Good Thursday morning!
A senior State Department official insisted yesterday that discussing annexation wasn’t the purpose of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel. “We should dispel the notion that we flew halfway around the world to talk about annexation,” the official told reporters, later adding that “Israel will make its calculations” when it comes to such a move, and it will “take them a while to come together.”
While on Agron Street yesterday, Pompeo was presented with the American flag that flew above the embassy in Jerusalem (Pic).
Of note, Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer flew back to D.C. on Pompeo’s plane yesterday. How many other countries’ ambassadors can boast that?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to be sworn in for his fifth term late this evening.
Todaymarks 72 years since David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the State of Israel.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), along with Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle, will join supporters of President Donald Trump to mark the second anniversary of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem at a $1,000-per-person Zoom fundraiser this afternoon. For those in search of a more affordable party, Guilfoyle, former Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are hosting a free event at 8 p.m. EDT.
Yesterday, Trump met with Colorado Governor Jared Polis at the White House and praised his state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
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Mike Siegel hopes standing out in Texas will help send him to Congress
Mike Siegel is aware that his status as a progressive Democrat with a Jewish last name sets him apart as he runs for Congress in Texas’s 10th congressional district — a traditionally conservative swath of suburbia that stretches from Austin to Houston. “This is definitely a predominantly Christian and church-going community,” Siegel told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “I think folks do see that I’m a little different.”
Comeback: The 42-year-old former civil rights attorney is now mounting his second campaign to unseat Rep. Mike McCaul, the Republican congressman who has represented the district since 2005. In the last election cycle, Siegel lost to McCaul by just four percentage points. It was an unexpectedly slim margin that surprised the majority of observers who believed the district — previously represented by former President Lyndon B. Johnson but redrawn in 2003 in a way that favored Republicans — was perennially red.
Background: Born in Oakland, California, Siegel was raised in what he described as a “mixed-religion” family. His mother, he said, is a “fourth-generation Californian WASP,” while his Jewish father is from New York. “I would say the common values were social justice, like, doing good in the world,” he said. “Even if we are doing OK as a family, even if we’re economically stable, it’s our duty to help others.” He attended Brandeis University, and went on to work as a public school teacher for Teach for America in Houston, Oakland and Brooklyn. He moved to Texas about eight years ago so his wife, Hindatu, could be closer to her family.
Dual approach: Siegel, who lost ancestors during the Holocaust, believes that “to many in our family, Israel represents the sanctuary that other nations refused to provide.” He believes that he brings a unique approach to the progessive agenda as a Jew who sympathizes with pro-Israel causes while also advocating for Palestinian self-determination. “I can criticize the approach of the government without being accused of being antisemitic because I’m part of this community,” added Siegel, who has never been to Israel but plans to go if he is elected.
Equal accountability: He supports continued aid to Israel while also advocating for renewing aid to the Palestinians along with the United Nations agencies that support Palestinian refugees. “We need to have accountability for how we spend our money,” Siegel said. “One concern I have is that a lot of the conversations about accountability for foreign aid focus only on Israel. We don’t talk about how Saudi Arabia spends its money, or Egypt, or some of these other countries that receive U.S. aid. So certainly, I would like to adopt some common principles for how we distribute foreign aid and military aid. And those should be applied equally.”
on the hill
Senate passes Never Again Education Act
The Senate passed the Never Again Education Act, which authorizes the disbursement of $10 million over the next five years to further Holocaust-related programming and educational materials in middle and high schools, on Wednesday evening.
Clearing the path: The bill — HR 943, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) — came up for a voice vote on the Senate floor after Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) lifted the hold he instated last week, shortly after the bill was discharged from the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It’s very rare for a substantive bill to move like this without going through committee,” a Hill aide told JI, “[Lee] and his staff wanted to review the text.” The Hill staffer added that no changes were ultimately made to the bill.
United to defend Israel: Some 331 members of Congress (69 senators and 262 House members) have added their names to bipartisan letters — led by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate, and Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) in the House — to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraging the administration to support Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Enhancing ties: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced yesterday legislation aimed at promoting coronavirus-related partnerships between U.S and Israeli companies to lessen the U.S. dependence on China for medications. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Annexation watch: AIPAC released a statement this week, proclaiming that suggesting “reducing our ties with Israel because they object to the potential decision” to annex portions of the West Bank “would be a mistake.” The memo stressed that “bipartisan support for the fundamentals of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship must supersede any policy dispute.” AIPAC’s statement arrives as three Senators are circulating a draft letter warning Israeli leaders against annexation (see the language of their letter here).
SOUNDING THE ALARM
Steve Israel ‘worried’ about well-being of U.S. Jewish community
Former Rep. Steve Israel on Wednesday called the displaying of swastikas and Nazi slogans at recent anti-lockdown rallies a ”sobering moment” for American Jews and expressed concern that the country will see even a further increase in antisemitic incidents ahead of November’s general election.
Open display: “The one thing that kills me the most is a political environment where antisemitism is displayed openly,” Israel said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “When people believe that they have license to display a swastika flag on the street without being punished, they go on to believe that they can engage in assaults.”
State of affairs: In an op-ed published Wednesday in The Hill, Israel wrote that he’s “worried” about the well-being of Jews in the U.S., pointing to an annual report published earlier this week by the Anti-Defamation League that showed a 12% surge in antisemitic incidents and a 56% increase in violent attacks — and more total incidents than in any prior year since the organization began tracking decades ago.
2020 watch: The former New York Democratic congressman suggested that antisemitism will be an “important issue” in the November election “because of the president’s continued unwillingness to condemn” fringe right-wing elements of his party, pointing specifically to President Donald Trump’s response to neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Israel noted that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has spoken at length about the protests, even referencing them when he announced his candidacy last spring.
Rebuttal: Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), national chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, explained in an email that Trump has taken “bold steps” to fight the global plague of antisemitism. “He has recognized that hatred and violence against Israel is antisemitism in disguise, and he has stood up for Jewish college students facing discrimination by [executive order]. By his deeds, President Trump has stood tall against antisemitism,” Coleman told JI.
Read more from Israel’s interview here.
Bonus: Rep. Steve King (R-IA) claims House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) agreed to restore his committee assignments after he was kicked off last year for defending white supremacists and making racially charged comments.
📜 Museum Misconduct: Ariel Sabar explores in The Atlantic the story of a renowned Oxford scholar who stole ancient artifacts from the university, falsely claimed they dated to the first century and sold them to the Green family, the Hobby Lobby billionaires behind the Museum of the Bible, which has been repeatedly plagued by accusations of false and stolen artifacts. [TheAtlantic]
🏨 Home Away From Home: In Atlas Obscura, Katie Nadworny goes virtually inside one of the “coronavirus hotels” set up in Israel, where patients who tested positive for the disease — of all backgrounds, ages and religions — were isolated together and formed a “sense of intense community.” [AtlasObscura]
🗳️ Battling It Out: The Intercept’s Akela Lacy and Ryan Grim spotlight the multiple progressive candidates attempting to beat Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) in the upcoming primary, painting the race as a microcosm of the problem facing the party’s left-wing. “The rising left,” they write, “can’t afford to be outmaneuvered on raw strategy,” yet the movement has “repeatedly failed to make a coordinated push.” [TheIntercept]
📰 Media Watch: Steven Pinker, Nadine Strossen, Jonathan Haidt, and Pamela Paresky have called outThe New York Times in a Politico column for the newspaper’s actions surrounding a controversial Bret Stephens column about Jewish IQs published in December. “Newspapers risk forfeiting decisions to air controversial or unorthodox ideas to outrage mobs,” they write, “which are driven by the passions of their most ideological police.” [Politico]
Around the Web
✈️ Secret Mission: Ten Israelis in Morocco died of the coronavirus and 26 others were finally brought home on a private plane owned by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson after being stranded in the country for more than six weeks due to diplomatic complications.
😟 Talk of the Town: NPR’s Matt Katz highlights the concerns of Orthodox Jews in New York over being in the spotlight and singled out for social distancing violations, while the community has been hit hard by both the virus and hatred that followed.
🕍 Long Wait: British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that “we will not be able to open our synagogues fully for a long time” to counter the coronavirus.
🛐 Partisan Prayer: A new study shows a partisan divide among Americans over closing down houses of worship to stem the coronavirus spread.
🔬 Cyberwar: Chinese and Iranian hackers are aggressively targeting U.S. universities and pharmaceutical firms to get their hands on coronavirus-related research, the FBI said Wednesday. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin issued a call to the Treasury Department to issue sanctions against Chinese entities.
📢 Talk of the Region: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claimed on Wednesday that Israel has been striking “everything linked to missile-manufacturing” in Syria.
✍️ Ready to Go: U.S. special representative on Iran Brian Hook writes in The Wall Street Journal that the administration is ready to “snap back” sanctions in Iran if the U.N. arms embargo expires.
