Good Wednesday morning!
Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden told Jewish Democrats during a fundraiser on Zoom that Israeli annexation efforts “will choke off any hope for peace.” Read more below.
Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee plans to announce its fourth round of congressional endorsements today. The latest list includes Senate challengers Sara Gideon in Maine and former Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado, marking the first Senate candidates the group has endorsed this cycle.
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Biden: Israeli annexation ‘will choke off any hope for peace’
Former Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on his strong opposition to Israeli moves in the West Bank during a virtual fundraiser with Jewish Democrats yesterday. “I do not support annexation,” Biden said. “Israel needs to stop the threat of annexation and stop settlement activity, because it will choke off any hope for peace.”
Pointing fingers: The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee assigned blame for the stalled peace process to Palestinian and Israeli leadership, telling participants that both sides are, at present, unwilling to take political risks through direct talks. Biden attributed some blame to the Trump administration, noting that the president “has been unequivocal on anything that Bibi [Netanyahu] does and has been equivocating on the importance of a two-state solution.”
Commitment: Biden called on the Palestinian Authority to end incitement, condemn acts of terror and “acknowledge, flat-out, Israel’s right to exist — period — as an independent Jewish state and guarantee the borders.” Biden added that if elected, he will fully support the Taylor Force Act, which halts aid to the Palestinian Authority if the government continues to pay salaries to individuals who have conducted attacks against Israelis.
Calling out all sides: Biden pledged “to speak out regularly” against antisemitism “right, left and center” if elected president, and drew a line between what he called legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies and antisemitism. “Too often that criticism from the left morphed into antisemitism, blaming Israel for all the wrongs in the Middle East, failing to acknowledge the daily existential threat that Israelis lived with every single day, failing to call out Palestinian leaders for their own bad choices and their refusal to recognize the right and reality of the Jewish state.”
Burning bridges: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced last night during a speech in Ramallah that the PA has declared itself free of “all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones.”
Inside the ‘virtual’ room of the Biden fundraiser
Approximately 560 attendees, based on screenshots provided to Jewish Insider, participated in yesterday’s fundraiser on Zoom with former Vice President Joe Biden. An additional two dozen individuals co-hosted the event and appeared as panelists on screen. The first part of the discussion, which focused on antisemitism, was moderated by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.
Featured co-hosts included Miami real estate developer Michael Adler and his wife Judy, Karen Adler, Sara Adler, Matt & Amanda Adler, Baltimore developer and communal leaders Josh and Genine Fidler, DMFI board member from San Francisco Sam Lauter, former New York Congressman Steve Israel, former Texas Congressman Martin Frost, Brookings’ Norm Eisen, CEO of snack company Kind Daniel Lubetzky, Chicago’s David Solow, former Obama official Scott Nathan, Florida’s Eric Lynn, Aspen’s Jim Aresty, Israel Policy Forum chair Susie Gelman, and Michele Rosen.
Additional co-hosts included Marc Stanley from Dallas, Bluelight Strategies’ Aaron Keyak and Steve Rabinowitz along with their better halves Avi Goldgraber and Laurie Moskowitz, Chicago’s Jeffery Hecktman, Peter Joseph, Mitchell Berger, Susie Stern, Ivan Jecklin, and joining live from Israel, former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Julie Fisher.
Of note: During the Q&A portion of the Zoom fundraiser, Biden indicated to Shapiro that he would offer him a diplomatic role in his administration. “If I do [get elected], you’re in trouble because I am coming for you,” the former vice president told Shapiro.
Among the other attendees spotted were former co-chair of the Obama Biden 2012 campaign Alan Solow, former AIPAC president Amy Friedkin, Alan P. Gross, former MLB outfielder and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, ad executive Tom Doctoroff, DMFI co-chair Todd Richman, Tom Kahn, former vice chair of the DNC Susan Turnbull, linguist Wendy Sandler, Chicago Doctor Marc Slutzky, Ken Lipper, Martin Raffel, Rafi Granoff, Stuart Kurlander, Kenneth Bob and Vicki Heyman.
Bakari Sellers’s new book follows ‘vanishing’ opportunity
Bakari Sellers — the son of civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers — grew up believing that “regardless of what you look like, or where you came from, who you loved, who you pray to in this country, you could reach and fulfill your ultimate promise.” Since then, Sellers has seen that optimism fading. “I’m a country boy growing up in the rural South — what used to be an epicenter of economic growth and development,” Sellers told Jewish Insider’s Sam Zieve Cohen in a recent interview. “These small towns throughout the country, particularly throughout the South, are now diminishing and vanishing right before your eyes.”
