Daily Kickoff

Why Bari Weiss wrote a book about antisemitism | A CEO’s lesson from Deuteronomy | NFL stars debate ‘shlemiel’ vs ‘shlemazel’

Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. Monday, May 22, 2017

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BARI’S NEW BOOK — New York Times editor Bari Weiss was gearing up to write a book about censorship and the policing of free speech in the 21st century. Then a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in her hometown of Pittsburgh in October 2018, killing 11 Jewish worshippers. The attack and its aftermath made it clear to Weiss that the book she really needed to be writing in this moment was How to Fight Anti-Semitism, which will be published tomorrow.  

Weiss’s goal for the book: “I want people to have the sense that they’re listening into the conversations that our community has around our Shabbat dinner table,” Weiss tells Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro. While she notes the core appeal of the book is to the Jewish community, “I think that anyone who knows anything about history understands that a society where antisemitism thrives is a society that is dead or dying. And there are lots of signs that America in its current state is in a sort of spiraling period.”

Could Jews in the U.S. one day contemplate emigrating? “I wouldn’t have written this book if I didn’t think that was in some ways a possibility,” Weiss says. “Does it worry me right now that if you are a man walking around Crown Heights with a kippa and tzitzit out, that you might be physically assaulted? That to me is a pretty wild state of affairs, and one that has been largely overlooked in the past.” 

Weiss on President Trump: “In the nearly three years he has been in office, Donald Trump has trashed — gleefully and shamelessly — the unwritten rules of our society that have kept American Jews and, therefore, America safe. He has, at every opportunity, turned the temperature up rather than down. And he has genuinely appeared to have relished his role as the fomenter of chaos and conflict.” 

On antisemitism originating from the political left: “Calling out politicians like Steve King is easy. Calling out Ilhan Omar is not. That is because Omar is herself targeted by racists and lunatics who wish her harm because of her faith, her gender, or the color of her skin.” Weiss makes it clear that “two things can be true at once: Ilhan Omar can espouse bigoted ideas. And Ilhan Omar can herself be the hate object of bigots, including the president of the United States.” [JewishInsider]

BORDER TENSIONS — The IDF said Monday that forces in Syria fired several rockets at Israel overnight that failed to cross over into Israeli territory. The rockets were fired by Iranian-backed Shiite militias operating in Syria, the IDF said. Meanwhile, a drone attack in Syria Sunday night killed 18 Iranian-linked militants.

Hezbollah said early Monday that it downed an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon overnight. The IDF said that one of its drones crashed “during routine operations,” but stressed that there is no risk of a breach of information. 

IRAN WATCH — Samples taken by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of an alleged “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran — first made public by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the U.N. General Assembly last year — showed traces of uranium that suggest Iran may have been engaged in illicit nuclear activity after the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. One U.N official told Reuters on Sunday that the uranium was not highly enriched. 

Iran said on Saturday that it is now using an array of advanced centrifuges, stepping up the enrichment of uranium “much more beyond” current levels to weapons-grade material. The IAEA confirmed at a meeting in Vienna on Monday that Iran has begun installing the advanced centrifuges.  

Unwavering sanctions: Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told reporters on Sunday that the U.S. will continue to impose sanctions on anyone who purchases Iran’s oil or conducts business with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and “there will be no waivers of any kind for Iran’s oil.” Meanwhile, European efforts to protect Tehran from U.S.-imposed sanctions have yet to get off the ground.

Daylight on the way to a new deal? There is growing concern among Israel’s security establishment that a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “is just about a done deal,” Amos Harel reported in Haaretz. According to the report, a meeting with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in London on Thursday “seems to have been the main reason for Netanyahu’s lightning visit.” 

The caveat: Trump could change his mind at the last minute. See his decision to cancel a secret Camp David summit with Taliban leaders on Saturday. 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes: “The mystery is why, in light of all this, Mr. Macron is eager to send Iran more money — especially since Mr. Trump can block the transfer by refusing to waive U.S. sanctions. Perhaps Mr. Macron and the Europeans hope to buy off Iran in the short term as they wait to see if Mr. Trump wins re-election. But in the meantime they are advancing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” [WSJ

Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official, writes… “A U.S.-Iran deal may play a role in Israel’s election and Netanyahu’s future: That Trump changes his mind frequently is virtually a given; no meeting, however many times it is confirmed, is a certainty. Just ask the Queen of Denmark. Nevertheless, Washington and Tehran already may be engaged in off-the-record discussions to pave the way for a summit between Trump and Rouhani. Netanyahu cannot but worry. Unless, of course, he has his own deal in mind.” [TheHill]

TOP TALKER — President Trump faced criticism on Sunday for planning a secret Camp David meeting with Taliban leaders days before the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. On Saturday, the president himself revealed the plan, announcing its cancellation as a result of recent terror attacks in Afghanistan. 

