Good Tuesday morning!
On Capitol Hill, Congressional leaders agreed on Monday to increase to $90 million funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) that helps religious institutions install security measures.
Tonight in D.C., Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer will host his annual Hanukkah party at the Israeli Embassy.
In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Kraft will be the special guest at Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon’s annual Hanukkah reception at his residence.
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2020 WATCH — What ‘the Bern’ might look like in the White House
Politico Magazinetakes a close look at 2020 hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders to see how a Sanders presidency could actually shape up.
Bernie’s crew: Administration officials and cabinet members, the author David Siders presumes, would include Matt Duss, the 78-year-old’s top foreign policy advisor, as a possible national security advisor; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) as a candidate for attorney general and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten as a choice for education secretary.
More of the same? In the foreign policy arena, Siders suggests Sanders could turn out to be not too different than any other Democratic president. Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and longtime international relations professor — who is mentioned in the article as a possible defense secretary — tellsPolitico: “The chance for early action, as it were, would be to curtail our military misadventures in the Middle East, withdraw from Afghanistan, withdraw from Syria and Iraq.” But absent a crisis, Bacevich said, “I would be surprised if upon taking office he would undertake major changes in U.S. foreign policy.”
Alan Abbey, director of internet and media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, who covered Sanders — when he was mayor — for the Burlington Free Press 35 years ago, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “Until recently, I have been sanguine, even optimistic, about the way a President Sanders would approach Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has in the past been outspoken in defense of Israel, even as left-leaning Democrats have turned away from the Jewish state over the occupation and challenges to Israeli democracy. But I am concerned these days that Bernie has surrounded himself with supporters whose views on Israel lack nuance and understanding and have turned toward outright distaste for the Jewish state.”
On the trail: In a BuzzFeed News profile titled “You Don’t Know Bernie,” Ruby Cramer explores Sanders’s appeal on the campaign trail, his sometimes contentious interactions with the media and arguments with his staff, his recent heart attack and his perennial view of himself as an outsider: “He suspects his parents were Democrats, but he isn’t sure — it’s not something they discussed,” Cramer writes. “So he is not drawn to Washington in the usual ways.”
Stay the course: Alex Kane writes in The Nation about the activists who are working to prevent the Democratic party — and the 2020 candidates — from moving to the left on Israel. Kane points out that the most pointed critiques of Israel on the campaign trail are being raised by Sanders himself.
Meanwhile in other 2020 news: Former Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announced his endorsement of Joe Biden for president, becoming the fifth Obama cabinet member to endorse the former vice president.
LIKUD PRIMARY WATCH — Bibi’s challenger launches campaign with electability message
Likud Knesset Member Gideon Sa’ar formally launched his campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as head of the Likud party on Monday in front of close to 1,000 supporters in Or Yehuda. At the same time, Netanyahu rallied supporters in Ramla, Holon and Lod.
Why it matters: This marks the first serious challenge to Netanyahu within Likud in more than a decade. The fact that Netanyahu has failed twice in a row to form a government could propel Sa’ar to win over the skeptics to ensure continued Likud rule. Sa’ar has a “compelling argument for right-wing voters,” Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov explained to JI. While Netanyahu has the advantage as the incumbent, his fate is in peril after two failed campaigns and with a legal cloud hanging over his head.
Victory or opposition: In his remarks last night, Sa’ar emphasized, “Likud members must admit that a prime minister who is respected and admired is stuck and there is no chance that he will be able to form a government after the March 2 election. If we don’t bring about change, we are very close to a left-wing government that will endanger the Land of Israel.”
Gidi Grinstein, founder of the Reut Group, a Tel Aviv-based think tank, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “The argument Sa’ar is making is a coalition-making argument about the ability to hold power, because the range of players he can work with to form a government is much broader.”
Fighting back: Minutes after Sa’ar concluded his remarks, Netanyahu responded with a live broadcast on his Facebook page, pushing back against the claim that Likud would end up in opposition if he stays on as leader. At a packed event in Holon, Netanyahu touted his leadership skills and diplomatic achievements without mentioning his rival by name.
Bibi’s argument: According to Ari Harow, a member of Likud and former chief of staff to Netanyahu, Bibi has a stronger case in an ideological and issues-based campaign, whereas Sa’ar is more about “political opportunism” in promising to keep Likud in power.
Shifting strategy: “I think that Netanyahu has merged his own issues with the issues critical to his base — the establishment going after him is the establishment going after the right-wing and the Likud,” Harow asserted. “There’s no question that if he wins the Likud primary that this is going to be his campaign.
Sa’ar’s goal: Notwithstanding an upset, Sa’ar needs to get “at least 30% of the vote to establish himself as a serious candidate,” Asaf Shariv, former Israeli Consul General in New York, tells JI. “If he manages to get 40%, that’s a win. It will make Netanyahu more vulnerable in the general election, and it will have an impact on the day after the election if Netanyahu fails once again to form a government. When you get 20% you are not in a position to stand in as the immediate successor.”
