DRIVING THE CONVO — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Holocaust analogy draws ire of Jewish community — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) came under fire on Tuesday for comparing ICE’s detention facilities to “concentration camps.” “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Ocasio-Cortez doubled down later in the day, retweeting supporters defending her remark. [JewishInsider]
Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, tells Jewish Insider: “It is sad how many people in positions of influence and power — who decide policy for our country and who should know — are so ignorant of recent history. So maybe before AOC makes comparisons to elements of the Shoah (Holocaust) in the future, she should visit a concentration camp in Europe or at least the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. Such ignorant comparisons trivialize the Holocaust and thereby undermine the lessons of history we must learn.”
Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt tells JI: “I think American policy to the people crossing our border is generally mean and vindictive. I think the separation of children from their parents is horrifying and degrades us as a nation and a people. There is nothing good about it. But I think the use of the term concentration camp is misplaced and inaccurate. Something can be horrible and not be like the Holocaust.”
— Flashback — Lipstadt wrote on June 22, 2018: It’s Not the Holocaust: Trump’s family-separation policy is horrible, but equating it with genocide is both historically and strategically misguided [TheAtlantic]
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, emails us: “AOC should speak with Holocaust survivors and ex GIs who liberated them from the hell of Dachau. It’s an insult to the victims of the Shoah to make blatant false comparisons. Stop casting Trump as a latter-day Nazi scheming to build concentration camps. AOC and all Congressmen from both parties have a moral obligation to fix the humanitarian disaster at the border. If they don’t, there will be more needless suffering and all of them, including AOC, will be responsible. Stop demeaning memory and start doing your damn job.”
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple tells us: “It is baffling why someone would choose a term to condemn cruelty that is guaranteed to make the argument about the term and not about the policy. Analogies that evoke the Holocaust are, with the rarest of exceptions, presumptively offensive and unwise.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) retweeted Ocasio-Cortez and added: “One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ — not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality. We fail to learn that lesson when we don’t call out such inhumanity right in front of us.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — President Trump teased during a gaggle on the South Lawn that “we have a lot of things going with Iran. We’re very prepared for Iran. We’ll see what happens. Let me just say this: We are very prepared. Regardless of what goes, we are very, very prepared.”
The president’s comments came a day after the U.S. decided to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East to deter Iran. Speaking at the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) in Tampa, Florida, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that while Trump “ does not want war” with Iran, the U.S. must be prepared “to respond if Iran makes a bad decision, if it makes a decision to go after an American or an American interest or to continue to proliferate its nuclear weapons program.” [Video]
Iran is trying to build a global alliance, rallying support from Russia, China and other western countries to help counter Washington’s tough hand against Tehran, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. “If a broad spectrum of countries decide to stand against the illegal blackmailing and bullying by the U.S., we can make the U.S. retreat,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said.
As U.S. Boosts Pressure, Iran Tests Trump’s Appetite for a Fight — by Nick Wadhams: “The mixed messages and a general distrust of American motives have fueled doubts about U.S. intentions toward Iran, even among allies… Sensing inconsistencies in Trump’s strategy, leaders in Tehran may even be trying to call the president’s bluff.” [Bloomberg]
Bill Galston writes… “When it comes to Iran, U.S. allies distrust Washington’s motives. They vigorously opposed Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration and argue that the U.S. shift is at least partly responsible for Iran’s latest moves, including the Islamic Republic’s threatened breach of parts of the nuclear accord. Allies resent U.S. pressure to force them to break economic ties with Tehran. They believe that the Trump administration’s most senior advisers—though perhaps not the president himself—are eager for a military confrontation with Iran. And they are fearful that ambiguous intelligence will be spun into a predicate for war.” [WSJ]
On Tuesday, President Trump withdrew the nomination of Patrick Shanahan to be the permanent defense secretary, “leaving the Pentagon in transition at a time of escalating tensions with Iran” as an FBI background investigation revealed incidents of family violence. Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army, will replace Shanahan as acting secretary of defense.
ON THE HILL – By JI’s Laura Kelly: U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook will appear before the House and Senate today in separate briefings for lawmakers about U.S. strategy as tensions with Iran escalate.
House members are expected to press Hook on the administration’s interpretation of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and whether the president will use it to justify striking Iran. “The Committee hopes to be persuaded that the administration’s Iran policy is part of an actual strategy and not simply a dangerous game of chicken,” one Democratic staffer tells JI. “We’re not holding our breath. We also plan to scrutinize why the administration believes the authorization for use of force against the perpetrators of 9/11 could apply to Iran.”
Hook will first appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in an open hearing before being questioned behind closed doors by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary for international security affairs and a national intelligence officer for Iran, will also be appearing before the Senate.
On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the Trump administration is being “reckless” in dealing with the Iranian threat, following the news that the U.S. will send an additional 1,000 troops to the region. “I remain extremely concerned by this administration’s reckless approach to the serious threat from Iran; in fact, its lack of strategy has led us to this dangerous point,” Hoyer said in a statement.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) joined a Republican push to cut off Hezbollah’s influence in the Lebanese Armed Forces, signing on as a co-sponsor to Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY) “Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act of 2019.”
The bill, first reported by Jewish Insider last week, was also introduced in the Senate by Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
The legislation conditions 20 percent of military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces unless they can ensure that senior military command is not controlled by Hezbollah officials. The bill also calls for oversight by the State Department.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft for the post of Ambassador to the United Nations in a hearing today. If confirmed, she would assume the position vacated by former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who announced her resignation in October.
Funding to help non-profit and religious institutions bolster security against terrorist attacks will be considered in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental affairs today, as part of a package of amendments to the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
Jared Kushner met privately with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) yesterday to discuss Graham’s immigration bill that seeks to change asylum law.
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Trump administration’s efforts in making the “economic workshop” in Bahrain next week a success despite the fact that Israel wasn’t invited to attend.
“Very soon there will be an important conference in Bahrain. It’s an attempt by the U.S. to lead us to a better future and to solve problems of the region. Of course, Israelis will be present,” Netanyahu said in remarks at a memorial for victims of the 1948 Altalena Affair. “In the open or in secret, we are in contact with many leaders from the Arab world and there are prodigious ties between Israel and Arab countries — with most Arab countries.”
According to a report by Reuters, Yoav Mordechai, former head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), will attend the Bahrain summit in a private capacity as head of Novard, an international consultancy.
Behind the scenes, Haaretz reports, Israeli officials admit that the last thing Netanyahu needs in the midst of an unexpected re-election campaign, is a peace plan. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who was initially set to represent the government at the Bahrain summit, expected to see his attendance as a show of confidence by the prime minister in return for merging with the Likud ahead of the upcoming elections.
Why Jared Kushner’s Bahrain Conference Won’t Do Much for the Palestinian Economy — by Bernard Avishai: “In developing regions like the Palestinian territories… presupposes a business environment that meets ordinary standards of transparency: one that protects property, allows for the registration of companies, enforces contracts, and does not demand kickbacks at every turn—in short, an accountable state apparatus. People starting businesses, moreover, must be able to travel to their supplier and customer sites. They must be able to hire from outside the company — or the country — and not worry about new hires not being allowed to take up residency. Businesses need to be able to make arrangements with suppliers outside the country, so uninterrupted transportation corridors are essential… Under occupation, none of these conditions obtain.” [NewYorker]
On Tuesday, Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, speaking by video at an event hosted by the Arab Center in Washington D.C., called the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, of the Golan Heights as Israel’s, and the cutting off of aid to and relations with the Palestinian Authority, ‘the implementation of Jared Kushner’s peace plan.’
“To many people [the deal] is fictitious, but to the Palestinians we see what is happening on the ground. When you see the unilateral steps that were taken to prejudge all the real issues, what is left? What is left is to fight these steps, is to undo the steps,” she said. Ashrawi insisted that a new American administration would be need to roll back steps taken by President Trump in order to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Ashrawi also said she is encouraged by Democratic politicians speaking up for Palestinian rights and against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“People who are running for office now are beginning to understand that they are going to be judged, not by how much money they take from AIPAC, that’s not the issue, but by what kind of position they have, vis-a-vis issues that are important to their electorate – and their electorate is now becoming… more aware of the Palestinian question and it has become a test for many people,” she said. [JewishInsider]
2020 BRIEFS: Joe Biden/Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren/Beto O’Rourke to be center stage at first 2020 debate… Amy Klobuchar outlined a list of actions she would take in the first 100 days if elected president… Trump formally launched his re-election campaign in Orlando, Florida, signaling it will echo his 2016 themes.
** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS:Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi hits $100 million in ad sales before 2020 launch [Deadline] • CBS is planning offer for sister company Viacom with Bob Bakish in pole position to become CEO of the combined company [WSJ] • WeWork’s mounting lease debt looms over IPO plans [WSJ] • How Crescent Heights developer Russell Galbut plans to remake South Florida [RealDeal] • Roman Abramovich to acquire the most expensive house in Israel [Calcalist]
SPOTLIGHT — Blackstone’s Schwarzman Gives $188 Million to Oxford University — by Heather Perlberg: “Stephen Schwarzman, head of Blackstone Group LP, has given 150 million pounds ($188 million) to the University of Oxford, the latest in a string of mega-donations to higher learning. The contribution is the largest in the university’s 800-year history… The money will help pay for a new humanities building and for the creation of a new institute for the study of the ethics of artificial intelligence… The donation is unusual for U.K. universities, whose fundraising efforts trail their counterparts in the U.S.” [Bloomberg]
INTERVIEW — David Sackler Pleads His Case on the Opioid Epidemic — by Bethany McLean: “Since OxyContin came on the market in 1996, more than 400,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses — including some 200,000 from prescription versions of the drug… The backlash against the Sacklers has been furious… The three Sackler brothers who founded the company in 1952, including David’s grandfather Raymond, have all passed away. But David, who runs a family investment office and served on Purdue’s board of directors from 2012 to August 2018, thinks it is time for at least one Sackler to share his version of events with the public. ‘I’m poking my head over the parapet,’ he tells me. When I ask him why he wants to talk, he cites what he calls the ‘vitriolic hyperbole’ and ‘endless castigation’ of his family… Sackler also laments ‘the way our philanthropy has been turned against us.’ The family, he says, has been ‘giving where our hearts are’ for 40 years.” [VanityFair]
Introducing Anne Frank to a New Generation — by Tobias Grey: “Ten months before dying in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 15, Anne Frank wrote in her soon-to-be-famous diary ‘I want to go on living even after my death!’ The vivacious journal, written while the Frank family and others were hiding in Amsterdam between 1942 and 1944, has come to symbolize both the extraordinary resilience of a Jewish girl and the tragedy of the Holocaust… On June 25, ‘Anne Frank: The Collected Works,’ will be published in the U.S., timed to the month when the author would have turned 90. The book includes three versions of the diary as well as several of Anne’s letters to her paternal grandmother never before published in English.” [WSJ]
LONG READ — Why They Went: The Forgotten Story of the St. Augustine 17 — by Mitzi Steiner: “Today, St. Augustine is known as a picturesque Florida vacation spot… But just decades ago, the city was the site of some of the civil rights movement’s most perilous protests. It was here that a delegation of 16 Reform rabbis and one lay leader arrived, at the invitation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to stage a public protest — with the goal of submitting to arrest. Here, the rabbis were imprisoned overnight on June 18, 1964, in what was thought to be the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history. From their cell, they wrote a joint manifesto, Why We Went, a profound document that expresses the rabbis’ political and religious aspirations. Yet the story of the St. Augustine protests — and the role of its rabbinic participants — is often overlooked by civil rights histories, which focus on the renowned demonstrations in Montgomery and Birmingham.” [Tablet]
SPORTS BLINK — Texans’ Deshaun Watson visiting Israel — by Aaron Wilson: “Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has traveled everywhere from touring the pyramids of Egypt to the canals of Venice this offseason. Now, the Pro Bowl alternate’s latest international trip brings him to Israel. Visiting sites across Israel in a trip sponsored by the non-profit organization, America’s Voices in Israel, along with his longtime quarterbacks coach Quincy Avery, Watson is there for a week.” [HoustonChronicle]
Spotted: UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba attending the American Friends of Lubavitch’s (Chabad) dinner reception at the Organization of American States building in D.C. on Tuesday evening.
DESSERT — Inside the culinary black market for wealthy, elite Americans — by Christopher Cameron and Lauren Steussy: “It’s not just rarified foods that catch chefs’ eyes abroad, either. ‘Back in ’96, I went to Israel and brought back some 45-day dry-aged camel meat,’ says Keven ‘Cheven’ Lee, who cooks for celebrities and is the executive chef of My World on a Plate, a luxe catering company. ‘It was super delicious.’ Camel meat isn’t illegal to consume in the US, but it’s hard to find and illegal to transport across borders. Lee decided the risk was worth it, and hid the meat in a silk scarf — and although customs officials in Israel kept him for about an hour and a half, he got away with it. As a young chef, bringing back such a prized cut helped him make his mark, he says. ‘I served it at a dinner as a charcuterie plate,’ he says. ‘It was absolutely phenomenal.'” [NYPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands (1978-1981) in the Carter administration, Geri M. Joseph turns 96… Binnie Stein turns 80… Attorney, investment banker, film producer, deputy mayor of NYC (1982-1985), EVP of Cushman & Wakefield (2004-2010), commissioner of NY / NJ Port Authority (2013-2017), Kenneth Lipper turns 78… D.C.-based attorney and author, he is a pioneer in suing foreign governments for acts of terrorism such as Libya after Pan Am 103, Allan Gerson turns 74… Rabbi emeritus of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rabbi Bennett F. Miller turns 71… Owner of Wenkert Healthcare Services, Harry E. Wenkertturns 63… President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jay Sanderson turns 62… Inna N. Zalevsky turns 62…
Overland Park, Kansas resident Kathi Shaivitz Rosenberg turns 60… Director of communications for New York State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz since 2012, Adrienne M. Knoll turns 59… Member of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress (1991-1996) and EVP of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (2001-2008), Valery Engel, Ph.D. turns 58… Ob-Gyn physician specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, Jessica Rosenberg Brown, MD turns 58… Co-founder of Centerview Partners, a boutique investment bank based in NYC, prominent Democratic fundraiser, Blair Effron turns 57… Singer-songwriter, actress and television personality, she was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers at the age of 18, Paula Abdul turns 57…
Former member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party (2015-2019), in the 1990s she was a legal advisor to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin turns 49… Chairman and CEO of GreatPoint Energy, a company based in Chicago that develops technology to produce clean natural gas from coal, Andrew Perlman turns 44… Executive director of Hillels in Philadelphia (including Haverford, Bryn Mawr and Arcadia) and Graduate Student Network, Tslil Shtulsaft turns 36… Founder of JSwipe, a Jewish dating app created in 2014, David Austin Yarus turns 33… Founder and executive director of Kahal, which helps Jewish students studying abroad, Alex Jakubowski turns 27… Jessica Brown… Cydney Couch…