Forces within the admin: The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the decision to suspend talks with the Taliban “stemmed from opposing views within his administration.” National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly voiced his opposition to any deal with the Taliban. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing on Sunday talk shows, stressed that the administration does not rule out reopening talks with the Taliban if they make a “significant commitment.” 

Carter as a model — Trump wanted to boast about his own ‘Camp David Accords’ before Taliban deal collapsed — by Sami Yousafzai and Christopher Dickey: “The idea could have been useful political theater, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said as much in a series of Sunday morning talk shows. Trump’s Camp David show would have harked back to the diplomatic triumph of President Jimmy Carter, who negotiated an end to the seemingly endless conflict between Egypt and Israel in 1978.” [DailyBeast]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Pompeo said on Friday that the administration will present the Trump peace plan “in the coming weeks.” Speaking at Kansas State University, Pompeo called Middle East peace “a difficult problem, one that ultimately those two peoples will have to resolve for themselves, but we’ve worked hard on that.”

LONG READ — Inside Ivanka and Don Jr.’s fight to succeed their father — by McKay Coppins: “The president and his children — who declined to be interviewed for this story — have labored to project an image of unity. But over the past several months, I spoke with dozens of people close to the Trumps, including friends, former employees, White House officials, and campaign aides. The succession battle they described is marked by old grievances, petty rivalries — and deceptively high stakes.” [TheAtlantic]

PALACE INTRIGUE — The appointment of Avi Berkowitz as Mideast peace envoy, following the announcement of Jason Greenblatt’s departure, drew mixed reactions from former diplomats as well as current and former White House officials, according to a Politico profile of the 30-year-old administration official. “People will walk past his desk and he constantly has the Drudge Report and Twitter up. No one thinks of him as a policy person,” one administration official told Politico

Professor Alan Dershowitz praised Berkowitz, recalling a meeting on the details of the peace plan at the White House: “He was always thinking about not only what would be good in the plan, ideally, but what would be acceptable to the Palestinians, what would be acceptable to the Saudis.” Dershowitz also told Politico that Berkowitz sought his advice after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government in May.

Freshman Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that support for Israel remains a strong bipartisan issue in both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, Rosen criticized Trump’s approach to Israel, saying: “What happens in Israel should be decided between Israel and the Palestinians. When we’re going to move an embassy, or recognizing [Israeli sovereignty over] the Golan Heights, they should be negotiated between the parties here, not imposed by another country. That would be my hope going forward.”

TALK OF THE REGION — Landmark Israel-Egypt energy alliance hits snags — by Jared Malsin: “A landmark 2018 natural-gas deal between Israel and Egypt faces legal challenges and concerns about security threats from Islamic State, casting uncertainty over a pact hailed as a sign of deepening ties between the two countries… A lawsuit further clouds Cairo’s ability to sell the politically sensitive deal to an Egyptian public deeply suspicious of Israel.” [WSJ]

Israel’s Foreign Ministry forced to freeze most diplomatic activity due to lack of funds: “The ministry said the instruction was given by the Finance Ministry’s accountant general, due to the ‘grave deficit’ in its budget… Activities that were suspended include diplomats’ overseas work trips, the formulation of new diplomatic initiatives and treaties, hosting delegations of foreign diplomats and journalists in Jerusalem, renovations and maintenance at the ministry headquarters, and so on.” [ToI]

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Former Likud minister Bennie Begin — the son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin — said Monday he could not vote for Likud in next week’s election. Without mentioning Netanyahu by name, Begin called the Likud’s leadership and behavior “arrogant and vulgar.”  

Netanyahu spent the weekend working to champion a bill that would allow his Likud party to place cameras at polling stations around the country on election day. The bill was approved Sunday by the cabinet, but was voted down in the Knesset Monday after Avigdor Liberman said his party would oppose it. Netanyahu says the bill is necessary to prevent large-scale voter fraud, particularly in Arab areas, but critics say his claims are unfounded and aimed at suppressing votes. Both Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon have expressed opposition to the legislation. 