Next in line: Harkov puts the bar between 20 and 30%. “As much as [Sa’ar] would like to be Likud leader now, the realistic goal is to position himself as the presumptive heir, in a crowded field of post-Netanyahu candidates,” she explained. “And by that metric, he’s already succeeding, much to the dismay of people like Yuli Edelstein, Nir Barkat or Gilad Erdan.” Globes political correspondent Tal Schneider tells JI that Sa’ar “is giving a good fight, but Netanyahu has a better grip of the party’s apparatus and staff, so it will be challenging to beat him.”
Pick an opponent: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would prefer a weakened Netanyahu as his rival,” Shariv posited. While Sa’ar would get fewer votes for his party than Netanyahu, there are a lot of right-wing voters who want to see Netanyahu out of office in the wake of the indictments and would therefore vote for other parties on the right. “The chances of Sa’ar to form a coalition are much bigger than Netanyahu — and Blue and White understands that very well,” he stressed. Schneider disagreed, noting that “Netanyahu is the toughest contender, the most risky and the one politician that everyone is afraid of.”
ON THE HILL — Pompeo pushes back against criticism of new settlements policy
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back on Monday against House Democrats in response to a letter sent to him last month, authored by Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI). Levin’s letter, which was co-signed by 106 House Democrats, expressed “strong disagreement” with the recent U.S. policy reversal on settlements announced by Pompeo.
‘Foolish positions’: “While I appreciate your interest in this important issue, I couldn’t disagree more with those two foolish positions,” Pompeo wrote in his response letter, sent to Levin on Monday. The top diplomat said that the fixation of certain Congress members on settlements “as a barrier to peace” and as a bipartisan matter is “simply wrong.”
No reversal: “The State Department’s determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements,” Pompeo explained in the letter, first reported by The Jerusalem Post. “Rather, the State Department reversed a legal determination by Secretary [of State John] Kerry made during the waning days of the Obama administration, that the establishment of settlements was categorically inconsistent with international law.”
Ultimate deal watch: Congress rejected on Monday a request from the Trump administration to appropriate $175 million to a special fund that would support the Mideast peace plan.
PODCAST PLAYBACK — The Eastern European distortion of Holocaust history
In an interview for the New Books Network podcast, Jelena Subotić, a Georgia State University professor of political science, discusses her latest book Yellow Star, Red Star: Holocaust Remembrance after Communism. In the book, Subotić explores the obfuscation and distortion of Holocaust history in Eastern European states. The interview — conducted by Steven Seegel — covers what Subotić terms the “ontological insecurities” related to national and international identity that have driven the misrepresentation of Holocaust history.
Memory: In particular, Subotić focuses on the question of memory: how ethnic majorities rephrased local histories to focus on their suffering during the war and subsequent communist occupation. “I wanted to explore what makes this historical event at the same time incredibly important and also incredibly unimportant in the ways it’s remembered and represented.”
Historical distortions: “Our past is remembered through our own immediate experience, and almost exclusively through an experience of our own victimization,” she said. The real problem in the region, Subotić argues, is how national memory became distorted to reflect “ethnic majority suffering.” The compelling nature of these ethnic majority narratives, Subotić explains, takes up all “moral space, ethical space, and cognitive space to understand the suffering and trauma that others lived through.”
Clashing with the truth: Today, as many of these states became members of the European Union, their interpretations of the Holocaust clash with the dominant Western narratives. This creates resentment among the Eastern European states that simultaneously causes an integration of narratives. Subotić finds that symbols and images of the Holocaust suffering have been appropriated to symbolize suffering under communism.
With extensive expertise on the political history of the Balkans, Subotić connected her previous scholarship with the history of the Holocaust. “It became quite obvious to me that part of the problems of memory of those Yugoslav wars of the ‘90s are problems that really go much more back further into the past and that are interplayed with memories of World War II and memories of the Holocaust,” she explains.
Personal history: During her research, Subotić discovered her grandfather’s previously unknown role in Serbia during the early days of World War II. As Subotić realized “that my own family has a role not only in the history of the Holocaust, but the way it is remembered,” she followed her personal connection to better explore the ways ethnic majorities responded to the events of the Holocaust.
📼 Tough Job: The Vergeprofiles the work done by Google and YouTube “moderators,” those tasked with rooting out violent and extreme content. Some of these moderators are required to watch five hours of gruesome footage per day. The result has been a rise in mental health issues, including PTSD and chronic anxiety. [TheVerge]
🌎 Global Hate: Adam Gopnik writes in The New Yorker about the “bewildering” recent rise in antisemitism, from Jersey City to the Paris Metro to the British Labour Party. How to explain its continent-hopping appeal? “The supposed omnipresence and transcendent power of the Jews… can explain everything, justify anything” among extremists of all stripes, Gopnik opines. “Jews, and Jewish values, will never find true friends among the fanatics.” [NewYorker]
📊 Data Fudge: The investigative team at Gray Television, which operates TV stations in 93 U.S. television markets, has published an in-depth report uncovering the FBI’s failure to legally report its hate crime statistics for years. Despite graffiti reading “Synagogue of Satan” on a synagogue in Louisiana in 2018, the FBI database showed zero hate crimes for the year in that police district. [GrayTV]
AROUND THE WEB
🎤 Impeachment Watch: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) faced dozens of angry Trump supporters at a town hall meeting on Monday after she announced that she will be voting in favor of the articles of impeachment.
