Good Monday morning!
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Susannah Heschel, daughter of noted civil rights activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, writes in the New York Daily News about the long history shared by the Jewish and African American communities.
En route to Davos— President Donald Trump — accompanied by senior advisor Jared Kushner — and other world leaders, chief executives and thinkers will gather for the annual World Economic Forum starting tomorrow.
The world is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau this week. Some 40 world leaders will travel to Israel attend the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem on Thursday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Vice President Mike Pence and other top leaders during their visits.
Kushner is expected to travel to Jerusalem after Davos and meet with Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to discuss the White House peace plan before making a final decision on the timing of its rollout.
On Capitol Hill, Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will formally kick off on Tuesday.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, reinvited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify at a hearing about the administration’s Iran policy scheduled for Wednesday, January 29th. Engel said he would issue a subpoena if necessary to secure Pompeo’s testimony.
Yesterday in Berlin, Pompeo met with E.U. High Representative Josep Borrell Fontelles, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
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Why an Iranian-American expert is hopeful about the Iranian protests
In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, Nazee Moinian, an Iranian native who emigrated to the U.S. after the Iranian revolution and was a consultant to the Council on Foreign Relations, explains why she’s hopeful that the current protests in Iran could spark a popular uprising against the Iranian regime.
More energy: “We had an understanding that the people of Iran are able to withstand the domestic pressures if the authorities loosened the social and economic valves to basically sustain their lives,” Moinian said. “But this time, it’s a bit different in a way that they don’t want the regime. It’s not about more or less subsidies. It’s not about more or less social freedom. It’s against the Islamic regime. It’s a more pointed and more energetic demonstration.”
Grading Trump: Moinian, who is Jewish and served as an advisor on Iran to the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, tells JI that she’s satisfied with President Donald Trump’s approach to the Islamic Republic: “For now, he’s doing it all right. So far so good.”
Hopeful gamble: Moinian, who supported the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, believes that the “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran is working. “The Iranians are willing to withstand the economic pressure to end this regime,” she asserted. “I was one of the people that was hopeful with the JCPOA, [who believed] that the rapprochement would only happen with the grand bargain where Obama will give the regime enough money, enough of everything, in a way so that they will curtail their maligned behavior. That didn’t happen. I, as an analyst, can only think that if you do something again you’re at fault. So I am hopeful that this opposite approach — of squeezing the regime rather than giving them a grand bargain — is the right way to go.”
New era: The Iranian-American scholar said she’s hopeful that attitudes against the U.S. and Israel have changed for the better after videos surfaced of students openly avoiding walking over American and Israeli flags in Tehran. “That’s not only an amazing, brilliant way of denouncing the regime. It also shows that through social media, through the stories that the older generation have said to the younger generation, they know that Iran and Israel have been friends forever,” she stressed. “I mean, the Iranian Jews have been there for 2,500 years. We’ve had synagogues in Iran. We still have synagogues in Iran that are operating. It’s not that all of a sudden they realize that Israel is a good actor. They always knew Israel was a good actor and now they’re just expressing it.”
Held accountable: The Trump administration announced sanctions against Brig. Gen. Hassan Shahvarpour of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who was involved in the violent crackdown on protesters in November that resulted in 150 deaths. This marks the first time the U.S. has designated sanctions on an Iranian official on human rights grounds.
Warning: After Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the U.S. president a “clown,” Trump tweeted, “The so-called ‘Supreme Leader’ of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe. Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!”
Bonus: Trump gave a detailed and dramatic account of the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani during a private dinner with donors at Mar-a-Lago on Friday night. “‘Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds.’ No emotion. ‘Two minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car, they’re in an armored vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. Thirty seconds. Ten, 9, 8…’ Then all of a sudden, boom,” Trump said, according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post.
Los Angeles march address honors generations of Iranian Jewish women
Speaking at the Los Angeles Women’s March, Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh addressed her family’s history of defying cultural norms — and Iranian legal restrictions — to give future generations more opportunity to succeed:
“My family immigrated to this country in the late 1970s to escape religious persecution and second-class status following the revolution in Iran. Despite never having stepped foot on Iranian soil, Iranian is the words I speak, the food I eat and the community that raised me. Everything I am today I owe to the women who came before me – their success, courage and sacrifice. It was never just for them; it was for us.”
“I am the great-granddaughter of a woman who taught herself math and science at a time when women were not expected, let alone allowed, to attend school – all so that her children could tutor and teach those who lacked educational resources and opportunity. I am the great-granddaughter of a woman who chose to defy her family and the demands of a sitting king to stay true to her Jewish faith and Zionist heart. I am the granddaughter of women who sent their children halfway across the world in the midst of a violent revolution to ensure that their fates would be greater than their own. And I am the daughter of a woman whose greatest gift lies in her ability to give voice to those who have been stripped of their own. These are my women. These are our women.”