HOW IT PLAYED — Echoing Trump, Israeli leader pushes for election cameras [AP] • Netanyahu borrows from Trump campaign strategy [CNN]

BUZZ ON BALFOUR —  Billionaire Sheldon Adelson reportedly told Israeli police that Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the prime minister, is “crazy” and “decides everything.” According to leaked police transcripts reported by Channel 13 on Sunday, Adelson, once a close ally of Netanyahu, said Sara was obsessed with photographs of herself and how she appeared in the pages of his Israel Hayom newspaper. Adelson’s wife, Miriam, reportedly told police that Sara is involved in the hiring of most of Netanyahu’s staff: “She knows everything that goes on.”

Gaffe alert: “Netanyahu misspoke at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, referring to his UK counterpart Boris Johnson as Boris Yeltsin… Cabinet ministers immediately interjected, and Netanyahu gave a wry smile before correcting himself, saying he was checking to see if his colleagues were paying attention.” [TheGuardianVideo]

Meticulous legalist who holds Netanyahu’s fate in his hands — by Ilan Ben Zion: “When he was appointed attorney-general three years ago, [Avichai] Mandelblit was widely considered a Netanyahu ally after having worked as his cabinet secretary. Yet soon after, he handed Mr. Netanyahu’s wife Sara an indictment for fraud and breach of trust for misusing state funds… Despite this reputation for rectitude, the attorney-general has in recent months faced criticism from the left for supposedly dragging his feet in investigating Mr. Netanyahu, and scorn on the right for allegedly conspiring to depose the prime minister. Addressing his detractors in June, Mr. Mandelblit insisted that ‘nobody will divert us from the straight course — neither the protesters on this side nor the furious from that side.’” [FinancialTimes]

Matti Friedman writes… “The one thing no Israeli wants to discuss: No single episode has shaped Israel’s population and politics like the wave of suicide bombings perpetrated by Palestinians in the first years of the 21st century. Much of what you see here in 2019 is the aftermath of that time, and every election since has been held in its shadow… More than any other single development, that period explains the durability of Benjamin Netanyahu, which outsiders sometimes struggle to understand.” [NYTimes]

ACROSS THE POND — Labour MP John Mann quits to become government antisemitism tsar — by Caroline Wheeler: “The Labour Party was plunged into civil war again this evening as a veteran MP revealed he is quitting the Commons to take up a full-time role as the government’s antisemitism tsar. John Mann told The Sunday Times he was standing down after 18 years as a Labour MP and said Jeremy Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister for his mishandling of the antisemitism crisis that has engulfed the party.” [TheTimesRead Mann’s resignation letter here [Pic]

No labels: MP Luciana Berger — who recently joined the Liberal Democrats months after quitting the Labour Party along with six colleagues in protest over its handling of antisemitism allegations — told The Sunday Times, “When I put myself forward as a candidate in 2009, I never thought I’d be described on BBC News as ‘a Jewish MP.’” Berger added that she was “overwhelmed” by the warm reception she received last week from Liberal Democrats and other MPs, which is in “stark contrast” to her treatment by Labour.

A group of Israeli students was beaten in a nightclub in Warsaw over the weekend, allegedly by Qatari youth who shouted “Free Palestine” and “F**k Israel” at them. Poland’s foreign ministry condemned the violence on Sunday, and said the incident “is being clarified by the police.”

2020 BRIEFS — Joe Biden ahead in Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren filling out the top tier… With time ebbing, trailing candidates search for a presidential message… Tom Steyer appears to qualify for October Democratic debate… Pete Buttigieg’s first television ad calls for ‘real solutions,’ not polarization… Linda Sarsour emerges as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign… Mark Sanford will challenge Trump in the Republican primary… Kamala Harris rolls out broad plan for criminal justice reform.

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork parent weighs further valuation cut [WSJ] • Africa Israel bondholders choose Luxenburg bid [Globes] • BigID announces $50M Series C investment as privacy takes center stage [TechCrunch] • Procurement in Israel for F-35 deal reaches $1.75b [Globes

SPOTLIGHT — T-Mobile’s CEO and the tribal approach to management — by Sam Walker: “[John] Legere’s intensely tribal approach to management may seem new — but in a sense, it harkens all the way back to the Old Testament. The four most famous words in the Book of Deuteronomy are ‘thou shalt not kill.’ It’s a commandment of mercy meant to regulate the way all people, leaders included, treat one another. At the same time, Deuteronomy also includes one notable exception to that rule. If some neighboring community chooses to worship false idols, it says, ‘Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly.’” [WSJ]