🚫 No Entry:Ynetreported that the rate of rejection for Israelis seeking visas to the United States has steadily risen over the past five years, reaching 5.33% in 2019. In 2015 the rate of refusal was just 3.85%.
🧑⚖️ Caught and Charged: Ahmed A-Hady, the owner of a pawnshop in New Jersey whose number was found in the back pocket of one of the killers in the Jersey City attack, was charged with the possession of a weapon at the U.S. District Court in Newark on Monday. A-Hady hasn’t been charged with providing any of the guns used in the horrific shooting.
👮 New Details: The two shooters in the Jersey City attack both had handcuff keys hidden on their bodies, a Philadelphia NBC affiliate reported.
📈 Crunching the Numbers: Despite touting a “high arrest rate” for perpetrators of hate crimes in New York City, NYPD data shows the figure is around 42%.
💉 Health First: New Jersey has postponed voting on a bill that would ban religious exemptions for state-wide vaccine requirements, including in colleges and universities.
🥊 Campus Beat: A fraternity at Indiana University, Pi Kappa Phi, has been suspended following a brawl on Friday that allegedly involved antisemitic slurs. According to reports, three Jewish students were badly beaten by a group of 11 men as they tried to enter a party uninvited.
⚰️ Across the Ocean:Berlin police are investigating who opened the unmarked grave of former SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, a top Nazi killed by Czech partisans in 1942, at the Invalids’ Cemetery in central Berlin.
🏭 Historic Deal: Israel signed a permit on Monday to export natural gas to Egypt just days before Israel’s Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea is expected to go online. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called it a “historic landmark” for Israel.
🤖 Big Deal: Intel has purchased the Israeli artificial intelligence firm Habana Labs for about $2 billion.
💰 Cash Stash: The Sackler family has transferred $1.36 billion overseas since 2008, Purdue Pharma revealed in a court filing yesterday.
🕍 Never Again: The Australian government has pledged $6 million to revamp a Jewish community center in Perth, including the establishment of a Perth Holocaust Museum.
🎤 Next Gen: On the 25th anniversary of his iconic “Hanukkah Song,” Adam Sandler issued a clarion call: “If there are any other Jewish people out there who want to write a new one, that’d be great. I’d love to share the Hanukkah spirit with you.”
🥩 Finger-Lickin’ Good: Fashion designer Batsheva Hay speaks to The New York Times about making her husband’s grandmother’s brisket and how she “became this weird Jewish grandma fashion designer.”
🕯️ Remembering: Gershon Kingsley, a composer who brought electronic sounds into popular music and who devoted his work to Jewish spirituality and culture and to Holocaust remembrance, passed away at age 97.
PIC OF THE DAY
A bipartisan delegation of Secretaries of State from across the U.S. is visiting Israel on a weeklong trip sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Project Interchange.
Participants include Alaska Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer, Secretaries of State Paul Pate (R-IA), John Merrill (R-AL). Scott Schwab (R-KS), Matt Dunlap (D-ME), Jocelyn Benson (D-MI), Corey Stapleton (R-MT), Barbara Cegavske (R-NV), Tahesha Way (D-NJ), Mac Warner (R-WV), and Ed Buchanan (R-WY).
Former member and Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she served from 1976 until this past summer, and is the longest-serving justice in the history of that court, Shirley Abrahamson turns 86…
Washington attorney and vice chair of The American Jewish International Relations Institute, Stuart Sloame turns 80… VP of strategic planning and marketing at Queens, N.Y.-based NewInteractions, Paulette Mandelbaum turns 72… Former chairman and CEO of HBO for 28 years until earlier this year, now working on a new production company that will reportedly be working with Apple+, Richard Plepler turns 61… Founder and CEO of LionTree, Aryeh B. Bourkoff turns 47… Israeli soccer goalkeeper who played 386 matches for Maccabi Haifa (1994-2013) and 51 matches or the Israeli national team (1998-2010), now a coach for the national team, Nir Davidovich turns 43…
Omidyar Fellow at the New America Foundation, Eli Pariser turns 39… Online editor of Commentary and author of “Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America,” Noah C. Rothman turns 38… Member of the States Team at Mike Bloomberg 2020, he was deputy CFO/COO for Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign, Daniel Ensign turns 29… Actor, singer-songwriter and musician, Nat Wolff turns 25… Lifelong advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers for the International Rescue Committee and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), Sheppie Glass Abramowitz turns 83… and Sheppie’s son, president of Freedom House, Michael J. Abramowitz turns 56…