Good Thursday morning!
Today on Capitol Hill, the House will vote on a war powers resolution, introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and backed by the Democratic leadership, to limit the Trump administration’s military actions against Iran.
J Street is backing the measure, while AIPAC declined to take a position. NORPAC President Ben Chouake tells JI that his organization hasn’t taken a position on the resolution because it’s a party-line vote, calling the partisanship “discouraging.”
Senators offered widely different reactions after attending a classified briefing on the Iran situation yesterday. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) called the briefing “completely unacceptable” and “insulting,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said it was “compelling” and that officials “answered every important question,” while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said the administration provided “no evidence” of an imminent attack.
Last night, Trump spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss “critical bilateral and regional issues,” according to the White House.
At CES in Las Vegas, Ivanka Trump was seen backstage with ICON’s Yasmin Lukatz and CEO of Nyotron Sagit Manor, along with the IAC’s Shawn Evenhaim.
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HEARD YESTERDAY — Sen. Tom Cotton accuses Koch and Soros-backed think tank of fomenting antisemitism
In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) blasted the Quincy Institute and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for driving an increase in antisemitism across the country.
Fighting words: Calling antisemitism an “ancient hatred,” Cotton said: “It festers on Internet message boards and social media. It festers in Washington think tanks like the Quincy Institute, an isolationist ‘blame-America-first’ money pit for so-called ‘scholars’ who’ve written that American foreign policy could be fixed if only it were rid of the malign influence of Jewish money. It festers even on elite college campuses, which incubate the radical Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — a movement to wage economic warfare against the Jewish state.”
Background: The Quincy Institute — founded in 2019 and funded by the unlikely pairing of George Soros and Charles Koch — calls for an end to American military intervention and a refocus on diplomatic strategy. Neorealist scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt — who in 2007 jointly published the controversial book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy — are both non-resident scholars at the institute.
An aide to Cotton told Jewish Insider: “No think tank with this level of funding has engaged in such a tight embrace of outright antisemites and their ideas.”
Of note: A first-term senator, Cotton was elected in 2014 with $8.1 million in backing from the Koch brothers’ network.
Words matter: In his remarks, Cotton stressed, “These forms of antisemitism may be less bloody than the street crime that New York’s Jews have endured in recent days, but they channel the same hatred, the same conspiratorial and obsessive focus on the Jewish people.”
Reform the reform: Cotton also criticized New York’s bail reform law, which ended cash bail and pretrial detention for the majority of low-level crimes. The new law has come under criticism from prosecutors, law enforcement and state Republicans. Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both spoken out in support of the reform.
Read the full text of Cotton’s floor speech here.
Reaction: The Quincy Institute responded to Cotton on Twitter, calling his claims a “smear” that “shows a profound disrespect for victims of antisemitism and undermines efforts to combat bigotry.”
IN THE CHAMBER — NYC councilman calls out colleagues for spreading antisemitism
New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger, a Democrat who represents the neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood in Brooklyn, pointed fingers at some of his colleagues for engaging in antisemitic rhetoric and spouting hatred against the Hasidic community during a speech in the Council’s chambers on Wednesday:
“For far too long, too many who hold public office, and those who portend themselves to be members of the media, have tinkered at the fringes of antisemitism. You market an ‘us vs. them’ message against Orthodox Jews. You did this. When you deliberately paint a portrait of Orthodox Jews as backwards members of society, who don’t vote how you like, don’t do what you want, don’t educate our children how you wish, you did this.”
“Those who spent Sunday posing for pictures with Jews, but spend the other 364 days of the year festering hate against my community, you did this. When you hold signs that claim you stand with Hasidic Jews, but then you go stand with antisemites, you did this.”
Human shield: Yeger tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that he felt the need to stand up and speak out because some politicians have been given a pass for their “verbal violence against our community.” They feel “they can say and do whatever they want, and as long as they show up at the right parties and take the right pictures, all is forgiven,” Yeger said. “They feel their titles give them a free pass to step on our necks and foster hatred of our community.”
Not now, not ever: Yeger tells JI he hopes his speech sent the right message. “For too long, too many have taken us for granted. And some of that is our fault too, because we allow them to do it,” he explained. “I hope that ended today.”
Weeks of hate: The Anti-Defamation League released a list on Wednesday of the recent antisemitic incidents across the state of New York. In just a five-week period — from Dec. 1, 2019 through Jan. 6, 2020 — the ADL confirmed 43 antisemitic incidents, including 11 assaults on Jews.
