Good Monday morning!
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined a growing list of Democratic senators speaking out against Israeli annexation efforts, in an exclusive statement to Jewish Insider.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address to Christians United for Israel’s virtual summit last night that annexation “will not set back the cause of peace, it will advance peace.”
Today in Jerusalem, White House Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz to discuss annexation. Gantz told the U.S. officials that the July 1 date is “not sacred” and that annexation is not Israel’s most pressing priority. Berkowitz reportedly met with Netanyahu on Saturday night.
Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, visited the United Arab Emirates over the weekend for consultations over the U.N. Iran arms embargo set to expire in October. Hook toldThe Associated Press on Sunday that the world should ignore Iranian threats of retaliation. Hook did not reply to JI’s inquiry as to whether Israeli annexation was discussed in his meetings.
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MEETING THE MOMENT
African American, Army vet and Republican. How will John James fare in Michigan?
In many ways, this should be John James’s moment. The 39-year-old Detroit native is now mounting his second Senate bid after failing to dethrone Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in 2018. This time around, he is trying to unseat first-term Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) at a time when mass protests against systemic racism have brought questions about Black representation to the forefront. James, who is African American, tells Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel that he’s seeking to go to Washington to work “not just to end police brutality, but also to end the elements of racism that have plagued African Americans since 1619.”
The challenge: As progressive Democrats of color have found success in recent weeks — including Jamaal Bowman, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones — it remains to be seen if James will be able to ride the same wave. James, a Republican, has expressed enthusiastic support for President Donald Trump, whose own re-election prospects have worsened in recent weeks. James is now trailing Peters by about 10 points, according to a recent poll, putting him in slightly better position than the president. Experts predict that Trump’s sagging numbers, should they persist into the fall, could bring down other GOP candidates.
Independent thinker: In his interview with JI, James positioned himself as “an independent thinker” with a conservative bent who happens to be running as a Republican. “I’m running in the Republican Party… because the platform aligns most closely with my economic and moral values.” GOP strategists believe the Republican upstart has a decent shot of pulling off an upset in November. Norm Coleman, national chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that James’s Senate bid represents one of his party’s best chances to pick up a seat in the general election and fend off a Democratic majority.
Not new to controversy: Two years ago, James’s first TV ad came under scrutiny for including an image of a swastika, for which he later apologized. And on Sunday, in an interview with a local news channel in Detroit, he stirred up controversy when he clumsily suggested that the political establishment was “genuflecting for working-class white males and for college-educated women and for our Jewish friends” while noting that both Republicans and Democrats have long neglected the interests of Black people. In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Michigan Jewish Democratic Caucus chair Noah Arbit said “it is reprehensible and deeply offensive that James would think to describe the Republican and Democratic Parties as ‘genuflecting … to our Jewish friends.’”
Historic home: Despite James’s weekend blunder, he is attuned to the legacy of antisemitism. His Michigan home was built in 1960 by a Jewish family, and the stained glass panes in his front door are believed to have been salvaged from a now-destroyed synagogue in Poland. The knowledge that those stained-glass panels may have come from a European synagogue has had a sobering effect on James, according to Bryce Sandler, a political consultant who works on James’s campaign. Every time James walks in and out of his house, Sandler said James has told him, the Army vet is reminded of the enemies he fought as an Apache helicopter pilot during the Iraq War.
Views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Supporting a two-state solution is something that requires two willing partners,” James told JI. Though he supports such an outcome, James said he would defer to Israel regarding potential annexation of part of the West Bank. James also expressed his support for the Taylor Force Act, which cuts off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ceases payments to families of terrorists. “Only if the Palestinian Authority commits to not allowing U.S. aid to go to terrorist operations or salaries should the U.S. consider restoring aid,” he said.
Sarsour tells Bowman: Don’t ask questions; Bowman: I’ll ask plenty of questions
During an Instagram live session with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) yesterday, Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour called on Jamaal Bowman, who currently leads Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in last week’s Democratic primary in New York’s 16th congressional district, to follow the legislative priorities of ‘The Squad’ — a group of progressive representatives comprised of Reps. Tlaib, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — with “no questions asked.”
To D.C. with instructions: “We told him, ‘When you get to Congress he has very special instructions. You’re following four women of color there. When Rashida, Ilhan, AOC and Ayanna tell you to do something, no questions asked, you do what they say,” Sarsour said of Bowman.
Plenty of questions: Rebecca Katz, a spokeswoman for Bowman, told JI that Bowman “plans to work alongside the members of the Squad and all his colleagues. As you will soon see, he will definitely ask plenty of questions.”
The NYTimes reporter who traded in the sports beat to cover ‘identity wars’
New York Times reporter Michael Powell knows that his new gig will get a lot of people all riled up. The former sports columnist spoke with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about taking on the brand newTimes beat covering free speech and identity issues.
Third rail: The journalist, who has worked at the Times since 2007, has always enjoyed taking on controversial stories. “I like trying to explain positions and to get inside thinking in a way that isn’t necessarily my own,” he told JI, characterizing his new beat as “the third rail of our culture and politics.” He added: “If you’re going to try to engage with the culture and you’re going to try to engage with people’s thinking, particularly at a time like this, where everyone is at loggerheads and there’s so little nuance,” he said, “it’s just inevitable that you’re going to encounter anger.”
