of the ’60s. They were destroyed in fire: “One of the first things Rabbi Alfred Wolf did after joining the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in 1949 was start a camping program for children. Wolf envisioned a place that would be the antithesis of the Nazi Germany he escaped… The rabbi built two camps in Malibu: the beach side Hess Kramer and its sister camp Hilltop. In the 1960s, they became another home for a group of young Latinos who helped launch the Chicano movement. On Monday, the camps’ director, Seth Toybes, confirmed that Camp Hilltop was destroyed by the Woolsey fire.” [LATimes]
SPORTS BLINK — Chelsea in talks over match against New England Revolution to highlight fight against anti-Semitism: “Last week, Robert Kraft, the owner of the Revolution and the New England Patriots, told the World Jewish Congress he had spoken to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich about a game that would see both men donate $1 million to the fight against anti-Semitism… Sources told ESPN FC that talks remain in the early stages, with the match set to take place in New England. Kraft had indicated it could be played in the spring, but Chelsea’s packed schedule means the only available date at that time would be the March international break, when many of their biggest names would be representing their countries.” [ESPN]
SCENE YESTERDAY IN DC — Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Chris Stewart (R-UT) addressed a Congressional reception — hosted by Ezra Friedlander and Shafik Gabr, International Chairman of the Anwar Sadat Congressional Gold Medal Commission, and attended by Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. Yasser Reda — marking the passage of the Anwar Sadat Centennial Celebration Act at the Senate’s Kennedy Caucus Room. [Pic; Pic]
SPOTTED: Sol Goldner, Tzili Charney, Aubrey Sharfman, Stanley Treitel, Gil Kapen, Joseph Stamm, Isaac Dabah, Shafik Gabr, Amb. H. Russell Taub, Ken Abramowitz, Aryeh Goldberg, Suhail Khan, Prof. Marshal J. Breger, Jack Avital, Rep. Darrell Issa, Matt Nosanchuk, Nick Muzin, Yeruchem Silber, Chesky Blau, Gabriella Friedlander, Shai Franklin, Sharon Wilkes, Pamela Thiessen, Rep. Claudia Tenney, Rep. Bradley Byrne, and Senator Chris Van Hollen.
COMING SOON — Leonard Cohen Exhibition to Come to New York — by Sara Aridi: “Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything,” first presented by the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, will make its first stop on a worldwide tour at the Jewish Museum in April. It will be on view there until September before traveling to Copenhagen and San Francisco. Organized by the curators John Zeppetelli and Victor Shiffman, the multimedia exhibition features commissioned works by international artists and pays tribute to Cohen’s music, poetry and lyrics.” [NYTimes]
DESSERT — Kosherfest Is Putting A New Spin On The Jewish Food Industry: “For three decades, “Kosherfest” has been wowing many in the Jewish food industry… “There are so many types of food that people never ever thought would be kosher, today is kosher,” the event’s founder, Menachem Lubinsky explained. Lubinsky founded Kosherfest 30 years ago and looked to bring together industry professionals so they could brainstorm and share new products… With more than 420 booths and over 7,000 visitors from 21 countries, it’s the world’s largest kosher-certified products trade show in the world.” [CBSNewYork]
BIRTHDAYS: Vice chairman of The Atlantic and managing director of media at Emerson Collective, Peter T. Lattman turns 48… Former president of the University of Chicago (1993-2000), where he continues to teach economics, Hugo F. Sonnenschein, Ph.D. turns 78… Cellist and professor at Moscow Conservatoire, Natalia Gutman turns 76… Former professional body-builder who played two seasons with the New York Jets, Mike Katz turns 74… Los Angeles community leader, Stanley Treitel turns 74… Member of the UK’s House of Lords since 2010, he is a former Chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, Baron Jeremy Beecham turns 74… British Labour party member of Parliament since 1997, Dame Louise Joyce Ellmanturns 73… Managing editor of Bloomberg’s opinion section, Jonathan I. Landman turns 66… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly since 2001 from Brooklyn, Steven H. Cymbrowitz turns 65…
US Secretary of State (2005-2009), now on the faculties of Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, Condoleezza Rice turns 64… Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama throughout his eight year term in the White House, Valerie Jarrett turns 62… Senior communications officer at the Detroit-based William Davidson Foundation, Cynthia Shaw… President of Middlebury College in Vermont since 2015, Laurie L. Patton turns 57… Partner at the Santa Monica-based law firm of Murphy Rosen, Edward A. Klein turns 55… Senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, professor of political science at George Washington University and associate editor of The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, Sarah A. Binder turns 54… Deputy National Security Advisor for President Barack Obama, Ben Rhodes turns 41… Founder of White Light Strategies, known for her innovative approaches to philanthropy including the Giving Circles Fund and the One Percent Foundation, Lana Talya Volftsun Fern turns 32… Senior Director at Albright Stonebridge Group, he was previously a speechwriter for Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta, Jacob Freedman…