Taking action: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during his state of the state address on Wednesday that his administration will push the state legislatures to pass a bill that would classify mass violence motivated by hate as domestic terrorism. Cuomo plans to establish a task force to examine the issue. The governor also announced a plan to expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage so it can host tours about the Holocaust for school children across the state.
Albany scene: Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, whose Monsey home was the scene of a stabbing attack on Hanukkah, delivered the invocation ahead of Cuomo’s speech.
Notifications: Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) introduced legislation that would require a community to be notified within 24 hours that a violent hate crime took place.
Brewing debate: New York Assemblymembers Dan Quart, Harvey Epstein and Linda Rosenthal are pushing back — as Jewish legislators — against attempts to modify the state’s new bail reform bill in the wake of antisemitic violence.
Never again is now: In a letter sent on Wednesday, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Max Rose (D-NY) urged the leadership of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School (ECFS) in New York to implement a process that would prevent incidents of antisemitic hate speech after a guest speaker compared Jews to Nazis in a recent appearance.
The social media postings of J.B. Brager, a history teacher at the Fieldston School, are raising concerns among Jewish parents and students.
LIFE’S MISSION — The music exec on a crusade against wrongful imprisonment
Rolling Stone’s Alex Morris details how Lava Records CEO Jason Flom — who signed artists including Katy Perry, Kid Rock, Skid Row and Lorde — has spent several decades leading a one-man crusade to aid the wrongfully convicted and those serving disproportionate sentences.
Connecting the pieces: Flom, who has served as the chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records Group, Virgin Records and the Capitol Music Group, began his long journey of advocating for convicts after stumbling on the story of a man serving 15 years to life for possessing 4.2 ounces of cocaine. Flom, then at Atlantic Records, reached out to a lawyer who “we would call if one of the singers or anybody in the band got arrested.”
Working connections: From there, Flom ended up on a 25-year drive to help the wrongfully accused and convicted work their way to freedom and exoneration. And he has a proven track record of “getting governors and presidents to grant clemencies, using his connections, his doggedness, and his significant powers of persuasion” — even if that means “taking a governor or a senator backstage” at a concert, Morris writes.
Presidential audience: In 2000, Flom finagled an invitation to a dinner with President Bill Clinton, and “secretly moved place cards around so that he’d be close enough to the president to have a discussion with him.” After Clinton agreed to review Flom’s pitches for candidates for clemency, the music executive presented the president with 25 requests. Clinton granted 17 of them.
Worth noting: Flom’s father, Joseph, was the famed attorney whose name is on the international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
VIEW FROM CHINA — Chinese academic compares Hong Kong protests to Israel/Palestine
Yan Xuetong, a prominent foreign affairs scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, shared his thoughts on the months-long protests in Hong Kong in a feature story written by The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos.
Sustainable situation: According to Yan, the standoff between pro-democracy protesters and the country’s leadership backed by the Chinese government has become comparable to the current state of relations between the Palestinian population and Israel’s armed forces in the West Bank. “Violence will become a common phenomenon,” he said. “Like the Palestinian kids firing on Israeli police, but not as grave.”
“The comparison struck me as odd, until I realized that, from Beijing’s perspective, Israel’s sequestering of the West Bank and Gaza has led to an agreeable scenario: a chronic but confined insurgency that does not threaten the country’s overall security.”
👴 LD’s Real Life: In GQ, Brett Martin takes a close look at the alternate reality of Larry David — comparing the real-life happy Larry with the grouchy ‘TV Larry’ — ahead of the premiere of the 10th season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO on January 19. [GQ]
😟 New Ugly Reality: The Associated Presshighlights conversations with young American Jews on how they are grappling with the new worrisome experience of antisemitism, including those who are hiding outward signs of their religion and those who are embracing them. [AP]
👑 De-Crowning: After the shock of yesterday’s announcement by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, The Daily Beast has a guide to the couple’s “very glamorous North America welcoming committee,” including stylist Jessica Mulroney, fashion designer Misha Nonoo and Markle’s college friend and TV producer Lindsay Roth. [DailyBeast]
🕯️ Never Forget:Author Kenny Fries writes in The New York Times about the Nazis’ Aktion T4 killings, when thousands of disabled people were murdered in Germany in a horrifying test run for the subsequent mass murder of Jews. “Unlike the Holocaust, there are no T4 survivors,” he wrote. “Aktion T4 does not have its Elie Wiesel or Primo Levi.” [NYTimes]
AROUND THE WEB
💻 Cyber War: The identities of a New York Post reporter and an Israeli reporter were among those stolen by Iranian propagandists to spread disinformation on Twitter. A pro-Iran Instagram campaign reportedly targeted the Trump family after Soleimani’s funeral.