A multimillionaire surveillance dealer steps out of the shadows… and his $9 million WhatsApp hacking van — by Thomas Brewster: “On a wildflower-lined gravel track off a quiet thoroughfare in Larnaca, Cyprus, Tal Dillian is ensconced in a blacked-out truck. It’s a converted GMC ambulance, pimped out with millions of dollars of surveillance kit, antennas on top reaching out to learn what it can from any smartphone within a 1-kilometer radius and, at the click of a button, empty them of all the content within… Dilian opened up to Forbes about his private life — ironic, given his trade. The son of artists, he recalls his boyhood in Jerusalem as ‘heaven’ with ‘Jews and Arabs, religious and nonreligious all together in one peaceful city.’… He spent 24 years in the Israel Defense Forces, first in an elite combat unit, where he learned the value of in-field surveillance tools that would become his stock-in-trade. Later he was made chief commander in the technological unit of the IDF’s Intelligence Corps.” [Forbes]

HOLLYWOOD — Toronto film review: “Incitement” — by Alissa Simon: “Although this plot summary sounds as if could be ripped from recent U.S. headlines, ‘Incitement’ is actually a provocative drama from Israeli helmer Yaron Zilberman, which looks at what inspired the devoutly Orthodox law student Yigal Amir to kill Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin… ‘Incitement’ has been nominated for 10 Ophir awards in Israel (including best picture, which, if it wins, will make it Israel’s official Oscar submission) although it won’t be released there until after the Sept. 17 elections.” [Variety]

Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays Eli Cohen in the Netflix mini-series “The Spy,” which debuted on Friday, recounted in an interview with The New York Times that he rejected offers he thought would typecast him as ‘a Jewish actor’ after the release of “Borat”: “There were two Jewish characters that I was developing for film roles with Steven Spielberg, including [the Yippie activist] Abbie Hoffman, who I am still playing in a film that Aaron Sorkin is going to direct. But yes, I used to be reluctant to play anyone Jewish, because I didn’t want to be typecast as the Jewish actor. There are other Jews in Hollywood besides me. But somehow, people thought of me as ‘a Jewish actor’ even after I played Borat, the most outwardly antisemitic character probably since Leni Riefenstahl directed movies… Finally, a number of years ago, I read Gideon [Raff]’s script, and I couldn’t put it down. So I gave up this position of avoiding Jewish or Israeli roles.” [NYTimes]

SPORTS BLINK — NBA star Enes Kanter held a free basketball clinic on Sunday in Brooklyn for Jewish and Muslim children. Kanter, a center for the Boston Celtics and a practicing Muslim of Turkish heritage, oversaw the joint event between the Kingsway Jewish Center and the Turkish Cultural Center of Brooklyn. “It’s so sad that Antisemitism and Islamophobia are on the rise in our world,” Kanter tweeted after the clinic, sharing video footage of the event. “We need to leave our differences on the table and [try] to find what we have in common. It’s all about building bridges, connecting communities and continue to spread the LOVE.”

FIDDLER ON THE FIELD — NFL players Patrick Mahomes and Troy Polamalu speak Yiddish in a new advertising campaign for Head and Shoulders shampoo. The pair, arguing in the locker room about if the shampoo is a better offense or defense, end up in a war of words with Mahomes saying “shlemiel” and Polamalu countering “shlemazel.”  

STATE VISIT — Pennsylvania governor to take Tree of Life mezuzah to Holocaust memorials — by Marc Levy: “[Pennsylvania Gov. Tom] Wolf said Friday that he called [Rabbi Jeffrey] Myers ahead of his trip to the two countries, told him he planned to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp memorial in Poland and asked him how he could honor the [Tree of Life synagogue] shooting victims. At Myers’ suggestion, Wolf said he will carry the ornate mezuzah and sign the victims’ names in commemoration books at the Paneriai Holocaust Memorial, in the forests outside Vilnius, where many of the Lithuanian capital’s Jews were executed, and at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial.” [AP]

MEDIA WATCH — ThinkProgress, a top progressive news site, has shut down — by Sam Stein and Gideon Resnick: ThinkProgress, the influential news site that rose to prominence in the shadow of the Bush administration and helped define progressivism during the Obama years, is shutting down… Top officials at [the Center for American Progress (CAP)] had been searching for a buyer to take over ThinkProgress, which has run deficits for years, and according to sources there were potentially three serious buyers in the mix recently. But in a statement to staff, Navin Nayak, the executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the site was ultimately unable to secure a patron.”

