Good Wednesday morning!
On Capitol Hill, the House is expected to vote today to send impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to the Senate for trial.
A House Subcommittee on Homeland Security will hear testimony from Jewish leaders and government experts on the rise of antisemitism. More below.
A scheduled briefing by the State Department’s Special Envoy on Iran Brian Hook at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been postponed amid an uproar over the decision to make the hearing classified.
Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Braun (R-IN) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr this week, asking his office to investigate potential violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
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Democratic presidential candidates debate U.S. strategy in the Middle East
Six candidates took the stage at Iowa’s Drake University on Tuesday night for the seventh Democratic presidential primary debate — the last before Iowans cast their vote in the state’s caucuses on February 3rd.
Foreign policy in focus: Underscoring recent tensions between Washington and Tehran, the first half hour of the debate was dominated by a series of questions about foreign policy focusing on Iran and the U.S. role in the Middle East.
Deal or no deal: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pledged to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal inked in 2015. Biden warned that the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement changed America’s global standing: “We’re now isolated. We’re in a situation where our allies in Europe are making a comparison between the United States and Iran, saying both ought to stand down, making a moral equivalence.”
Bold charge: Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggested that by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, Trump has made it harder for the next president to “achieve that goal” of stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Buttigieg added, “The Iran nuclear deal, the technical term for it was the JCPOA. That first letter ‘J’ stood for ‘Joint.’ We can’t do this alone, even less so now after everything that has happened.”
U-turn: Klobuchar noted that she worked on the nuclear deal “for a significant period of time” and pledged that “as president, I will get us back into that agreement.”
Jewish Democratic Council of America Executive Director Halie Sofer emails JI: “The Democratic presidential candidates may differ on some issues, but they are united in their desire for a foreign policy that begins with restoring our alliances, returning to diplomacy, and only deploying the power of the U.S. military in times of need. The candidates agreed that President Trump’s reckless and irresponsible foreign policy, including his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, has put our national security at risk. The American people agree with this view, and a majority of Americans believe that the [Qassim] Soleimani strike has made us less safe.”
Not a fan: Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that he was unimpressed with the foreign policy portion of the debate. “Nobody defined a vision for U.S. foreign policy,” he explained. “It was all slogans and bumper sticker foreign policy.” Miller also pointed out that not a single candidate mentioned Israel in this context. “Had it been a Republican debate, with Iran as focus, they would have been stumbling over one another with pro-Israeli references,” he stated.
Applause line: After sparring with Sanders over details of a private conversation over women’s electability, Warren got the biggest applause of the night after pointing out her rivals’ electoral records: “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy [Klobuchar] and me.” At the end of the debate, Warren appeared to rebuff Sanders’s attempt at a cordial handshake.
Living history: Hours before the debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer and CNN anchor Dana Bash met with David Wolnerman, the last living Holocaust survivor in Iowa.
Late night remark: Appearing on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Michael Bloomberg said that he would only lead the U.S. to war if the national security of America is directly threatened, “and if the rest of the world is threatened, we have an obligation to go and help. We are the superpower of the world, and with superpower status comes responsibility.”
In other 2020 news: Bloomberg will headline a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at the home of Lynda and Stewart Resnick in Beverly Hills on Friday.
ON THE HILL
Rep. Max Rose to preside over hearing on antisemitism
The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism will hold a hearing this afternoon about confronting the rise in antisemitic violence and domestic terrorism. According to data by the Anti-Defamation League, more than 30 antisemitic incidents have been reported in New York City alone in recent weeks.
Panelists include Ret. Gen. John Allen, NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism John Miller, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament, and Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), chairman of the House panel, tellsJewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that the purpose of the hearing is to hear from organizations “who can provide us some insight into what they are seeing as the threat of increased violence against fellow Jews: How does hate translate into violence?” Rose said the committee will also examine proposals by leading government experts “who are not currently serving in their capacity in the federal government” about how to tackle this violence.
Greenblatt tells JI that he will call on committee members to put more pressure on social media companies to kick neo-Nazis and antisemites off their platforms. He will also call on members to “stop politicizing antisemitism and using it as a partisan cudgel.”
Words matter: Diament, executive director of the OU’s Advocacy Center, is expected to raise the concerns of the Orthodox Jewish community, which has been most affected by the recent wave of antisemitic attacks, according to excerpts of his testimony shared with JI. “Anxiety about this new reality is present in Orthodox Jewish communities across the United States,” Diament plans to say. “In the American Orthodox Jewish community, there is a widespread belief that this wave of physical attacks are the outgrowth of many years of expressions of not only antisemitic bias, but anti-Orthodox Jewish bias in particular, that have long gone unreported and unrepudiated.”
