Good Tuesday morning!
U.S. officials have indicated to The Washington Post that a recent cyberattack on a busy Iranian port likely originated in Israel. In a long read on the future of the Iranian regime, The New Yorker published new details on the Israeli raid of a warehouse in Tehran. More below.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio once again singled out the Jewish community in a tweet about shutting down a Hasidic yeshiva operating illegally in Brooklyn yesterday. In an interview with NY1, de Blasio insisted that social distancing enforcement is equal across communities.
Former Vice President Joe Biden will participate in a virtual fundraiser with Jewish Democrats this afternoon moderated by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
Lipstadt tells Jewish Insider she hasn’t endorsed Biden for president, but is participating as an expert on antisemitism.
The Biden fundraiser is co-hosted by San Francisco political consultant Sam Lauter, Austin businessman Marc Winkelman, longtime Jewish community leader Susie Stern and Miami-based developer Michael Adler, among others.
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New attack ads jolt a New Mexico House race
In a New Mexico congressional race increasingly reliant on political advertising, various groups are throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars into ads with markedly different approaches, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Backing Leger Fernandez: David Krone, who worked as former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s chief of staff, has poured more than $300,000 into the 3rd congressional district race through two groups, Perise Practical Inc. and Avacy Initiatives Inc., in a series of positive ads for Teresa Leger Fernandez, the progressive attorney who is vying to succeed outgoing Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) in the crowded primary election scheduled for June 2. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Bold PAC, chaired by Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and of which Luján is a member, has also spent $425,000 in advertising to support Leger Fernandez.
On the attack: Meanwhile, another group, the Alliance to Combat Extremism Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C., is targeting Democratic congressional candidate and ex-CIA spy Valerie Plame with a series of harsh negative attack ads that will be released later this morning. The ads, in English and Spanish, highlight controversies from Plame’s past, proclaiming: “Tell disgraced racist millionaire Valerie Plame and her white supremacist friends: Keep your hate out of New Mexico.”
Local reaction: Local observers and activists believe the ads — which superimpose a pair of swastikas onto Plame’s eyes — are over the top. “Any personal attack ad, such as this one against Valerie Plame as a white supremist ally and anti-Mexican, is abhorrent and has no place in our democracy,” said Ron Duncan Hart, the former president of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. Lance Bell, president of the Jewish Community Council of Northern New Mexico, said he is planning to vote in the primary for Leger Fernandez, who has won over Santa Fe’s tight-knit Jewish community, but he was not a fan of the video. “I do not like this ad, it’s scary,” he said in an email, adding that the ad felt like a “scare tactic.”
Why it matters:Lonna Rae Atkeson, a political scientist at the University of New Mexico, said that advertising could have an outsized impact during an election year in which candidates have been forced to shelter in place. The ACE Fund ad, she said, is particularly jarring. “How do you break through COVID? If you put some Nazi symbols in people’s eyes and roll them around,” she concluded sarcastically.
A progressive mayor takes on a Blue Dog in Oregon’s 5th district
For more than a decade, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) has cruised to victory by comfortable margins every two years in Oregon’s 5th district. Schrader is seen as one of the more moderate members of the 116th Congress — which is precisely why progressive Mark Gamba is aiming to unseat the six-term Democrat in today’s primary. Gamba, the mayor of Milwaukie, Oregon, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that his congressional run — and his entire political career — has been driven by deep concerns about climate change.
Progressive backers: Gamba has the backing of a number of local politicians, officials and progressive groups, as well as former presidential candidate and self-help author Marianne Williamson. Gamba was also endorsed by Brand New Congress, the PAC formed by former Bernie Sanders staffers and supporters that has backed progressive candidates across the country, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Eye on the Mideast: Gamba criticized the amount of aid the U.S. provides to Israel, telling JI that it “buttresses a system of oppression that denies equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel… [and] supports illegal settlements in the West Bank and an illegal blockade of Gaza.” As long as the current state of affairs persists, he said, U.S. aid to Israel should be conditioned, with some resources diverted to Gaza. Gamba compared the Trump administration’s peace plan to “the apartheid South African government’s effort to prevent majority rule by isolating black South Africans in tiny enclaves.” He added that “I am critical of Netanyahu, but support the Israeli people. I am also pro-Palestine.”
Compare and contrast: Schrader has consistently voted for, and in some cases co-sponsored, pro-Israel legislation. He was a co-sponsor of Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s 2019 bill reaffirming support for a negotiated two-state solution and discouraging Israel’s unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank. Earlier in 2019, Schrader signed on to legislation opposing the BDS movement. While Gamba doesn’t support BDS, he told JI that he believes attempts to legislate on the issue violate the First Amendment.
Top Biden advisor: As president, former VP would keep disagreements with Israel private
Joe Biden’s senior foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken touted the former vice president’s longstanding ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a webcast hosted by Democratic Majority for Israel yesterday, as he addressed possible unilateral Israeli annexation of some West Bank settlements:
“Joe Biden believes strongly in keeping your differences — to the greatest extent possible — between friends behind doors… When it comes to your friends and partners, you’re much more effective when you disagree on policy matters in dealing with it in private — doing it clearly, forcefully, effectively, but not airing, to the greatest extent possible, any dirty laundry in public. I think one of the great strengths that a president Biden would bring to the relationship with Israel is, he goes back a long, long time with Israel. He’s known, respected and liked across the body politic in Israel, and that gives him a huge amount of credibility when it comes to engaging with our partners, including on hard questions when we might disagree, and to do it in a way that doesn’t harm the relationship.”
BB love: Blinken shared with participants that, during a trip to Israel in the early 2000s, Netanyahu — who was at the time Israel’s finance minister — pointed out to then-Sen. Biden “with great glee” a signed photograph of Biden on his desk which read, “Bibi, I don’t agree with a damn thing you had to say, but I love you.” Blinken stressed, “That’s the nature of the relationship, and that makes a huge difference. And if Joe Biden is president, that’s exactly the way he would operate.”
Adopting Taylor Force Act: On Monday’s webcast, Blinken said Biden would commit to restoring U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, “consistent with the Taylor Force Act,” but he “would insist that the Palestinian Authority stop incitement, and most profoundly recognize once and for all the right and reality of a Jewish state in Israel.”
Blinken on annexation: “Any unilateral action, by either side, that makes what is already a very difficult prospect even more difficult, is something [Biden] opposes — and annexation is exactly that kind of unilateral action… More than 200 leading former military and intelligence officials in Israel recently came out very clearly against pursuing annexation, and they list a whole variety of reasons for doing that, including the added security burden that would likely be imposed on Israel in the West Bank and including the responses and reactions of neighboring countries. So, for all of those reasons, the vice president has been very clear in his opposition.”
Firm convictions: In The Huffington Post, Akbar Shahid Ahmed reports that Biden’s team is open to listening to advice on foreign policy, but the former vice president “wants to be clear that he already has the expertise needed to be commander in chief,” and won’t be easily influenced.
Before it’s too late: Israel’s Channel 13 diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid reported on Monday that Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer stressed in private conversations with Trump administration officials, members of Congress and key influencers that Israel has a small window of opportunity to pursue annexation ahead of the November presidential election. “There is a one-time opportunity to promote annexation as long as Trump is [in the White House],” Dermer was quoted as saying.
REPORTING FROM TEHRAN
‘The New Yorker’ explores the day after Khamenei
In a new feature, The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins writes about “the twilight of the Iranian revolution,” speculating on how the Islamic Republic could change following the eventual death of 81-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
What next? Filkins visited Tehran in February, where he paid a “clandestine visit” to a reformist leader. “The struggle to succeed Khamenei has already begun,” he was told, though he noted that Khamenei has spent decades building a system to protect himself. “Khamenei is like the sun, and the solar system orbits around him,” the dissident said. “This is my worry: What happens when you take the sun out of the solar system? Chaos.” One Western official told the journalist: “The day he’s gone, then I think all options are on the table.”
Growing defiance: While Filkins was in the country, President Hassan Rouhani held a press conference. “I asked him how many civilians the government had killed. He gave a rambling response before concluding, ‘You’re going to have to ask the medical examiner’s office,’” Filkins recalled. “When I returned to my seat, an Iranian reporter… spoke loudly enough for much of the room to hear. ‘I noticed the President didn’t answer your question,’ she said, in flawless English. ‘We hate him.’”
Point of no return: Filkins writes that Iranian officials have told him not to expect the regime to resume nuclear talks with Washington after the presidential election, no matter the outcome, because the supreme leader has lost his trust in the U.S. “The United States can’t be counted on to keep its word,” Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University, was quoted as saying. A Western official who tracks the nuclear program told the magazine that, at the current rate, Iran would reach the capability to produce a bomb in less than seven months.
Blindfolded: Filkins also reports that Iran attempted to foil Mossad’s raid in 2018 by activating “an enormous dragnet operation” to catch the Israeli agents, but failed to stop the team from crossing the border into Azerbaijan. “There was a big purge” among the country’s security forces following the incident, according to the report.
Worthy of your time. Read the full feature here.
👨💻 Envoy from Home: In Foreign Policy, former Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Daniel Rakov, a retired IDF lieutenant-colonel, question whether “Zoomplomacy” will become the new normal or turn out to be a temporary phenomenon that fades away after COVID-19. [FP]
🤝 Return to the Table: Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead suggests the Palestinians need to make “bold moves” in the face of potential Israeli annexation, and restart negotiations on a final-status peace deal, as their options narrow and their “bargaining position continues to erode.” [WSJ]
🖼️ Museum Battle: Former Nazi hunter Neal Sher, a past executive director of AIPAC, is rallying to have the Whitney Museum stripped of its tax exempt status, the Financial Times reports, after it forced out a former board member over his ownership of a company that provides tear gas canisters to Israel. [FT]
Around the Web
🛬 Air Mail:Israeli researchers have concluded that travelers from the U.S. were responsible for 70% of COVID-19 cases in Israel.
✈️ Restart: Delta Airlines has announced it will resume four flights a week to Israel from New York beginning in June.
🎓 Pressure Campaign: U.S. officials are now setting their sights on pressuring Israeli academics over their ties with Chinese universities, Bloomberg reports.
🆗 Stamp of Approval:Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical has been given the go-ahead by China to promote its Austedo treatment for Huntington’s disease.
💵 New Role: Israel Katz took over as Israel’s finance minister on Monday, facing just 90 days to pass a new budget and an uphill battle for economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19.
🛫 Mission Accomplished? Outgoing defense minister Naftali Bennett claimed Iran has begun to call its forces back from Syria.
⏱️ Window Closing: Israeli commentator Seth Frantzman suggests in The Hill that continued Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria may lead to a more direct conflict in the future.
📉 WeCrash: SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son called his investment in WeWork “foolish” after his company valued the embattled coworking space company at $2.9 billion, down from $7.3 billion in December and $47 billion a year ago.
👬 Friends First: In building his COVID-19 task force, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner turned to old pals in the business world — including Adam Boehler and others associated with his brother’s health care startup.
🕵️ Too Close: The State Department inspector general fired by Trump was reportedly investigating improper arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
🕌 Iftar in Quarantine: Dr. Zeena Salman writes in Time magazine about the experience of celebrating Ramadan under lockdown in Ramallah.
🚑 Front Lines:The New York Postspotlights Goldy Landau, a former Hasidic Jew from Kiryas Joel who now works as an EMT in Brooklyn while also a nursing student and a telehealth triage worker for an urgent care clinic in Kiryas Joel.
🥗 Gobble, Gobble: Israeli inventors have developed a coronavirus mask with a remote-control opening that you can wear while eating.
🍽️ Closing Doors: Abigael’s is closing down its Manhattan restaurant on Broadway after taking a hit due to COVID-19, but will continue catering and deliveries.
🕯️ Remembering: Frances Goldin, a New York housing activist who fought against Lower East Side gentrification, died at age 95.
Gif of the Day
The Platt brothers — Ben, Henry, and Jonah — sing for the Graduate Together program on CBS All Access.
Retired Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gadi Eizenkot turns 60…
Senior counsel in the DC office of Blank Rome LLP specializing in government contracts law, Harvey Sherzer turns 76… A former New York State judge, including six years as chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals from 2009 to 2015, now of counsel in the NYC office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Lippman turns 75… Clinical psychologist and ordained rabbi, Dennis G. Shulman turns 70… Member of the California State Senate from the 19th district, she is also a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, Hannah-Beth Jackson turns 70… A nurse by profession, she served as member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from 2009 to 2015, Sandra (Sandy) Pasch turns 66… Harvey D. Harman turns 64… Chabad rabbi born in Milan, now chief rabbi of Russia, friend of Vladimir Putin, Rabbi Berel Lazar turns 56… Journalist, teacher and playwright, Gersh Kuntzman turns 55…
Author of 25 novels that have sold over 40 million copies in 34 languages, Jodi Picoult turns 54… Business manager for NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, Estee Portnoy… Chief executive officer of Bend the Arc, Stosh Cotler turns 52… Israeli actress and fashion designer, Dorit Bar Or turns 45… Canadian food writer and cookbook author, Gail Simmons turns 44… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2019, Ofir Katz turns 40… Former professional baseball player (2010-2017), he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and is now the pitching coach for the Santa Barbara Foresters, Zachary “Zack” James Thornton turns 32… Activist, advocacy educator, engagement strategist and TED speaker, Natalie Warne turns 30… Professional ice hockey forward for the NHL’s Washington Capitals until ten days ago, now a free agent, Brendan Leipsic turns 26…