A life in context: At age 22, Sellers made history as the youngest elected African American in the U.S., representing South Carolina’s 90th House District. Now the 35-year old CNN political commentator has written a book — My Vanishing Country, published this week. Part cultural and social analysis, part memoir, the work puts Sellers’s life story in the context of declining prosperity for the black working class in the rural South.
Disappearing hope: “The spirit of hope for those communities is disappearing,” Sellers explained. “The dreams… and the promises that this country stands for, for many individuals — especially people of color, immigrants, people from poor areas throughout this country — are no longer attainable.” The former South Carolina state representative lamented that “‘life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness’ are more fiction than anything else,” challenging the country “to be a more perfect union.”
GW University under fire for appointing BDS activist to head international affairs school
Administrators at The George Washington University in D.C. are facing growing pressure from national Jewish groups over the appointment of a BDS activist to temporarily head the college’s Elliott School of International Affairs, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Chilling effect: In a May 15th letter✎ EditSign to George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc obtained by Jewish Insider, Hillel International President Adam Lehman cautioned that Dr. Ilana Feldman’s appointment is likely to “have a chilling effect on faculty and students who wish to engage in scholarly activity in Israel and freely express and act on their support for Israel.” He also said the move “will send the wrong message about the university’s commitment to a free exchange of ideas in a civil and respectful manner.”
Background: Feldman has been a professor at GWU since 2007. She was one of the leaders of an unsuccessful 2016 campaign in the American Anthropological Association to adopt a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions. Concerns have also been raised over past assigned coursework in Feldman’s classes, including a novel by Ghassan Kanafani, a former leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
Active concern: Zev Hurwitz, director of campus affairs at the American Jewish Committee, told JI that AJC is concerned Feldman’s personal beliefs would interfere in the educational experience of students at the university. “This is not somebody who signed a petition a few years ago,” Hurwitz said. “This is someone who was active in leading an academic boycott movement, who has also signaled through an official hiring announcement that that activism continues in this role.”
Revision:The university’s initial announcement about the appointment included a note that Feldman “remains committed to continuing to understand, learn and contribute to both scholarly and public conversations about the Palestinian condition.” In a second statement, released Monday, provost M. Brian Blake reiterated the university’s opposition to BDS, and sought to reassure the campus community that Feldman “has and will adhere to all of our policies and specifically committed to adhering to GWU’s policy regarding freedom of expression.”
👴 Remembering Dad: Ben Stiller speaks to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner about how he will remember his father, comedian Jerry Stiller, and how different he was from his “Seinfeld” character. “We had a small service for him, and I was talking to the rabbi about him… and the rabbi was talking about his character on ‘Seinfeld.’ And I said, ‘He never once raised his voice to me, ever, as a kid. Ever.’” [NewYorker]
👩⚕️ Front Line: Canada’s National Postspotlights Rachel Gemara, a nurse and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who has been caring for coronavirus patients at a hospital in Jerusalem. “My grandparents’ stories of the human spirit were an important part of how I grew up.” [NationalPost]
🇮🇱 British Betrayal: Recently discovered intelligence documents reveal that David Ben-Gurion was aware that senior British officials were pushing Arab armies to launch a war on the nascent State of Israel, Meir Zamir reports in Haaretz. British officers “succeeded in persuading the Arabs to join forces and go to war to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state.”[Haaretz]
Around the Web
🛬 Safe Landing: An Etihad Airlines flight bringing humanitarian aid to Palestinians from the UAE landed at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel for the first time ever on Tuesday.
🚰 Tit for Tat: The New York Times reports that outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett pushed for a cyberattack response in Iran only after Tehran’s hacking of an Israeli water system was published in Israeli media.
⛏️ Digging Deep: Israeli archeologists have uncovered a “very puzzling” series of chambers underneath the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem.
⚔️ Always Ready: Israel and Lebanon are “gearing up for a possible war” 20 years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, The Associated Press reports.
🏫 Federal Intervention: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called on the Justice Department to investigate New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to shut down a yeshiva in Brooklyn, accusing him of violating freedom of religion.
