Good Tuesday morning!
In new figures released today, the Anti-Defamation League reported that antisemitic attacks against Jews in America hit a record high last year, citing the most incidents since the group began keeping track in 1979.
Yesterday, a 2013 U.S. District court case from Maryland — involving the construction of a sukkah at a Jewish day school — was highlighted in oral arguments before the Supreme Court amid a debate over whether parochial school employees are protected by employment discrimination laws.
In an interview with Israel Hayom ahead of his visit to Israel tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he is coming in order to bring Israeli leaders “up to speed on the progress we think we are making on President Trump’s vision for peace,” and reiterated that annexation of West Bank settlements is “an Israeli decision.”
Today is Lag Ba’omer, traditionally celebrated by bonfires and large gatherings. Despite a ban in Israel on holding any bonfires to stem the coronavirus spread, thousands of people in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh defied the orders.
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at the polls
Familiar names fill today’s Democratic primary in Nebraska’s 2nd district
In 2018, Democratic political newcomer Kara Eastman made a splash in Nebraska political circles when she came within 5,000 votes of beating then-freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). This year, the social worker and former non-profit executive wants a rematch — but first she’ll need a primary win today against someone familiar with the office: Ann Ashford, whose husband, former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE), held the seat before losing to Bacon in 2016.Back in the race: Eastman decided to throw her hat into the ring again in part because of the close margin last cycle. She had heard from supporters, she said, who had pushed her to make another run for office. “Now people have had the chance to get to know me a little bit better and hopefully see that my vision for the country is much more in line with what the majority of Americans want,” she told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod in a recent interview.
Split support: Eastman has the backing of major progressives on the national stage, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and progressive groups including Justice Democrats and Democracy for America. But Ashford is popular among major Democratic figures in Nebraska, having garnered the support of Bob Kerry and Ben Nelson — both of whom previously represented the Cornhusker State in the Senate and served in the Governor’s Mansion; along with former Lieutenant Governor Kim Robak and former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.
Obstacles to peace: Eastman called Israel “a great democracy,” but posited that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump have been obstacles to reaching a peace deal. She said that the original Iran deal was flawed, but that the decision to pull out was “terrible,” and she would seek to “upgrade” the deal and rejoin.
Tale of two papers: Ashford described the U.S.-Israel relationship as “one of our most important relationships in the world,” but called for the U.S. to assume the role of an “agnostic facilitator of the two-state solution.” The candidate also shared two position papers on Israel with JI, one written for AIPAC and the other for J Street. In the AIPAC paper, Ashford said that a 2016 meeting with Netanyahu while her husband was in Congress was uniquely informative. In the J Street paper, meanwhile, she called the Trump administration “tone deaf” for cutting aid to the Palestinians and for opening the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem “at the same time as the Nakba.”
Bonus: In addition to Nebraska, polls also open today in two special election races for Congress, in California and Wisconsin. In California’s 25th congressional district, voters will choose between Democrat Christy Smith and Republican Mike Garcia to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA), who resigned after allegations of an improper relationship with a staffer. And in Wisconsin’s 7th district, Republican Tom Tiffany is facing off against Democrat Tricia Zunker to replace Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), who resigned due to family health concerns.
Likud minister Gilad Erdan appointed as next ambassador to U.N. and U.S.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s outgoing public security minister and strategic affairs minister, has been appointed to serve as Israel’s next ambassador to the U.N. Erdan will also replace Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer when he ends his extended term in the fall, following the U.S. election.
Background: According to the rotation deal signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, when Gantz becomes prime minister in late 2021, he can replace Netanyahu’s selected ambassador to the U.S., but not the country’s envoy to the U.N. Under the arrangement, Erdan could potentially only serve as the ambassador to Washington for one year. Erdan visited the U.S. last year to meet with American Jewish community leaders and is proficient in English.
Flashback: As strategic affairs minister, Erdan has overseen Israel’s efforts to fight BDS, including publishing a blacklist of groups and individuals barred from entering the country due to their ties to the boycott movement. In August, Erdan was the official who signed off on banning Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from visiting Israel on a trip organized by the NGO Miftah, which has expressed support for the BDS movement.
Ready for the challenge: “I am proud and excited for the privilege of fighting for our justice on the international stage,” Erdan said Monday evening, “and protecting Israel against the challenges expected in the coming years.”
Bonus: Gershom Gorenberg writes in The Washington Post that the unanimous Israeli Supreme Court decision to allow Netanyahu to head the next government only cements the fact that the prime minister “can ride roughshod over constraints on the majority’s power.”
