Daily Kickoff

Controversy continues after Women’s March changes | Israelis back to vote | Remembering Alisa Swidler

Haim Zach (GPO)

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TOP TALKER — The Women’s March has cut ties with three inaugural board members — Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour — following instances of antisemitism, infighting and financial mismanagement, The Washington Post reported on Monday. Though the three co-chairs stepped down on July 15, the organization kept their titles as co-chairs and photos on its website until this week’s announcement of the shakeup. 

Next up: Rabbi Tamara Cohen of Moving Traditions and Ginna Green of Bend the Arc are among the 17 new board members announced on Monday.

Controversy continues: Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), who was also appointed to the board, came under fire after dozens of her tweets surfaced attacking “Apartheid Israel,” the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Community Relations Council. In a 2015 tweet, Billoo wrote: “I’m more afraid of racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel than of the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS.” [JewishInsider]

Reaction: Avi Mayer, AJC’s managing director of global communications, tells JI that “the Women’s March leadership’s obsession with Jews is as strange as it is disturbing. Replacing one set of bigots with a slate that includes other ones will do little to rehabilitate the March’s image.”

Conservative writer Bethany Mandel tells JI: “By all appearances they have replaced one problematic set of women with another. It comes to a certain point where they have to start wondering if they are able to find friends who aren’t antisemitic and what that says about their ideology. It is encouraging that the Women’s March finally took a strong stand about a clear antisemite.” 

The 2020 angle: “It would be nice if the Bernie Sanders campaign would now do the same,” Mandel added, referencing Sarsour, who last week was named a surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 

The New York Times’s Bari Weiss tells JI: “When I wrote this column in August 2017 [titled ‘When Progressives Embrace Hate’], Women’s March co-president Bob Bland called the article ‘a distraction’ and smeared me as an ‘apologist for the status quo, racist ideology and the white nationalist patriarchy.’ I look forward to her apology. Meantime, from the little bit I’ve read so far about some of the new organizers, I fear I’ll have to write a reprise column.” 

Ann Lewis, a board member of Zioness who participated in the Women’s March before distancing from it earlier this year, told JI… “We don’t need to reinvent new organizations that are trying to find new titles for would-be ‘leaders’ who have worn out their welcome elsewhere.”

DRIVING THE DAY — U.S. intelligence officials have reportedly shared new information with Saudi Arabia that shows Iran was the staging ground “for a debilitating attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel is “well-prepared” for the possibility it might be drawn into a U.S.-Iranian military confrontation.

Word from Trump: Speaking to reporters from the Oval Office on Monday, President Donald Trump said that while it “certainly would look” like Iran was behind the attack, the U.S. doesn’t want war with Iran. “We’d certainly like to avoid it,” he said.

Meeting with conditions: The president also reiterated that he wouldn’t consider sanctions relief in order to pave the way for a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly next week. “There were always conditions, because the conditions — if you look at it, the sanctions are not going to be taken off. So if the sanctions — that’s a condition,” he said. 

On the Hill: Senators from both sides of the aisle debated on Monday the risk of the U.S. striking Iran in response to an attack that was not against a U.S. target. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Coons (D-DE) expressed support for military action, while Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) cautioned against retaliation. “The U.S. should never go to war to protect Saudi oil,” Tim Kaine (D-VA) tweeted.

INTERVIEW — Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) discussed the future of the Iran nuclear deal in a conversation with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh. 

According to Nadler, who supported the 2015 nuclear deal, tough economic sanctions have to be “strictly maintained,” not lifted now that the U.S. has withdrawn from the JCPOA. “There’s nothing to stop Iran from enriching uranium and going to a bomb except the strong sanctions,” he explained. “And either you’re going to have an agreement which is enforceable — it says they won’t do it — or you are going to have to enforce very strong sanctions. You can’t go away from both.”

Nadler on re-entering the deal: “I would suggest going back to the deal with strict sanctions. Don’t relax the sanctions. Stop them from enriching uranium. The basic problem with the deal is not the deal itself. The basic criticism, even by the critics of the deal, was that it doesn’t go long enough. That’s true, but it gives you the opportunity to negotiate, to prolong that. Meanwhile, if you don’t do that and you don’t have the strong sanctions, then what have you got?” 

Nadler on John Bolton’s departure: “Bolton’s instinct is always fight — all the time, which is not a good thing. Second of all, he and the president obviously were completely at odds. I mean the president has certain instincts, you know, standing up to other countries. But the bottom line, he doesn’t want to use force… and Bolton does. That’s not a good instinct.”

Report: Bolton has reportedly “expressed interest” in writing a book on his time in the Trump administration, and has been in contact in recent days with agents about the matter. “He has a lot to dish,” one source told The Daily Beast. 

TRIP FALLOUT — New York State Senate Democrats have cancelled a planned delegation trip — led by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — to Israel in November. NY1’s Zack Fink reported on Monday that lawmakers “got cold feet after” Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) were banned from visiting the country. 