🍽️ Deep State Dinner: An NBC report reveals that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been hosting frequent taxpayer-funded dinners with political supporters that were left off his public schedule.
🗳️ NY Primary Watch:Ruben Diaz Sr., who was profiled in Jewish Insider in March, a “Trump-friendly, anti-AOC Democrat,” is poised to win his upcoming congressional primary in the Bronx, insiders predict.
✈️ Taking Action: The Treasury Department has announced sanctions on a Chinese company for its dealings with Iran’s Mahan Air, which is accused of transporting weapons to Iranian militant groups.
⚖️ Legal Battle: David Katzman’s SmileDirectClub is suing NBC for $2.85 billion over a news report about the company it alleges was defamatory.
💂♂️ Changing of the Guard: HBO Max is poised to enter the streaming wars later this month, with incoming AT&T CEO John Stankey hoping to continue the success of former longtime HBO CEO Richard Plepler.
🏢 WeCan’t Pay: WeWork is asking landlords for a break on rent this month, as its customers are also looking to delay payments.
💑 Across the Pond: The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in London told its community not to plan any weddings until late June, and ordered kosher caterers not to supply food to those breaching restrictions.
👍 Good Start: The Jewish Labour Movement said it is “encouraged” by new Labour leader Keir Starmer’s commitment to combat antisemitism, but is waiting to see “actions, not just words.”
🚫 Band Ban: Anti-Israel BDS activist Roger Waters complained yesterday that his former bandmates have banned him from the band’s website and social media.
🕯️Remembering: Journalist and author Karen Blumenthal, who worked as an editor and bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal, died at age 61. Marty Cohen, a film editor who worked extensively with director Steven Spielberg, has died at age 67.
Pic of the Day
New Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevitch (L) and outgoing minister Tzipi Hotovely bump elbows at a passing of the baton ceremony at the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs in Jerusalem yesterday. The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov captioned the photo, “Sheitels of the Knesset.”
Born in upstate NY as Michael Scott Bornstein, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (2009-2013), he was then a Deputy Minister and a member of Knesset for the centrist Kulanu party (2015-2019), Michael Oren turns 65…
CEO of Kings’ Care A Safe Place rehabilitation and treatment centers, Ilene Leiter turns 77… Canadian businesswoman and elected official, she served in the Ontario Assembly (1985-1997) and in the Canadian House of Commons (1997-2004), Elinor Caplan turns 76… Democratic member of the New York State Assembly since 2007, representing the 97th Assembly District in Rockland County, Ellen Jaffee turns 76… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 2nd District (1981-2001), he was born in a DP camp in Germany after WW2, Sam Gejdenson turns 72… Chagrin Falls, Ohio attorney, Robert Charles Rosenfeld turns 71… EVP and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Michael S. Miller turns 71… Producer and writer who has worked on “Saturday Night Live,” PBS’ “Great Performances” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” Alan Zweibel turns 70…
Former director of international affairs, policy and planning at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (2016-2018), following 12 years at the ADL, Michael Alan Salberg turns 68… Professor at Tulane University, he retired as president of the Aspen Institute in 2017, Walter Isaacson turns 68… Chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News (and son of First Amendment scholar Floyd Abrams), he is the founder of Mediaite, Dan Abrams turns 54… NYC location scout and unit production manager for feature films and television commercials, David Brotsky turns 54… EVP of Resolute Consulting, Ami Copeland turns 48… Emmy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Rachel Platten turns 39… Manager of privacy issues for Amazon’s state public policy team, Philip Justin (PJ) Hoffman turns 39…
Program manager for cultural and civic vitality at the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Vadim Avshalumov turns 35… Founder and CEO of Berkeley, California-based Caribou Biosciences, a genome engineering company, Rachel Haurwitz, Ph.D. turns 35… Legislative director for Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lauren D. Wolman turns 34… Assistant director in the Washington Regional Office of AJC Global, Susan Sloan turns 34… VP of content production at Austin-based digital agency Harris Media, Josh Canter turns 28… Miss Israel 2014, she is now a legal intern at a Tel Aviv law firm, Doron Matalon turns 27… American University student in the class of 2021, former national chair of the High School Democrats of America, Aylon Berger turns 20… Political activist for school safety, he is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Kyle Kashuv turns 19… Abraham Eckstein…
This post was updated