🤟 Love in the Air: 71% of Israelis have confidence in President Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, according to a new Pew Research survey, compared to 64% globally who say they do not trust the American president. According to the poll, 66% of Israelis back the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
✈️ Business, Not Pleasure: Former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn defended his prior trips to Israel — despite being prohibited by Lebanese law — during a press conference in Beirut after fleeing Tokyo, where he was awaiting trial for financial misconduct.
🚘 Open Road: Israel’s Mobileye has signed two new deals in China and South Korea.
🎤 Talk of the Town:James Harris has been temporarily removed as education chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Montclair, New Jersey, over antisemitic remarks he made during a recent community meeting.
👴 Twisted Hatred:A family in Toronto was horrified to find that a swastika had been drawn on the head of their relative living at a care facility in the city.
⚽ Sports Blink: Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich has commissioned a new 40-foot antisemitism art project at Stamford Bridge stadium.
💪 Power Sharing: Israeli-British illusionist Uri Geller has applied for a job in the Boris Johnson government, offering his “genuine psychic powers.”
💎 Real Gem: Jewelers of Manhattan’s diamond district talk to Time magazine about the truth and fiction in Adam Sandler’s “Uncut Gems.”
🧔 Keeping That Look: Actor Steven Skybell tellsThe New York Times he’s considering keeping his beard and shtetl look after playing the character of Tevye in Joel Grey’s Yiddish-language production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
🎶 On Broadway: Fran Drescher is developing a musical based on “The Nanny” for Broadway, working with Rachel Bloom of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
🎭 Show Won’t Go On: The Sondheim Theatre’s opening event has been delayed after 89-year-old Stephen Sondheim was injured in a fall at home.
📃 New Home:Thousands of papers written by historian Robert Caro have been acquired by the New York Historical Society and will become part of a permanent installation.
💪 Battle Tested: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared yesterday that she is “cancer-free” after beating the disease for the fourth time.
👨💼 Transition: Max Sevillia has been appointed vice president of government relations, advocacy and community engagement at the Anti-Defamation League. He previously served as director of external affairs for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
GIF OF THE DAY
Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) was sworn in yesterday as the first female Jewish speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates in the state’s 401-year history.
Former governor of the Bank of Israel (2013-2018), she was the first woman to hold this post, Karnit Flug turns 65. Flug was named the William Davidson Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute on Wednesday.
Law professor at Georgetown University, he was a high-ranking HHS official during the Clinton Administration, a founder of the New Israel Fund and board member of Americans for Peace Now, Peter Edelman turns 82… Swiss politician, president of the Swiss Confederation in 1999, the first woman to ever hold this position, Ruth Dreifuss turns 80… Rabbi Emeritus of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas, Herbert Jay Mandl turns 75… Vice chairman of the private equity firm Gilbert Global Equity Partners, long-time executive at investment banks Schroder & Co. and its predecessor firm, Wertheim & Co., Steven Kotler turns 73… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times for 40 years, covering the U.S. Supreme Court for most of that time, she is now a lecturer at Yale Law School, Linda Greenhouse turns 73… Former MLB umpire (1976-2001) he worked in 3,392 major league games in his 26 year career, Al Clark turns 72…
Presidential historian, spokesman for the 9/11 Commission, Alvin S. Felzenberg turns 71… Composer and singer, he has released seven albums under the name “Country Yossi,” Yossi Toiv turns 71… Australian author of more than 40 books of children’s and young adult fiction, including a five-book series about a 10-year-old Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Poland, Morris Gleitzman turns 67… London-born, now NYC-based investment banker, Joel Darren Plasco turns 49… Reporter for the NFL Network since 2012, Ian Rapoport turns 40… Film producer and the founder and CEO of Skydance Media, David Ellison turns 37… Director of development and community relations at Manhattan Day School, Allison Liebman Rubin turns 33… Former contestant on the third season of NBC’s “The Voice,” now a contributing writer at The New Yorker, writer of many articles on Syria and Iraq, Ben Taub turns 29… Strategic growth manager at Compass (a real estate firm), Madeline Peterson turns 28… Television and film actress, she starred in 2014’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” Nicola Peltz turns 25…