IN THE RACE
The Georgia state senator who wants to be the first Iranian-American in Congress
Zahra Karinshak, a state senator in Georgia, is taking on a crowded Democratic primary field in the state’s 7th congressional district. But the U.S. Air Force veteran is hoping that her connection to the last Democrat to hold the seat in Congress will give her an edge among voters in the June 9 primary. Karinshak spoke to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about her congressional hopes.
Buddy buddy: Karinshak likes to point out that she was nominated to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, in 1989, by Rep. George “Buddy” Darden, the former congressman who represented the district from 1983 to 1995. “Granted, the borders have changed,” Karinshak said. “But there’s a little bit of karma there.”
Tough crowd: Her opponents include the young progressive Nabilah Islam, state representative Brenda Lopez Romero and Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, who, last election cycle, came within 433 votes of unseating Rob Woodall, the Republican representative who is retiring at the end of his term. Bourdeaux is the obvious frontrunner, experts say, having notched endorsements from heavyweights such as Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and is leading the pack in fundraising.
Track record: Whoever wins the Democratic primary will work to flip the seat held since 2011 by Woodall, who is not seeking reelection. Karinshak has experience in flipping seats; in 2018, she flipped the Republican-held 48th district in Georgia’s State Senate, her first campaign for elected office, and received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama in that race. And while she had to give up that seat to run for Congress, “at the end of this race, it’ll be a plus one,” she said. “We’ll flip another seat that needs to be flipped and should have been flipped last time.”
Drawing distinction: Karinshak, whose father emigrated to the United States from Iran, has been endorsed by the National Iranian American Council. She said the U.S. must keep up a pressure campaign on Iran to prevent it from pursuing nuclear and ballistic missiles. “But we must remember that the Iranian people are not consistent with the Iranian leadership,” she said. “We need to be cognizant that the Iranian-American people are separate and distinct.”
Read the full interview here.
Jake Sullivan: U.S. snapback sanctions ‘vindicated’ the Iran deal
Jake Sullivan, who served as national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, discussed the future of the Iran nuclear deal in a webcast hosted yesterday by the Hudson Institute, moderated by Wall Street Journal columnist and the think tank’s distinguished fellow Walter Russell Mead.
Iran deal narrative: Sullivan, who as an aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was part of the team that established backchannel talks with Iran that led to the 2015 nuclear deal, maintained that the Trump administration’s snapback sanctions on Iran have “vindicated the basic principle” behind the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Vindication: Sullivan explained that opponents of the deal argued that Iran will grow economically powerful and resilient as a result of the sanctions relief, making it almost impossible for the U.S. to snap back sanctions. Instead, he posits, the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the international accord and the reimposition of sanctions on Tehran proved that “the power of the U.S. dollar and the U.S. financial system” was sufficient enough to drive down Iran’s oil production. “[That] tells us that actually the basic logic of a nuclear deal that says, ‘You get sanctions relief if you continue to comply with strict limitations on your program, but if you violate those limitations, we will snap sanctions back,’ [works],” he added.
Two steps back, one step forward: Going forward, Sullivan suggested that a potential Biden administration should “immediately re-engage nuclear diplomacy with Iran” and “establish something along the lines of the JCPOA, but immediately begin the process of negotiating a follow on agreement” which would deal “with the timelines for the restrictions and extend them, and should also try to address other elements that we have learned, subsequently, could be strengthened.”
Pushing for a seat at the table: A coalition representing 51 anti-war groups — including IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Code Pink — sent a letter to Biden on Monday demanding he adopt a “principled foreign policy” and a “new approach to international relations” that breaks away from even former President Barack Obama’s policies. The letter includes a call to leverage military aid to Israel and to end the blockade on Gaza. Meanwhile, the Zionist Organization of America and the Coalition for Jewish Values are criticizing Biden for pledging to resume economic and security assistance to the Palestinians.
😟 Weighing In: In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Betsy McKay, billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates says he regrets not speaking up louder about the world’s lack of readiness for a global pandemic. “I feel terrible,” he said. “I wish I had done more to call attention to the danger.” [WSJ]
💓 Back to Life:Lawrence Garbuz, the 50-year-old lawyer from New Rochelle who was identified as “patient zero” of the coronavirus in the Westchester city — which became the first epicenter of the outbreak in New York — discussed his experience battling the virus in an interview with “The Today Show” on Monday. [Today]
Around the Web
😥 Wasn’t Me: Jeffrey Katzenberg is blaming the coronavirus outbreak for the slow start of Quibi, the mobile streaming platform he co-founded with Meg Whitman earlier this year, despite a high-profile lineup and a frenetic daily schedule.
🌐 Global Crisis:In an interview with The Independent, billionaire philanthropist George Soros warned that the pandemic “really endangers the survival of our civilization.”
👮 Never Again: The Ukrainian Jewish community is outraged after a police official requested a list of all Jews in the city of Kolomyya as part of an investigation into organized crime.
🎖️ Killed in Action: IDF soldier Amit Ben-Yigal was killed early this morning during a West Bank operation, marking the first combat death for Israeli forces in 2020.
💪 Tough Diplomacy: France is urging European Union countries to consider threatening Israel with action if it moves forward with a plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
💲Helping Hand:Israel has issued a rare loan of up to $228 million to the Palestinian Authority as it struggles financially amid the coronavirus crisis.
✌️ Mission Accomplished: Israeli Finance Ministry director-general Shai Babad announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from his job once the new government is installed. Israeli Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov, who became the face of the country’s coronavirus response, also submitted his resignation to Netanyahu today.
☎️ Greetings From Jerusalem: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin “restated the strong relationship between the State of Israel and New Jersey” in a phone call with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy yesterday.
👨👧👦 Over Policing: Chabad of Dumbo’s Rabbi Noah Chakoff was detained for hours by the NYPD for alleged endangering the welfare of a child on Monday for letting his kids go the grocery store unaccompanied.
📹 Spreading Hate:A San Diego man who goes by the name “Dusty Shekel” online uploaded a video of himself shopping with his wife while wearing masks bearing a swastika, followed by a confrontation with two sheriff’s deputies.
🎙️Media Watch:Al Jazeera deleted a tweet linking to a podcast glorifying assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
👎 Across the Sea: Malta’s Ambassador to Finland Michael Zammit Tabona resigned after comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Hitler in a Facebook post.
🎓 Campus Beat: The George Washington University has named BDS activist professor Ilana Feldman as the interim dean of its Elliott School of International Affairs.
📺 Transition: Koby Gal-Raday, a former executive at Israel’s Yes Studios, has been appointed as chief content officer at Beta Film.
Pic of the Day
On this day in history: Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger checks his spectacles for dust prior to his appearance on the NBC “Today” show, Friday, May 12, 1978 in Washington.
Thomas Meaney writes in “The Myth of Henry Kissinger” published yesterday that “the main display of Kissinger’s ‘realism’ was in the management of his own fame, his transformation of a conventional performance into a symbol of diplomatic virtuosity. It can sometimes seem as if there has been an unconscious compact between Kissinger and many of his detractors. If all the sins of the U.S. security state can be loaded onto one man, all parties get what they need: Kissinger’s status as a world-historic figure is assured, and his critics can regard his foreign policy as the exception rather than the rule. It would be comforting to believe that American liberals are capable of seeing that politics is more than a matter of personal style, and that the record will prevail, but the enduring cult of Kissinger points to a less palatable possibility: Kissinger is us.”
First-ever Jewish governor of Colorado when he was elected in 2019, former member of Congress, Jared Polis turns 45…
Songwriter and record producer, Burt Bacharach turns 92… Co-founder and the first CEO of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus turns 91… Israeli agribusiness entrepreneur, he was chairman and owner of Carmel Agrexco, Gideon Bickel turns 76… World-renowned architect and master planner for the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Daniel Libeskind turns 74… Former member of the California State Senate and the California State Assembly, Lois Wolk turns 74… Chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, Michael Isikoff turns 68… Former Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald covering the Pentagon, James Martin Rosen turns 65… Former member of the Knesset for the Meretz party (1999-2003 and again 2009-2019), he won re-election twice in 2019 but not in the most recent election, Ilan Gilon turns 64…
Professor at Emory University School of Law, Michael Jay Broyde turns 56… Actress known for her role as Lexi Sterling on “Melrose Place,” Jamie Michelle Luner turns 49… Founder of strategic communications and consulting firm Hiltzik Strategies, Matthew Hiltzik turns 48… Communications officer in the DC office of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Jonathan E. Kaplan turns 48… Principal at New Heights Communications, Joshua Cohen turns 37… Author of Politico‘s “Morning Tech” newsletter, Alexandra S. Levine turns 30… Director of member relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, Amanda Schechter turns 29 (h/ts Playbook)… Civics outreach manager at Google, Erica Arbetter turns 28… Haifa-born actress and model, Odeya Rush turns 23…