Next step: Rose tells JI he intends to introduce “definitive proposals” and recommendations after this hearing and plans to hold a second hearing next month, where he will invite government officials to provide answers about the “definitive steps” they expect to take to tackle this issue.
Zero is the solution: According to Rose, while elected officials and law enforcement authorities have stepped up and taken action to reduce the level of antisemitic violence after the recent wave, he “will not be satisfied until there’s not a single Jew in New York City and across the country who is afraid to go outside with a kippah, speak Hebrew in public, congregate with their friends in public, observe High Holy days and go to shul. So hell no, I am not satisfied and I won’t be until we do more, and we will do more.”
Kontorovich tells JI he will focus, in his opening remarks, on the antisemitic nature of the BDS movement.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signs anti-BDS executive order
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed an executive order on Tuesday to boycott companies that boycott Israel. “Today, we reaffirm that South Dakota stands with Israel and will only contract with businesses who agree to fairly compete,” the Republican governor said at the signing ceremony, where she was flanked by Jewish community leaders.
Details: The executive order requires vendors seeking contracts with state agencies or affiliated institutions to not engage with companies or contractors who participate in boycotts of Israel. Last year, the state legislatures passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement.
Why it matters: According to Stephen Rosenthal, a leader of the Jewish community in South Dakota, “We have the smallest Jewish population of any state in the United States and yet here we have an outpouring of support for Israel.” Rosenthal added that Noem “has been the driving force to see this anti-BDS measure get done from the first moment we talked about it.”
United against BDS: To date, 28 states have either passed or implemented anti-BDS measures. In several states, the laws have been challenged on First Amendment grounds.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that the move shows “the profound support for Israel in South Dakota and demonstrates its commitment to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.” Hunegs noted that despite the fact that there are only some 300 Jews in the state, more than 50 legislators — out of 105 in the House and Senate — from both parties attended the signing ceremony.
Jacob Millner, associate director at the American Jewish Committee’s department of regional offices, tells JI: “It’s an important step taken to illustrate the strong bonds and common values between Israel and South Dakota. In a state with the smallest Jewish population in America, the signing is a bold and powerful statement in support of the Jewish state.”
Latest court challenge: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is expected to argue on behalf of The Arkansas Times during a hearing in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals today on a lawsuit challenging the Arkansas anti-BDS law.
📰 Double Standard: Law professor Eugene Kontorovich has taken Human Rights Watch’s director for Middle East and North Africa Sarah Leah Whitson to task in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Kontorovich argues that Whitson supports settlements in contested territories in Azerbaijan, but applies a different standard in Israel. [WSJ]
👵 Going Back in Time: In The New York Times, Jordan Salama shares his experience as a Gen Z Jewish-American, growing up on the stories of his Jewish family’s life in Iraq, and now fearing for his safety amid a rise in antisemitic violence across the country. [NYTimes]
✍️ Debate Watch: In Tablet, Shaul Magid explores how Zionist scholars and the religious left grapple for the legacy of Hasidism. Magid argues that a new wave of Neo-Hasidic study has emerged, offering a more Conservative and ultimately inaccurate revision of Hasidism. [Tablet]
Around the Web
♻️ Tackling Climate Change: In his annual letter to chief executives, BlackRock’s Larry Fink said his firm will hold back from investing in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk.”
📱 Startup Nation:Israeli firm Cellebrite, whose software can unlock and extract data from mobile devices, has acquired California-based computer forensics provider BlackBag Technologies for $33 million.
📈 Cashing In: The total value of Israeli exits in 2019 rose to $21.7 billion, far eclipsing the figure of $12.6 billion in 2018, according to data from research center IVC-Meitar.
⚖️ Day in Court: Amnesty International will appear in an Israeli court this week after filing a suit to try and force the Israeli government to revoke the export license of NSO Group, which has allegedly been used to spy on journalists and dissidents.
🎬 Hollywood: Josh and Benny Safdie, the directors of “Uncut Gems,” spoke withSlate about incorporating Jewish stereotypes into their latest film, and exploring the relationship between Jews and African Americans.
📺TV Money: Days before the debut of his series “Little America” on AppleTV+, Lee Eisenberg has signed a multi-year deal with the streaming service.
🗞️ Media Watch: The Economist Group has tapped Bob Cohn, former president of The Atlantic, as president and managing director of The Economist.
👩 New Boss: Philissa Cramer, a co-founder of the education news organization Chalkbeat, has been named editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
👨💼 Transition: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has become the new board chair of the Israel Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to enhancing knowledge and study of modern Israel on college campuses.