SHOOT THE MESSENGER
Biden slams Trump’s EO on antisemitism
Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized Trump’s recent executive order on antisemitism in an interview with The New York Times editorial board. The 2020 presidential contender pointed to the president’s response to the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the summer of 2017, to make the claim that Trump is not the right messenger on antisemitism:
“[The] president [is] talking about how he’s worried about antisemitism. This recent rule about universities. This is the same guy who watched antisemites, their veins bulging, coming out of fields, literally carrying torches. It was almost like a movie. Preaching antisemitic bile. The same exact thing that was preached and hollered in the streets of Nuremberg in the ‘30s and throughout Germany, carrying swastikas. Kid gets killed, a young woman. President’s asked to comment, and he said there were very fine people on both sides. That’s the single most important thing we have to excise. Have you heard him say a word about white supremacy? Have you heard him say a word that would lead anybody to believe he still not decided that the only way to win is divide the country?”
View from Yang: In an interview with The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere, presidential candidate Andrew Yang said he’s “unhappy with the current Israeli government and would restart negotiations around a two-state solution.”
Bonus:The New York Times editorial board broke from tradition and endorsed two Democratic candidates for president last night: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Editors said the two women represent “the radical and the realist models” within the Democratic Party, and that they “are the Democrats best equipped to lead that debate. May the best woman win.”
How Trump manages to attract new voters amid negative coverage
In Vanity Fair, Peter Hamby explains how President Trump navigates his way through daily controversies and micro-scandals in a way that appeals to voters who care little about the things that political and media insiders obsess about:
“The president has made politics about culture — not just policy. He found a way to attract new voters, particularly rural and non-college educated whites who previously thumbed their nose at conventional politics. Because he’s a pure attention merchant, he doesn’t care what screen he appears on, as long he is there. Because he lacks an ounce of shame, it all works, with or without the blessing of the legacy press.”
“None of the above can be said for Democrats, who care habitually about the good graces of the national press, and who don’t see politics as a subspecies of the entertainment business. But to Trump’s great advantage, the mainstream press is where many of the fights for the Democratic nomination are being waged: on cable news, on Twitter, and in the prestige media… The problem for Democrats is that those media spaces are, today more than ever, islands unto themselves… During the first five days of the much-hyped impeachment hearings, only about 4% of the American population tuned in to watch some part of the testimony on TV.”
Watch: Hamby and Jon Favreau, a co-host on “Pod Save America,” explained the low information voter phenomena on CNN’s Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter.
📖 Book Shelf: In a forthcoming book, titled A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America, Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker detail how a workshop set up by the then-secretaries of state and defense, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis — to lecture Trump about the U.S. internationalist view — backfired. The authors also recall Trump scolding Tillerson for trying to persuade him to remain in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it,” the president is quoted as saying. [WashPost]
🖋️ Hold Off: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk writes in TheWall Street Journal that the U.S. should encourage Israel to hold open the possibility of a two-state solution by avoiding West Bank settlement construction or annexation. “But it’s time to end the farce of putting forward American peace plans only to have one or both sides reject them.” [WSJ]
🎧 Worthy Listen: Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor at The Forward, joined Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, on “The Lawfare Podcast” to discuss the spike in violent antisemitism in New York and why the attacks “don’t fit in with any of our political preconceptions.” [Lawfare]
Around the Web
💸 New Investment: Activist investor Dan Loeb and Chinese tycoon Jack Ma are jointly investing $2.6 billion in fintech firm Global Blue, which operates convenient VAT claims kiosks.
🍼 Profile:WSJ Magazineprofiles Kelly Sawyer Patricof and Norah Weinstein, co-presidents of Baby2Baby, the nonprofit working to provide basic necessities to children living in poverty.
👨 Man of the Hour: Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz joined Trump’s legal defense team on Friday and will present oral arguments at the Senate impeachment trial “to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal.” On Sunday, Dershowitz claimed that Trump shouldn’t be removed from office even if he is guilty, and distanced himself from a brief filed by Trump’s attorneys on Saturday.
🙄 Spilling the Beans: Lev Parnas, one of the indicted Rudy Giuliani associates, revealed in an interview with The Daily Beast that his picture with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump was taken at an intimate dinner with cannabis industry insiders. He also claimed that he was pulled in to persuade Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to distance himself from people perceived to be close to George Soros.
🎭 Mistaken Identity:Donald Trump Jr. admitted on Sunday that he met Parnas at various fundraising events, but “I thought he was Israeli.”
🤝 Pushback: In an interview with Times of Israel editor-in-chief David Horovitz, Zelensky maintained that he “didn’t do anything illegal” in his dealings with Trump. “I did what I could do as the president of Ukraine to have a good, reliable and strong relationship with one of our strategic partners.”
📢 Shouting Match:Trump and fellow Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene reportedly engaged in a lengthy and public taunting match during Thanksgiving weekend in Mar-a-Lago.
👪 Not on Board: Model Karlie Kloss, the wife of Joshua Kushner, said on Thursday night’s episode of “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen” that she disagrees with her in-laws on politics and plans to vote for a Democrat in 2020.
🙇🏻 Never Mind: Twitter said that it mistakenly suspended and later reinstated Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s account.
❌ Unfriended: Facebook blocked Israeli start-up The Spinner, which claimed to “subconsciously influence” users through targeted posts.
📱 Gone Viral: Apple came under fire Saturday night as Twitter users shared screenshots of Siri referring to Israel as “the Zionist occupation state” when asked to name the president of Israel. It was corrected within the hour.
🛒 Melting Pot: A year into an acute butter shortage across Israel, supermarkets and consumers are left struggling due to bureaucratic failure.
🧱 Protecting Borders:Israel has begun the construction of an underground defense system along its northern border with Lebanon to block cross-border tunnels.
🥶 Cooling Ties: The Jordanian parliament voted on Sunday to ban imports of Israeli gas to the country just days after pumping began under a $10 billion supply deal with a U.S.-Israeli consortium led by Noble Energy.
🎤 Never Again: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired Culture Secretary Roberto Alvim for invoking Nazi propaganda during a speech while playing an opera that Adolf Hitler regarded as a favorite.
👑 New Title: Outgoing U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has nominated John Bercow, the former speaker of the House of Commons and former Conservative MP, for a peerage, an honorary lifetime title. A more controversial name on the list of Corbyn’s nominations is Karie Murphy, his chief of staff, who is accused of bullying in dealing with claims of antisemitism.
🇺🇸 War Hero:The New York Daily News editorial board called on Congress and President Trump to award the Congressional Gold Medal and Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roddie Edmond. As a POW in a Nazi camp, Edmond refused to turn over any Jewish GIs, risking his own life.
👎 Hate Continues: A man was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment and a hate crime for yelling and cursing at a Jewish couple walking in Manhattan on Friday night.
😋 Nosh:The Forward’s Liza Schoenfein and food historian Jane Ziegelman work through a Jewish cookbook from 1946 — finding a connection to an older Jewish-American experience.
🎉 Mazel Tov: On Saturday, Gerry Steinkeller celebrated his bar mitzvah at Ohev Sholom in Washington, D.C. after decades of waiting. The 92-year old Holocaust survivor was denied his first opportunity when he turned 13 in Nazi-occupied Poland.
👶 Congrats: Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli gave birth to a boy, her third child and first son with husband Adi Ezra.
Pic of the Day
Aliza Bloch, the first female mayor of the city of Beit Shemesh, held a public community meeting at Beth Sholom Congregation in Washington, D.C. last week. Bloch also met with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Refusenik during the 1970s and 1980s, he later served as chairman of the Jewish Agency (2009-2018), Natan Sharansky turns 72…
Adar Belinkoff turns 92… Lakewood, N.J.-born, American diplomat and former State Department official (1959-1991), later president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1991-1997), Ambassador Morton I. Abramowitz turns 87… Pleasant Hill, California resident, Daniel L. Fisher turns 76… Elected four times as a Republican at-large member on the Council of the District of Columbia, Carol Schwartz turns 76… Travel editor at CBS News, Peter S. Greenberg turns 70… U.S. Representative from Nevada (1999-2013), now CEO and senior provost for Touro University’s Western Division, Shelley Berkley (born Rochelle Levine) turns 69… Host of HBO’s political talk show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” William “Bill” Maher turns 64… CEO of Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises since 2013, he was previously the deputy chief of the general staff of the IDF, Major General (Reserve) Moshe Kaplinsky turns 63…
Actress and television host, she is the only child of comedian Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers turns 52… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2019 (D-MN-3), Dean Benson Phillips turns 51… Coordinator of suicide prevention and support at JCFS Chicago, Diane Kushnir Halivni turns 50… U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for the first two years of the Trump administration (2017-2018), she was previously governor of South Carolina (2011-2017), Ambassador Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) turns 48… UK’s minister of the environment and former MP, he is a member of the House of Lords, Baron Frank Zacharias Robin (Zac) Goldsmith turns 45… Former Prime Minister of Ukraine (2016-2019), Volodymyr Groysman turns 42… Philanthropist, professional equestrian, daughter of Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Leigh Bloomberg turns 37… Special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, Paul Mandelson turns 35… Senior director at Purple Strategies, Alec Jacobs turns 30… Jason Berger turns 30…