🇮🇱 Uneven Approach: Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi writes in NBC News that the incoming unity government has professed to be tackling the coronavirus, but is leaving Israeli-Arab citizens behind.
💸 Startup Nation: K1 Investment Management has invested $12 million in accessiBe, an Israeli startup that uses AI to make online content more accessible to people with disabilities.
💰 Raising Funds: Israeli chip producer Xsight Labs has raised more than $50 million in funding, including investments from Intel and Microsoft.
😩 Setback: Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. has given up a 15-year battle to obtain a gambling license in Japan.
😣 Growing Pains: Mike Bloomberg’s tech firm Hawkfish is reportedly struggling to sign political clients as campaigns have been upended and budgets cut.
💲Path Cleared: David Rubenstein’s Carlyle Group is expected to benefit from its abrupt decision to pull out of a $450 million investment in American Express Global Business Travel.
📱 Making Waves:Israel’s embattled NSO Group has been linked to an American company that pitched phone-hacking technology to San Diego police.
🌿 High Way: The outgoing Israeli government gave its final approval for exports of medical cannabis.
🚫 Targeted Hate: Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has filed a police complaint over a series of threats and harassment.
🛫 Travel Restrictions: Once global travel restarts, Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport expects to require passengers to arrive four hours ahead of their flights and undergo a temperature check.
📉 Drop Off: Israel’s Bank Hapoalim has reported a sharp drop in profit in its first quarter due to the COVID-19 crisis.
🚔 Enforcing Restrictions: A rabbi in Lakewood, New Jersey, was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order banning all gatherings and religious services.
👮 Across the Pond: Metropolitan Police “engaged” with members of the Hasidic community in London after hundreds attended Lag B’Omer gatherings and ignored social distancing restrictions.
😢 Pink Slips: The Union for Reform Judaism has laid off 60 full-time employees, reducing the organization’s staff by 20%, due to the financial crisis caused by COVID-19.
💍 Riding High: An auction for Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl LI ring to benefit families in need has passed the $1 million mark.
👴 Never Again: In an interview with The Forward, Michael Goldmann-Gilead, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, discussed being part of the Israeli team that interrogated Adolf Eichmann prior to his trial.
👨💼 Transition: Hadar Susskind has been appointed president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now.
🎥 Hollywood: Mark Duplass has signed on to direct an adaptation of Israeli author David Grossman’s novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar.
🕯️ Remembering: Boston native Alex Goldstein has launched an initiative to remember the many lives lost due to the coronavirus, telling their stories one tweet at time under the handle @FacesOfCOVID.
Pic of the Day
Daniel Lewin, co-founder of tech company Akamai, is considered to be the first person killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. Lewin, a former IDF soldier in the Sayeret Matkal unit, would have turned 50 years old today.
ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor and NFL sideline reporter, Suzanne Lisa “Suzy” Kolber turns 56…
Born in Casablanca and raised in Paris, owner of La Boîte a Coupe salon in Midtown NYC, Elie Laurent Delouya turns 72… Activist and former Green Party nominee for president in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Jill Stein turns 70… Technion professor of computer science, Orna Grumberg turns 68… Dean of Berkeley Law School, a frequently cited legal scholar on constitutional law and federal civil procedure, Erwin Chemerinsky turns 67… Los Angeles city attorney since 2013, Mike Feuer turns 62… Author of six international bestsellers, Robert Greene turns 61… Former president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann turns 58… Senior defense analyst for Bloomberg Government, Robert Levinson turns 55… Senior advisor on special projects at Yale New Haven Health, she is a former seven-term Connecticut state senator (2005-2019), Gayle Slossberg turns 55…
The Education program lead of Bloomberg Philanthropies and director of Michael Bloomberg’s political activities, Howard Wolfson turns 53… Managing partner of Alexandria, VA-based MVAR Media, Jon Vogel turns 45… Emmy Award-winning executive producer of CNN’s political and special events programming, David Philip Gelles turns 43… Facebook’s chairman, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg turns 36… Bloomberg News reporter covering the union movement, labor law and related policies and politics, Josh Eidelson turns 36… Actress and musician, Sasha Rebecca Spielberg turns 30… VP of government relations at The Blackstone Group, Alex I. Katz turns 30… J.D. candidate in the 2022 class at Stanford Law School, he is a former track star and then football player at Harvard, Andrew Ezekoye turns 28… Forward for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, he was the first pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and is the son of hockey star Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, Jack Hughes turns 19…