Good Thursday morning!
Driving the convo: Israeli leaders, American Jewish groups and members of Congress from both parties condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council for publishing a blacklist of businesses, including international companies, doing business with West Bank settlements. More below.
At Milken in the United Arab Emirates, the head of Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala’s venture capital arm, Ibrahim Ajami, encouraged Israeli investors to do more business in the Gulf. Ajami spoke on stage alongside Avi Eyal, co-founder of Entree Capital.
Rep. Betsy McCollum (D-MN)fired back at AIPAC, calling the organization a “hate group,” after the pro-Israel lobbying organization targeted her in an ad on Facebook, and in a now-altered online petition, claiming that a group of House members critical of Israel pose a threat “maybe more sinister” than ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) has endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president, citing their shared stance on gun control. Deutch will serve as a co-chair of Bloomberg’s national Jewish leadership team.
The Senate will vote in the afternoon on a bipartisan resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) which aims to limit President Donald Trump’s war powers in the ongoing situation with Iran.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Homeland Security advanced the Transnational White Supremacist Extremism Review Act (H.R. 5736), introduced by Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) in a unanimous vote. The legislation, which would direct the Department of Homeland Security to designate white supremacist extremist groups as global terrorism, will now be sent for a vote on the House floor.
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U.N. releases ‘blacklist’ of companies doing business with settlements
On Wednesday, The United Nations Human Rights Council released a blacklist of companies doing business “related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Details: The list included Airbnb, Booking.com, Motorola, TripAdvisor, General Mills and Expedia — though 94 of the entities were Israeli businesses. The report did not call for sanctions or boycotts of the specific companies listed, but is seen by many as a pressure campaign against them.
View from Jerusalem: In response, Israel cut ties with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for releasing the list without advance warning and without any coordination with Israeli officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the U.N. Human Rights Council “a biased body that is devoid of influence” that works only to “disparage Israel.”
Reaction from the Hill: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that efforts to boycott or single out the Jewish state “mirror the kind of gross discrimination directed at Jewish people during some of history’s darkest moments.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) said the list is “wrongheaded,” while committee Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) released a joint statement calling the blacklist “yet another anti-Israel stunt that will not further peace in the region.”
Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), respectively the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, both slammed the report as biased and politically motivated.
A new low: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted that the body “hit a new low,” calling the timing of the publication “conniving and manipulative at best.”
HEARD IN NEW YORK
Ehud Olmert: Bernie Sanders ‘will not play the game’ on the traditional U.S.-Israel alliance
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested on Wednesday that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), fresh off his New Hampshire win on Tuesday, is the only Democratic presidential candidate who — if elected — would buck tradition on issues regarding U.S.-Israel relations.
Changing the game: In conversation with Ethan Bronner, a senior editor at Bloomberg, at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York, Olmert said, “I think that Bernie Sanders will not play the game” when it comes to the tone of the U.S.-Israel relationship and longstanding U.S. policies. “In this respect,” he said, “Bernie Sanders reminds me of [President Donald] Trump, where he’s not subject to any of the protocols which are common in our tradition. He can say anything and everything regardless of what may be the reaction of some in the Democratic Party.”
Maintaining U.S. support for Israel: The other candidates, Olmert posited, wouldn’t veer away from the traditional relationship, particularly if there’s a change in Israel’s government this year. The former prime minister pointed to former President Barack Obama, who had a tense relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “and despite the provocations of the Israeli government against him and his secretaries of state” — increased military support for Israel. “America, only one time in eight years abstained [during an Israel-related vote] at the U.N., and this was in the last month of Obama’s presidency,” he explained, referencing the December 2016 U.N. Security Council vote that criticized Israeli settlements (UNSC 2334). “So I doubt that if any other Democratic candidate — such as Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg, who may rise to be the [dark] horse in this race — wins, that there will be a difference.”
Punditry: Olmert told the crowd that based on conversations he’s having with Americans,“it is more likely that President Trump will be re-elected. And whether you agree or disagree with his style, international policies and his manners, you can’t disagree that he is a very, very friendly president to the State of Israel.”
Hot take: Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi writes in a Times of Israel blog post that while U.S. Jews shouldn’t fear Sanders the same way British Jews feared the election of outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the fact is that “Sanders is responsible for mainstreaming the Corbynist wing of the Democratic Party.” Halevi also suggests that a Trump-Sanders match-up “would be a political nightmare for American Jewry. It would undermine whatever minimal consensus still holds the American Jewish community together.”