“The site suffered from editorial frictions during the Obama years… Elsewhere, there were rifts and tensions over ThinkProgress posts that were critical of Israel.” [DailyBeast]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Orthodox Jews sick of being ‘photographed like animals’ by tourists — by Melkorka Licea: “Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents are fed up with tourists who swarm their insular neighborhoods by the busload — all to gawk at their clothing and customs… ‘Lately they’re out there every day by the hundreds, and it’s become a ‘must see’ for tourists,’ said Max Hauer, 41, who lives in Williamsburg’s Satmar area. He added that he has been photographed many times without his consent… Hauer blames the uptick on a recent cultural obsession with his way of life, thanks to the documentary ‘One of Us’ and the Israeli series ‘Shtisel,’ both popular on Netflix.” [NYPost]

A judge allegedly called this Jewish man a slur, then sentenced him to death — by Leila Ettachfini: “A case filed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals alleges that former judge Vickers Cunningham called Randy Halprin, a Jewish man from Texas, a ‘f****n’ Jew’ and a ‘goddamn k**e’ during his trial in 2003… Halprin was ultimately convicted [for his role in the shooting of a police officer after he escaped from prison] and is now on death row, scheduled to be executed on October 10 — unless he is granted a new trial within the next month over his complaint… On Thursday, a brief supporting Halprin’s appeal that was signed by more than 100 Jewish attorneys in Texas and several Jewish groups — including the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism — was filed to the court. Separately, a letter from interfaith leaders and a letter from the ADL were also sent to the court.” [ViceWashPost]

Attorney for man accused of threatening Ohio Jewish community center says case is ‘completely fictional’: The Tribune Chronicle reports 20-year-old James Reardon, of New Middletown, was arraigned Friday in federal court in Youngstown. Reardon was charged last month with transmitting threatening communications… Defense attorney Ross Smith said Friday that Reardon was at a shooting range, not the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, when he made the video. Federal agents found weapons and antisemitic information during a search of Reardon’s home.” [CBSPittsburgh]

Driven by history, Jewish temple shelters family facing deportation — by Lilly Fowler: “Anticipating the announcement, the dozens gathered at Temple Beth Hatfiloh erupted in applause before Rabbi Seth Goldstein had a chance to say a word.  As the applause faded, Goldstein explained that the Olympia congregation’s decision to take in Maria Pablo, a native of Guatemala, was dictated by both faith and history. ‘Our Torah teaches over and over again that you should welcome and love the stranger,’ Goldstein said. The temple, just a short distance from the state’s Capitol, is thought to be the first synagogue in Washington state to take a family into sanctuary.” [Crosscut]

CAMPUS BEAT — Bristol University accused of failing to heed Jewish students’ complaints — by Camilla Turner and Imogen Horton: “Bristol University… is accused of failing to take Jewish students’ complaints seriously after it dismissed their concerns about David Miller, a sociology professor, who told undergraduates that ‘ultra Zionist funders are active’ in bankrolling hatred of Muslims. The lecture, which he gave earlier this year as part of a series titled ‘Harms of the Powerful,’ left Jewish students in his class feeling ‘uncomfortable and intimidated,’ according to one complaint submitted to Bristol’s vice-Chancellor.” [Telegraph]

BIRTHDAYS: President of Israel since 2014, Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin turns 80… Florida real estate investor and resort owner, Harris Rosen turns 80… Senior fellow emeritus in the foreign policy program at Brookings, Kenneth Lieberthal turns 76… President of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes turns 70… Fourth president of Yeshiva University (2003-2017), Richard Joel turns 69… A founder of the Shas party, a former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and member of Knesset, Nissim Mordechai Ze’ev turns 68… Founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, Martin Kramer turns 65…

Editorial director of Schocken Books (the Judaica imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group), Altie Karper turns 63… Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison turns 62… Suzy Stone turns 61… DC-based communications strategist and tactician, Jeffrey Weintraub turns 59 (h/t Playbook)… CFO of New Science Ventures, a NYC-based VC firm, Lloyd Eric Appel turns 56… Actor, film producer and musician, known for “The Chanukah Song,” Adam Sandler turns 53… Senior national correspondent at HuffPostJonathan Cohn turns 50…

A Silver Spring, Maryland native, former member of Knesset and author of three books, Dov Lipman turns 48… Partner and associate director at Boston Consulting Group, Sacha Frédéric Litman turns 46… New York City-based freelance journalist, David Freedlander turns 42… SVP of Tiedemann Advisors and managing director of Tiedemann Constantia, previously a U.S. Treasury official posted to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Michael B. Greenwald turns 36… Co-founder of Mapme, now working on Notion, Ben Lang… Beverly Hills resident, Barbara Schechter

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