Noam Gilboord, COO at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which sponsored the trip, tells JI: “It’s been postponed and the [majority] leader is looking to schedule another trip. It’s simply a scheduling issue.” 

TODAY’S THE DAY — Israelis have already begun voting in today’s redo election, the country’s second national vote in just five months. What to expect in the coming days? JI’s Amy Spiro breaks it down: 

Casting and counting ballots: Polling stations close at 10 p.m. local time tonight, and will be immediately followed by exit polls from the three main TV stations: KAN 11, Keshet 12 and Reshet 13. The exit polls tend to be more accurate than the polls, but are far from exact (case in point: April’s cringeworthy victory speech by Benny Gantz). Counting the ballots will begin immediately and stretch into the night. A decent picture of the results will be available Wednesday morning, but they won’t be final. The final count and seat division has to wait until all the “double envelope” votes are counted, which include those of diplomats, soldiers, poll workers, prison inmates, hospital patients and others who didn’t cast their ballots at their local voting station. 

Presidential consult: Once all the votes are finalized, party leaders will begin meeting one by one next week with President Reuven Rivlin. Each party leader will recommend, presumably, either Netanyahu or Gantz to be tasked with attempting to form a government coalition of at least 61 seats. Party leaders can also decline to recommend anyone to Rivlin. The president then grants the leading candidate 28 days to build a coalition, with a potential extension (which Netanyahu requested and received in May, to no avail). 

Deadlock predicted: The final polls leave it far from clear who, if anyone, will be able to form a majority government after today’s vote. The purported kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman, has vowed to push for a unity government, though both Likud and Blue and White are resistant. There is also speculation that Likud could oust Netanyahu internally, an unlikely outcome. Rivlin has promised to do everything in his power to avoid a third round of elections — which is the default if no government can be formed once again. Those seeking to avoid a third consecutive vote should simply be praying that the polls are way off. 

Aviv Bushinsky, a former advisor to Netanyahu, tells NPR’s Daniel Estrin: “If [Netanyahu] won’t be able to form a 61-seat government, it will be dependent on others. I can’t say that his days are numbered, but no doubt Netanyahu will not end up as a strong politician, Israeli politician as he is now.” 

• NYTimes: Déjà vu or a chance for change? Could this be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last stand?
• APIsrael faces potential deadlock in a closely contested vote
• USA Today: It’s Israel’s election but here’s why Donald Trump is the ‘King of Israel’
• NYPost: Netanyahu’s policies aren’t on the line in Israel’s election — just his job, writes Benny Avni
• Photo essay from the NYTimes: Israeli vote hinges on a mosaic of competing groups
• WSJ: Israel’s election is full of wild cards
• WashPostNetanyahu’s election bid and the shadow of apartheid

VIEW FROM D.C. — Trump commented on the election during a gaggle with reporters in the Oval Office on Monday: “Big election tomorrow in Israel. And that’ll be a very interesting outcome. It’s going to be close. It’s going to be a close election.” [Video

The Prince and the Kingmaker: 

— Yair Rosenberg profiles Yair Lapid in Tablet “Always looking for a good story, Lapid is exactly the sort of person who would walk up to a random synagogue in middle America and knock on the door. But most people — let alone Israelis — are not. This is natural: Most Israeli Jews will never set foot in America, and have little experience with how Jews overseas might experience their Judaism. ‘This is already the second generation of Israelis,” Lapid notes, ‘that has no vivid memory of what it is to live in a diaspora or the difficulties for a Jew living in the diaspora—maintaining and dealing with the duality of their identity.'”

— Noga Tarnopolsky profiles Lieberman in the Los Angeles Times: “Lieberman’s wild ride this year has hinged on the disaffection of Israel’s secular majority in the face of demands made by the ultra-religious minority, who have traditionally played a kingmaker role in Israeli coalition politics, gaining significant social and financial concessions. Although Netanyahu is not personally religious, he has built a close political partnership with the Orthodox community. Lieberman found a way to upend that alliance.”


CONFERENCE CALL — There are two big questions about Israel’s election. Who is going to win, and what are the implications, strategic and otherwise, if Prime Minister Netanyahu loses? The Jewish Leadership Conference (JLC) invites you to a post-election telephone briefing with two experts. Register for free to hear the analysis of Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz, and Akiva Bigman, an acclaimed political journalist at Israel Hayom and Mida.


2020 BRIEFS — Working Families Party endorses Elizabeth Warren after backing Bernie Sanders in 2016… Warren, in New York City rally, promises to take on corruption… Low-tier candidates could threaten Sanders in New Hampshire… The Sanders campaign says it needs a movement to win. The Democratic Socialists Of America are building one… Andrew Yang raised $1 million after last week’s debate… No millennial bump for Pete Buttigieg, but hints of broad appeal… The Michael Bennet problem… Trump set to raise $15 million for his re-election campaign in California trip.

** Good Tuesday 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: WeWork parent says IPO still on despite setbacks — just delayed [Reuters] • SoftBank backers rethink role in next vision fund on WeWork [Bloomberg] • What’s next for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma [Reuters] • Argentic lends $86M to refinance Kushner properties on the LES [CommercialObserver] • Ari Emanuel’s talent agency Endeavor plans to raise up to $712M in IPO [NYPost]

MORE BRIEFS: Marius Nacht, OurCrowd back Igentify in $10.5 million round [Calcalist• Lightstone Group provides $44 million loan to Neil Shekhter-owned WS Communities [RealDeal] • Amazon signs exclusive delivery agreement with Israel Post [Globes] • Starbucks partners with Israeli milk-on-tap startup Milkit [Calcalist]

MEDIA WATCH — Just days after comedian Shane Gillis was hired for “Saturday Night Live”’s 45th season, NBC fired him after past racist and antisemitic remarks were made public. “We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days,” a spokesperson on behalf of SNL creator Lorne Michaels said. “The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.”

TALK OF THE TOWN — A swastika at a Starbucks in Nyack, Rockland County, wasn’t covered up for three weeks, concerned locals reported this week. The incident spurred New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ask the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate. 

Cuomo in a statement: “Antisemitism and hate in all its forms are repugnant to New York’s values of inclusion, diversity and acceptance — and we will continue to call out cowardly acts of hate whenever and wherever we see them.”

Trenton councilwoman Robin Vaughn claims antisemitic slur ‘is a verb,’ demands leak investigation — by Isaac Avilucea: “Councilwoman Robin Vaughn claimed in defending embattled council president Kathy McBride that ‘to Jew someone down is a verb’ and demanded the city law department investigate the source of the leak of closed-door conversations… ‘We really need to get a more acute meaning and understanding of “antisemitic,”’ Vaughn wrote in comments on Facebook responding to questions from constituents about the controversy.” [TheTrentonian]

Meet the future residents of Trump Heights, Israel’s tribute to U.S. support — by Saphora Smith, Yael Factor and Lawahez Jabari: “Not all Israelis living in the Golan Heights were thankful for the Trump administration’s support for Israeli policy. Some of those living in the community adjacent to where Trump Heights will be built claim the land as their own and are unhappy with being associated with the American president. Neighbors David Katz and Uri Sitnik say the land slated for development belongs to their community and said plans for it include building workshops or property where their respective children might one day live… Katz is also concerned that Trump Heights will be a religious community that will not mesh well with their secular settlement.” [NBCNews

Canadian officials honor Nazi collaborators in Ukraine, angering Jewish groups — by David Pugliese: “The Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada are facing criticism after honouring members of Ukrainian organizations that helped the Nazis in the Second World War. Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk spoke at an Aug. 21 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honour members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), two groups that are linked to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles. The event has been condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee who warn the memorial whitewashes the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the Holocaust.” [NationalPost]

SCENE LAST NIGHT — Reps. Max Rose (D-NY) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) spoke at AIPAC’s congressional club fall forum in New York City, on a panel titled “Front lines: Veterans fighting for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” [Pic]

REMEMBERING — Alisa Swidler, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and social activist, died unexpectedly last week at age 47. A New York City native who lived for years in London, Swidler was a managing director at Mercury Consulting and a board member of Zioness and the Democratic Majority for Israel, among other philanthropies. She was an ambassador for The Clinton Foundation, and a prominent donor and fundraiser for Hillary’s multiple campaigns. The DMFI co-chairs said they were “heartbroken” to hear of her untimely passing, and that “her legacy will live on through the many lives she has touched.” Swidler is survived by her husband, Josh, and their five children: Nate, Ash, Rosie, Ava and Lily.

DESSERT — Desserts for the Jewish New Year — by Florence Fabricant: “Breads Bakery has made it easy to go beyond apple cake and honey cake for Rosh Hashana this year. A delectable Russian-inspired pastry called medovik has layers of buckwheat-honey pastry alternating with a sour cream and mascarpone filling. A beautiful macindvash has a shiny green apple exterior enclosing apple mousse, Calvados and caramelized apple, all on a cookie base.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Founder of the Oreck Corporation, manufacturers of vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, David Irving Oreck turns 96… Investment banker who once served as a NYC Deputy Mayor (1978-1980), Peter J. Solomon turns 81… Newberry award-winning author of many young adult books, Gail Carson Levine turns 72… Rochester attorney, Frank Hagelberg turns 71… Former professional tennis player, Harold Solomon turns 67… Comedian and actress, Rita Rudner turns 66… Israeli businessman and former IAF pilot, Mody Kidon turns 65… Author and graphic designer, Ellen Kahan Zager turns 64…

Former member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party (2013-2015), Rina Frenkel turns 63… Senior rabbi of Masorti Judaism in the UK and rabbi of the New North London Synagogue, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg turns 62… Washington columnist for The Guardian, author of two books on the Obama presidency, Richard Wolffe turns 51… Former regional communications director and spokesperson for President Obama, now a partner at Seven Letter, Adam Abrams turns 38…

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