Early warning: Former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein — who was featured in Sanders’s list of anti-endorsements last year — tweeted, “If the Dems go on to nominate Sanders, the Russians will have to reconsider who to work for to best screw up the US. Sanders is just as polarizing as Trump AND he’ll ruin our economy and doesn’t care about our military. If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around.”
A case study in how Trump policy is made
Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff was behind President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of a climate change initiative to plant one trillion trees, according to a report published Wednesday by The New York Times, which described the effort as “a study in ad hoc policymaking at the Trump White House.” The formula for success? “A personal appeal from a celebrity voice… [a] back channel through Jared Kushner… and a re-election campaign that has sought to soften some of Mr. Trump’s sharper edges ensured its publicity.”
Back channel: Benioff’s celebrity profile and administration connections were critical in reaching Trump, the Times reported. The tech executive used his pre-existing relationship with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a meeting in October, where they discussed the initiative.
The plan: Trump then announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month that the U.S. would be joining the international Trillion Trees Initiative, which aims to combat climate change — though Trump didn’t use those words, instead calling it “a plan to protect the environment.”
Benioff ignored skeptics: Benioff’s advisors didn’t think Trump would be receptive to the plan. “People think something that’s actually not true, which is that [the administration is] not interested in hearing new ideas or hearing science,” he said. “Trees are the ultimate bipartisan issue… Everyone is pro-tree.”
Election considerations: Some in the administration embraced the tree initiative because they thought it might boost Trump’s popularity leading into the 2020 general election — especially among younger Republican voters who are more concerned about climate issues. The president believes the plan will “bring people together,” a senior administration official told the Times.
And in Jerusalem: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman planted an olive tree, the first tree planted in Israel as part of Trump’s trillion trees initiative, at the ambassador’s official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Friedman was joined by KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar to commemorate the holiday of Tu B’Shvat.
Buzzing in Silicon Valley: In a rare move for a tech titan, Oracle’s Larry Ellison is hosting a fundraiser at his Southern California estate for Trump’s re-election next week.
🗞️ Age of Print: In The New York Times, Katherine Rosman digs into the chaos behind the scenes at Condé Nast, gleaning details from a new book, As Needed for Pain, by former Details editor Dan Peres. His tales of excesses and drama seem “to have epitomized the bloated pride before the fall” of the now-floundering company. Ariel Foxman, who helped create the short-lived Cargo magazine in 2003 for Condé Nast, told the Times, “Those that are the oracle never think they’re one day not going to be the oracle any longer.” [NYTimes]
🙏 Faith for All:The Associated Press’s Elana Schor examines how several 2020 Democratic contenders quote heavily from the Gospel of Matthew on the stump. The DNC’s director of interfaith outreach compared one popular passage “to the Jewish value of tikkun olam, or positive acts to heal the world, which Bernie Sanders’s Jewish outreach director has cited in talking about the non-observant Jewish senator’s interpretation of his faith identity.” [AP]
🎤 Inside View: The Atlantic‘s Peter Nicholoas reports from a Q&A former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly participated in at Drew University in New Jersey on Wednesday night in which he defended Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide who was fired last week for testifying in the House impeachment hearings and unloaded on President Trump. [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
☎️ Call the Boss: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday to complain that the social media platform took action against his supporters in the most recent election.
📵 Unfriend: Facebook announced yesterday it had removed a group of Iranian-run accounts that were targeting Americans with political posts.
🔭 Eye on the Ball: An Israeli laser defense system, named Drone Dome C-UAS, has reached a 100% success rate in recent testing in intercepting multiple drone targets.
🖋️ On the Hill: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) pitched a package of bills called “A Pathway to Peace” that would reform U.S. foreign policy, including transferring $5 billion in military spending to a new “Global Peacebuilding Fund.”
🎓 Campus Beat: The U.S. Department of Education is investigating both Harvard and Yale over accusations that they solicit funding from hostile foreign governments, including China and Saudi Arabia.
🗳️ On the quad: Following a six-hour debate Wednesday night, the student government at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign passed an anti-Israel BDS resolution 20-9-7.
💵 Talk of the Town:Members of the Orthodox Jewish community in New York and New Jersey presented the family of slain Jersey City cop Joseph Seals with a check for $48,000.
🎬 Hollywood:Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin has acquired the film rights to an upcoming novel by Colum McCann about a friendship between bereaved Israeli and Palestinian fathers.
🧢 Sports Blink: The San Diego Padres scrapped their newly designed hats on the eve of spring training after fans on social media pointed out that the logo — an interlocking S and D — looked similar to a swastika.
⚽ Across the Pond: The Oxford English Dictionary amended its definition for “Yid” to include “a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur” — but neither the team nor Jewish groups are happy.
🚪 Moving Past Corbyn: The U.K. Labour Party expelled 25 members for antisemitism allegations in a single day. But the Jewish Labour Movement said the action is “too little, too late.”
🗞️ Media Watch:The Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News, the two leading Jewish publications in the U.K., announced on Wednesday a merger under a charitable trust to secure the financial future of both newspapers.
👋 Volunteer Retirement: Donors and stakeholders of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw met Wednesday to discuss the future independence of the museum after its former director, Dariusz Stola, offered to give up his job to resolve an impasse that has lasted almost a year.
🖼️ Careful Curation: The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience is gearing up to open this fall in New Orleans, spanning 9,000 square feet of exhibition space.
❇️ Connect via Text: A new dating app, S’More — founded by Adam Cohen-Aslatie — is aiming to connect people seeking partners based on deeper conversations rather than appearance.
🍲 Cholent Watch: The traditional Jewish dish of cholent is “enjoying a renaissance in Israel,” according to the AFP.
👨⚖️ Stepping Down: 98-year-old federal judge Jack Weinstein is retiring after 53 years on the bench.
✡️ Paying Tribute: The cross headstones of five fallen Jewish American soldiers from World War II were replaced with Stars of David during a re-naming ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.
Pic of the Day
Once described as “the power couple of Republican Jewish money in politics,” Charlie and Lisa Spies attended a ceremony naming the University of Michigan’s Debate offices the “Charles and Lisa Spies Debate Director’s Office.” Board of Regents Chairman Ron Weiser and former Governor Rick Snyder both spoke at the ceremony. Also attending was strategist and former RJC staffer Stu Sandler.
Host of the tabloid talk show “The Jerry Springer Show,” Jerry Springer turns 76…
Rabbinic scholar and emeritus professor of economics at New York University, closely identified with the Austrian school of economic thought, Yisroel Mayer Kirzner turns 90… Television, film and stage actor, George Segal turns 86… Former board member (and chair) of the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute think tank, he was a North York and Toronto City councillor, Norman “Norm” Gardner turns 82… Professor at American Jewish University in Los Angeles and scholar of biblical literature and Semitic languages, Ziony Zevit turns 78… Pamela Brown turns 77… Columnist specializing in U.S. intelligence, military and foreign policy issues, Jeff Stein turns 76… Former speaker of the New York State Assembly (1994-2015), Sheldon Silver turns 76… Senior U.S. senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal turns 74… Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, author of “‘I Did Not Know You Were Jewish’ and Other Things Not to Say,” Ivan Kalmar turns 72… Arlene Milrad turns 71…
Former front office consultant for the Atlanta Falcons (2014-2015), CEO of the Cleveland Browns (2012-2013) and president of the Philadelphia Eagles (2001–12), Joe Banner turns 67… Radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, Howard “Howie” Rose turns 66… Ukrainian oligarch, previously president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, Ihor Kolomoyskyi turns 57… Casting director, Amy Sobo turns 57… President and CEO of the congressionally chartered National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, professor at GWU Law School and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Rosen turns 56… Internet entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Zynga, Mark Pincus turns 54… Former senior speechwriter for Treasury secretaries Geithner and Lew and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, Mark Cohen turns 50…
Retired Israeli soccer player, he made 89 international appearances for Israel and won eight league championships, more than any other Israeli player, Alon Harazi turns 49… Founding partner of Drowos Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Bryan M. Drowos turns 41… Publisher of southern California’s Jewish Link magazine, Dov Blauner turns 41… Corporate crisis correspondent at Reuters, Mike Spector turns 39… Director of communications at Columbia World Projects for Columbia University, she was previously communications director for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Samantha Slater turns 37… Jonathan Neuman turns 36… Director of philanthropy at LPPE LLC, Daniel Sperling turns 33… Founder and owner at Miami’s Cadena Collective, Alejandra Aguirre turns 29…