🔍 Deep Dive:Wireddelves into the open-source techniques used to solve the mystery of the Ukrainian Airlines plane shot down in Iran.
📹 Urgent Call: In a video statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community to impose snapback sanctions on Iran at the U.N., as EU countries intensified efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal while, at the same time, triggering the dispute mechanism. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by phone with Netanyahu and “reiterated that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering.”
🎤 Jerusalem Scene: Blue and White leader Benny Gantz ”reiterated the importance of increased sanctions on Iran and commended President Trump for his determined action against the Iranian nuclear program” during a meeting with AIPAC’s board of directors on Tuesday.
🧑🤝🧑 Locking Arms: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson adopted the U.S. stance on the nuclear deal in an interview with BBC on Tuesday. “If we’re going to get rid of [the JCPOA] then we need a replacement,” he said. “Let’s replace it with the Trump deal.”
🏢 Move Made, Move Kept:Incoming Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Tuesday that he will keep his country’s embassy in Jerusalem, a move made by his predecessor, Jimmy Morales.
📺 Walk Back: ABC’s quiz show “Jeopardy!” apologized on Monday after coming under fire for wading into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a statement, the show said that a question about the location of the Church of the Nativity — in which host Alex Trebek rejected an answer from a contestant who said Palestine — was included in Friday’s broadcast in error.
👋 Take Three: For the third time in two months, a group of Jewish organizations — including the ADL, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Reform and Reconstructionist movements — have signed a letter urging the removal of White House advisor Stephen Miller.
🤔 Unpopular Opinion: William Byatt, treasurer of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, argued in a tweet that it was not antisemitic to criticize Israel’s “apartheid policies.”
🏘️ Talk of the Town: A Quebec Superior Court judge overturned a condition of sale by the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, about 25 miles southeast of Montreal, that bans Jews from buying or renting homes on land that was owned by landowner Alphonse Waegener in the 1950s and 1960s. Following the judgment, the city said it will consider changing a street named for him.
👨⚖️ Facing Justice: Grafton Thomas, the Hanukkah stabbing attacker, could face the death penalty if the seriously injured victim, Josef Neumann, dies from his wounds, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Krouse said during a court hearing in White Plains, N.Y. on Monday.
📱 No Place for Hate: The Justice Department has charged a former Virginia college student with calling in fake emergencies to prompt law enforcement responses, in coordination with a neo-Nazi group that “shared racist views” and had a “particular disdain for African Americans and Jewish people.”
🤳 Optics: In a newly released photo, Lev Parnas — the indicted Giuliani associate — stands between a smiling Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
🕯️ Remembering: Gladys Bourdain —The Times copy editor and mother of Anthony Bourdain — passed away at age 85.
Pic of the Day
Spotted yesterday at the ATL Delta Sky Club: Ivanka Trump on her way to DCA.
President and CEO of Discovery, David M. Zaslav turns 60…
Senior counsel at Covington & Burling, he was previously the domestic policy advisor to President Carter, U.S. Ambassador to the EU (1993-1996) and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury (1999-2001), Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat turns 77… University professor at Columbia University, he won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Martin Chalfie turns 73… Teacher at Santa Barbara City College and longtime member of Congregation B’nai B’rith in Santa Barbara, Madelyn Palley turns 71… Chair of the Aspen Institute’s Middle East Program and EVP at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, she was formerly Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Toni G. Verstandig turns 67… President and managing partner of The Stagwell Group, a private equity fund focused on the marketing services industry, Mark Penn turns 66… Head coach and general manager of the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL, Marc Trestman turns 64… Cryptographer, computer security specialist, blogger, writer, author of 13 books, he is a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Bruce Schneier turns 57…
Former White House deputy press secretary for Bush 43, later VP at Goldman Sachs and managing director at both TPG and Mercury, LLC, Adam Levine turns 51… Filmmaker and educator, her films are aimed at an audience of Haredi women, Tali Avrahami turns 51… Prime minister of Belgium since October, she is the first female head of government of Belgium, Sophie Wilmès turns 45… Basketball analyst for Fox Sports, he played basketball professionally in the USBL, Europe and for Maccabi Ra’anana, Doug Gottlieb turns 44… Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since November, Judge Steven Menashi turns 41… Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Wire, conservative political commentator, nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk show host, Ben Shapiro turns 36… Investigative reporter at The New York Times focused on health care, Sarah Kliff turns 35… Real estate investor and 48 states in 48 hours co-founder, Hershy Tannenbaum turns 34… Actress, singer and writer based in NYC, she starred as Hodel in Bartlett Sher’s acclaimed revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” Samantha Massell turns 30… CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond…