ood Friday morning!
President Donald Trumptweeted the image of an American flag shortly before confirmation of the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force and one of the most influential figures in the Middle East, in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early Friday morning. More below.
In New York on Sunday, New York City elected officials and Jewish organizations will join the “No Hate, No Fear” solidarity march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
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DRIVING THE DAY
DRIVING THE DAY — U.S. assassinates Iran’s Soleimani in Iraq
The U.S. confirmed last night that Qassim Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq. The Pentagon said in a statement that Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
Why it matters: The assassination of Soleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, radically changes the dynamics of the Middle East. The decisive action, seemingly in response to an attack earlier this week on the U.S. embassy in Iraq, is in stark contrast to the reluctant response to the Iranian bombing of Saudi oil fields last summer. Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described the assassination as a “devastating” blow to the regime in Tehran and to Ayatollah Khamenei’s regional ambitions. “This is bigger than bin-Laden,” he added.
Just Trump: According to the New York Times, “In killing General Suleimani, Trump took an action that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected, fearing it would lead to war between the United States and Iran.”
Trump tweeted moments ago, “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”
What’s next? Former U.S. diplomats and Mideast experts are questioning whether the Trump administration had considered that the assassination could lead to a potential regional war. Immediate Iranian retaliation could come in the form of rockets fired at Israel or attacks against other U.S. allies in the region.
Expected reaction: Republican congressional leaders hailed the decision, while many Democrats and former Obama officials rushed to criticize the move, accusing the president of sparking a war without congressional authorization. Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that while no American will mourn Soleimani’s passing, “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) condemned the action, suggesting it would lead to another “disastrous war.”
A senior GOP foreign policy official tells JI, “What exactly are Democrats proposing as the alternative to killing a terrorist before he kills Americans — pay him off instead?” The official added that Soleimani was “the belly button of terrorism for the regime. His loss cannot be understated for Iran. Iran might respond but it’s now a regime collapsing under economic pressure with no top strategist.”
Word from Tehran: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the U.S. “bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.” Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting.”
View from Israel: Israeli officials said early Friday that, in light of the assassination, the Mount Hermon ski slope on the Golan Heights would be closed to visitors. But the IDF said that the Tiberias marathon scheduled for today will proceed as planned. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Athens, where he signed a $7 billion gas pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett held an assessment of the situation at the IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv Friday morning alongside IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.
Pages of history: Author and reporter Ronen Bergman wrote in his 2018 book Rise and Kill First that Israel had an opportunity in 2008 to assassinate Hezbollah chief Imad Mughniyeh, but held back on U.S. insistence that Israel not also kill Soleimani in the attack. Israel instead killed Mughniyeh in a complex operation later that night.
STEPPING UP — Schumer: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) discussed the need for the federal government to increase funds to protect Jewish institutions in a phone interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh yesterday.
Zero tolerance: “The rash of antisemitic attacks, which are cowardly and callous, are striking fear into the heart of the Jewish community in New York, [and] also from one end of America to the other,” Schumer said Thursday. “We cannot tolerate this.”
Close to home: The New York senator and lifelong Brooklyn resident said the dramatic rise of violent antisemitic incidents makes him “very worried. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
In ancient days and in our times: “What we have learned in our history, all the way from the days of Haman all the way through Hitler and everyone else, is when antisemitism begins to rear its ugly head, there are two choices — one is to be strong and snuff it out, and the other is to shrug your shoulders and say, ‘I don’t have to worry about it.’ And whenever the second has happened, it has led to very bad consequences… We have to do everything we can to snuff out antisemitism and to make sure that those who act, who commit hate crimes, are severely punished and dealt with.”
Federal funding: On Monday, Schumer pledged to fight for an additional surge in federal funding for nonprofit security grants and — under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act — increase support for federal programs to prosecute hate crimes. In the recently passed federal spending bill, Senate Democratic leaders managed to secure a 50% increase to last year’s $60 million in grants to protect places of worship, for a total of $90 million for the next fiscal year. In the wake of the Monsey attack, Schumer is looking to increase the funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) to $360 million. Schumer tells JI that the increased funds could be passed “on the next budget vehicle that comes along, and hopefully it’ll come along in the next few months… This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Everyone should want to protect our houses of worship and our religious institutions.”
Serving justice: Schumer said that while it’s up to local law enforcement and government to provide protection to residents, efforts to harden federal hate crime legislation could prevent future attacks. “If these people are prosecuted severely and quickly, it should serve as a warning to others that you’re not going to get away with this,” he explained. About $10 million in federal funding is currently dedicated to the hate crime prosecution program. “I’d like that to go up to $100 million,” said Schumer. “I am pushing very hard for this and hopefully we can get it done.”
On board: Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) joined Schumer’s call for a significant increase in funding for the NSGP. At the state level, Assemblyman Gary Schaer is calling for New Jersey’s Nonpublic School Security Program aid to be increased from $150 to $250 per pupil in private schools.
In the room: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a roundtable — which was closed to the media — with community leaders in Borough Park on Thursday, to discuss the city’s response to recent antisemitic attacks. According to several attendees who spoke on condition of anonymity, community leaders challenged the mayor over his response to the situation and expressed their disaffection about the lack of coordination with local NYPD precincts.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, de Blasio said, “It’s going to take a lot of work at the grassroots [level] to change hearts and minds. We have got to get to the day, and we’ve got to get there soon, where Jewish people in the city never have to worry about walking down the street, never have to worry about their safety.”
Love vs. hate: Crown Heights resident Chana Lightstone wrote inThe Washington Post that her family left Brooklyn to spend Shabbat in Monsey last weekend, where antisemitic violence followed them. And despite her family’s fear, “Our Jewish pride will not diminish, not one iota,” she wrote. “We will continue to walk proudly in the streets.”
DIGITAL DILEMMA — Social media bots spur online antisemitic fights
Social media trolls celebrated earlier this week after a fake Twitter account worked to stoke tensions between members of the Jewish and the African-American communities.
Details: The Twitter profile under the name “Elaine Goldschmidt” — using a photo of a Scottish comedian — issued a series of racist tweets, and it took hours for Twitter to suspend the account, despite dozens of users saying they reported it to the company, CNN Business reported on Thursday.
Flashback: The incident followed a pattern of identity theft reported last summer, in which 4chan used the identities of Jews of all backgrounds to promote antisemitic and anti-Israel content. The “Elaine Goldschmidt” account was also celebrated on 4chan this week for provoking online sparring and anger.
Heard yesterday: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that social media platforms must be held accountable for hate speech and content that could inspire copycat attacks. “What we are seeing on social media is directly connected to” the rise in antisemitic attacks, Rose stressed during a press conference with members of the New York City congressional delegation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Congress, he said, has pushed social media companies to cooperate with counterterrorism efforts and policies.
Not enough: “These social media companies are not the $1 million or $10 million startups founded by 25-year-olds in hoodies. This is big business,” Rose said. “If General Motors came to us and said, ‘[We] are so proud to announce that 87% of our airbags deploy,’ we would be all be horrified. So if Facebook or Google wants to come to us and [say], ‘We get 90% of our terrorism content off of our platforms, that is not something to cheer for.”
INTERVIEW — Bradley Tusk details Ron Lauder’s plan to fight antisemitism
Bradley Tusk, the strategist at the helm of Ron Lauder’s new Anti-Semitism Accountability Project (ASAP), spoke with JI’s Melissa Weiss recently about the work already underway to tackle antisemitism in American politics.
On the ground: Tusk told Jewish Insider that ASAP’s activities are “not just sending out a statement or a tweet or appearing at a press conference to condemn people who say antisemitic things.” The organization will go after antisemites “in very tangible political ways, to do opposition research into them. And we might find stuff that has nothing to do with antisemitism — might be about DUIs or unpaid judgments and liens or unpaid taxes, or whatever else it is. Whatever ammunition I can find and we have, we’re gonna use it.”
Primary battles: Tusk said that gerrymandering has produced deeply blue and red congressional districts where the primary vote is the only one that matters. “What that has done has really empowered and emboldened the far left and the far right, giving them more and more political power and influence. And then combine that with the rise of left- and right-wing media and you have a perfect storm that really enables people with antisemitic views to not only say them but say them comfortably without any concern.”
Price tag: Lauder has invested $25 million in the year-long project, which, Tusk said, is “what [Lauder] thought was the right number to kick this thing off with. And look, if someone told me [to] spend $100 million, we’d be able to spend that. If it was much less than $25 [million], arguably we wouldn’t be able to make as much of a point as we’re going to make with the people that we go after.” Depending on ASAP’s success this year, Tusk said, there’s the possibility of continuing the project.
📺 Back in the Game: Former HBO chief Richard Plepler has signed a five-year deal with Apple TV, tellingThe New York Times in his first interview since leaving the cable giant that he “just wanted to do my own thing.” [NYTimes]
✍️ On the Record: Former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden answered questions posed by JTA about the fight against antisemitism, noting that the BDS movement “often veers into anti-Semitism” and that he has met with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir. [JTA]
💻 Bot Hunter:BuzzFeed News’s Jane Lytvynenko writes about Kristofer Goldsmith, a U.S. veteran and online scam investigator who testified in Congress about Russian election interference and the online exploitation of his fellow veterans by scammers. [BuzzFeed]
🏥 End of Life: Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and the brother of Ari and Rahm Emanuel, writes in The Atlantic about handling his 92-year-old father’s terminal diagnosis, and how the medical system incorrectly goes about end-of-life decisions. [TheAtlantic]
✡️ Deep dive: In an interview with The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, University of Chicago Divinity School Dean and antisemitism expert David Nirenberg discusses the history of political antisemitism — or as Nirenberg calls it, anti-Judaism — and how it’s been used as a tool to explain societal ills. [TheNewYorker]
AROUND THE WEB
📉 Preparing an Exit? Marianne Williamson, an author who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination on the “politics of love,” reportedly laid off her entire campaign staff, but is remaining in the 2020 race. On Thursday, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro ended his White House run.
💰 Pot Sharing:In The New Yorker, Sheelah Kolhatkar profiles the ultra-wealthy Americans who want to see higher taxes on the rich, including former investment banker Eric Schoenberg, civil rights lawyer Guy Saperstein and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen.
🕵️ Deep Dive: Law enforcement agencies in Western Europe have turned to Israeli spyware company NSO Group for support in tracking terror suspects. In October, Facebook filed a lawsuit against NSO in a California federal court seeking damages for a sophisticated hacking of WhatsApp. Now a Wall Street Journalinvestigation finds, the companies appear entangled in a battle over privacy and security.
📰 I’m Tellin’ Ya: Wendy Sherman, Obama’s top negotiator on the 2015 nuclear deal, writes in USA Today that the writing was on the wall in the Iraq embassy attack, calling President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and policy in the Middle East a failure.
🛫 Talk of the Region: Following Carlos Ghosn’s surprise escape to Lebanon, three Lebanese lawyers filed a request for charges against the former Nissan CEO for his numerous visits to Israel — a crime for Lebanese citizens.
🛰️ Greater Communication: Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a deal with the Israeli government to build the country’s next communication satellite, Dror-1.
📢 Trail Blazers: The Christian Science Monitor shines a spotlight on Orthodox women in Israel who are “fighting to be heard and seen.”
🎭 Standing Out: Boston radio station WBUR explores how Jewish American playwrights are grappling with their identities in their work.
🏥 ‘Stop the Hatred’: Josef Neumann, the most seriously wounded victim in the Monsey attack, underwent an emergency tracheotomy on Thursday. The 72-year old remains in a coma, with doctors and family members warning of his slim chance at survival. At a news conference, Neumann’s daughter begged to “stop the hatred.”
🗣️ Conspiracy Theories: James Harris, chair of the New Jersey Association of Black Educators and the chair of the Montclair NAACP’s education committee, was criticized after complaining at a community forum that the Jewish community in Lakewood “controls” the school board.
⌨️ Both Sides: Three progressive Jewish activists — Matt Nosanchuk, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Rabbi Rachel Timoner — write in Tablet about their support for recent bail reform measures, opposing Liel Leibovitz’s recent column blaming bail reform for fueling some recent antisemitic violence.
🎖️ Cast in Bronze: A life-size bronze statue of World War II medic Bernie Friedenberg, who died in 2018, will likely be one day installed in Atlantic City.
PIC OF THE DAY
500 Christian college students visiting Israel with the U.S. Christian organization Passages heard from U.S. Ambassador Friedman and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and MK Michael Oren in Jerusalem on Thursday.
According to attendees, Friedman spoke about the relationship hostility towards Israel on college campuses and the broader phenomenon of campus shout-downs. In making the case for civility, Friedman recalled his own heated but respectful office hours debates as a Columbia undergraduate with Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said.
Passages, which is beginning its fifth year, announced it will soon have brought 10,000 Christian college student leaders on trips to Israel and told JI it believes the event was the largest Christian college student gathering in Israel’s history.
Author of The New Yorker‘s satirical Borowitz Report, Andy Borowitz turns 62 on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Treasury Secretary under President Carter (1977-1979), CEO of Burroughs Corporation and Unisys, followed by 17 years as director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, W. Michael Blumenthal turns 94… Professor of Medicine and chairman of the medical ethics committee at Columbia University Medical Center, Kenneth Prager, M.D. turns 77… CNN legal analyst, he was formerly a Watergate prosecutor and later a member of the 9/11 Commission, Richard Ben-Veniste turns 77… Contributing editor at Vanity Fair, David Margolick turns 68… Director of Israel engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, Reuven Greenvald turns 61…
Graduate of West Point, partner and managing director in the NYC office of the Boston Consulting Group, Neal Zuckerman turns 49… DC-based national healthcare policy reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Noam Naftali Levey turns 49… Founder and president of Golden Strategies, previously the director of political advertising sales at Twitter, Jenna Golden turns 36… Executive director at Guns Down America, Igor Volsky turns 34… Security consultant at Argyle Consulting Group, Alana Herbst… CEO of Kiosite, Michael Novack…
SATURDAY: English celebrity chef, restaurateur and television star, Rick Stein turns 73… Jim Friedman turns 73… Founder and president of the Alliance for Justice, Nan Aron turns 72… CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, Charles N. (“Chip”) Kahn III turns 68… Former member of Knesset for the Meretz party (1999-2017), Zehava Gal-On turns 64… Author of 31 best-selling mystery novels and thrillers with over 70 million copies in print, Harlan Coben turns 58… Professor of economics and strategic management at UCSD, Yuval Rottenstreich turns 49… Partner in the Austin, Texas-based public affairs firm Ironclad Partners, he was the first Jewish liaison in the Bush 43 administration (2001-2003), Adam Blair Goldman turns 48… Daniel Zaretsky turns 48… Historian and a contributing editor at Politico Magazine, Joshua Michael Zeitz turns 46…
Emmy-award winning producer who now works on Kasie Hunt’s program, Ben Mayer turns 36… Vice president at DC-based public affairs firm The Herald Group, Marc Brumer turns 33… Strategic advisor at Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group launched by Stacey Abrams, Samantha Slosberg turns 32… Free agent center-fielder, he played for the San Francisco Giants in 2019 after six years with the Toronto Blue Jays, Kevin Pillar turns 31… Digital editor at The Washington Monthly and a contributing correspondent for the Times of Israel, Eric James Cortellessa turns 29… Arlington, Virginia native studying journalism and political science at Northwestern University, Gabby Birenbaum turns 20… Member of the 2021 class at NYU Law School, Alexander Langer… Project coordinator at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, Judah Gavant…
SUNDAY: Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party (1981-1999), the last three years of which he served as Speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon turns 83… NBA superfan who attends over one hundred basketball games nationally each season, James F. Goldstein turns 80… Former Philadelphia mayor (1992-2000) and Pennsylvania governor (2003-2011), currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr, Ed Rendell turns 76… Retired San Diego attorney, Paul Meyer turns 76… Former Attorney General of the U.K. (2001-2007), now London co-managing partner and chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 70… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games (founded in 1998) and President of HitPoint Studios since 2017, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D. turns 67…
Founder and principal of DC-based Mager & Associates, Mimi Mager turns 66… Chairman of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael), he served briefly in the Knesset for the Zionist Union party (2015-2016), Daniel “Danny” Atar turns 62… Contributor to Fox News since October, he was previously the EVP of digital video for The Hill, John F. Solomon turns 53… Television personality, she is best known for her time on The Real Housewives of Orange County (2012-2016), Heather Paige Kent Dubrow turns 51… Professional poker player who won the 2010, 2012 and 2018 World Series of Poker Players Championship, he also has two World Poker Tour titles, Michael Mizrachi turns 39…