Unpredictable views: “There’s sometimes a tendency to figure out, ‘Oh, if you’re X — gender, race, whatever — then you have a predictable set of views that follow from that,” he said. “And that always strikes me as stultifying and sad.” Powell said that “right now, I think, in a lot of writing, there’s a strong kind of Black identity emphasis,” he said. “And that’s all interesting and very often very powerful. There’s also a world of thought out there — this goes for every single racial, ethnic group — that is different than that.”
Infamous op-ed: The new beat comes at a somewhat tense moment for the Times, as staff members have butted heads with management over the paper’s decision to publish an opinion piece by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) advocating for military force to quell protests against systemic racism. “I very much get the passion on all sides of this,” Powell told JI judiciously. “One of the challenges the Times faces is that it doesn’t want to get pigeonholed as just a paper for liberals or for the left, and that’s a goal I support,” Powell told JI. “That would never, in my eyes, involve going easy, ever, on any topic.”
Looking ahead: As he plans future stories, Powell said he is looking forward to writing about such hot-button issues as Title IX, transgender athletes and other topics touching on race and class. “In this particular end of the forest,” he said, “there’s more subjects to hunt and look at then there is time in the day.” And he acknowledged that a number of the topics he covers will require he wade into perilous territory. “You’re going to take a lot of flack at some point,” he said, “but to some extent, if you don’t like that, then you should get out of journalism.”
PUTTING ON PRESSURE
Behind the scenes of the campaign to pressure companies to drop Facebook ads
In recent weeks, a coordinated effort called “Stop Hate For Profit” — the result of months of coordination between the Anti-Defamation League, Common Sense Media and a handful of other organizations including the NAACP, Color of Change and Sleeping Giants — has resulted in more than 100 companies pulling advertising from Facebook over its failure to censor hate speech. Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss spoke to the key figures behind the initiative about their success and their plans for what comes next.
Faith values: Common Sense Media founder Jim Steyer — the brother of former presidential candidate Tom Steyer — told JI that his faith was a motivating factor in spearheading the initiative. “I think it was a blend of understanding the level of racism against [African Americans] and racism against Jewish people,” Steyer, who grew up attending Temple Emanuel in New York City, told JI. “So when I started talking to Jonathan [Greenblatt], and even Sacha Baron Cohen, I knew they were really deeply motivated by the incredible amount of antisemitism, and all the white supremacist groups.”
No protection: ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JI that a majority of the harassment complaints the ADL has logged occurred over Facebook. “There are other platforms, but none of them are as ubiquitous or as problematic as Facebook, by a large margin,” Greenblatt said. “Our media environment for decades and decades was very carefully built with protections in place for consumers. And the online arena, which has literally been built in the last 10-15 years, has none of those protections in place.”
Results: The initial plan for the campaign was for companies to suspend advertising on the site for the month of July. Since the open letter announcing the campaign was published in mid-June, advertisers ranging from North Face to Coca-Cola, Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s and Verizon have pulled their advertising from the site. Facebook’s shares have dipped more than 7% since the campaign began. “The goal was never to make a dent in Facebook’s [profit and loss],” said Greenblatt. “The objective was always to make a point about Facebook’s principles.”
🌳 On the Ground:Wall Street Journal reporters Dion Nissenbaum and Nazih Osseiran pay a visit to south Lebanon, where trees being planted along the Israel-Lebanon border play into the heightened tensions between the countries. “The cutting of a branch here could trigger a war.” [WSJ]
⚠️ Whistle Blower: Ellen Huet writes in Bloomberg about the story of Joanna Strange — the first WeWork employee to publicly flag the company’s financial troubles and its often jarring approach to its employees — who was fired, sued and questioned by the FBI. [Bloomberg]
🎮 Gaming Faith:The Washington Post’s Gene Park explores the role of religious characters in popular video games, spotlighting Dina, the Jewish bisexual love interest in “The Last of Us Part II,” a game created by Israeli-American writer Neil Druckmann. [WashPost]
Around the Web
📰 Media Watch: New York Times columnist Ben Smith profilesWashington Post executive editor Marty Baron amid the “cultural reckoning” in American newsrooms.
😕 Personal Interests:Recode’s Theodore Schleifer speaks with dozens of current and former employees at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative who have been wrestling with the ethics of working for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
👨💻 Linking Arms: The Democratic National Committee has hired digital and technology firm Hawkfish, founded by Michael Bloomberg, for the general election.
👨💼 Taking Control: Jared Kushner, who oversees Trump’s re-election campaign, is expected to play an even more active role as polls show the president trailing Joe Biden by double digits.
😮 Oy Tweet:Trump deleted a tweet he posted yesterday that featured a video of one of his supporters chanting “white power.”
🎯 On Target: An unidentified jet struck Iranian sites in Syria hours after an Iranian media outlet reported that Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps head Esmail Ghaani visited troops in the area.
💵 Paying Up: Qatar is expected to send a $10 million transfer to families in Gaza “at the start of next week.”
🙏 Peaceful Prayers: A federal judge has blocked New York State from enforcing coronavirus-related restrictions on indoor religious gatherings after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged protests.
👨⚖️ New Title: Luiz Fux, the first Jewish justice on Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court, has become its first Jewish president.
👎 Across the Pond: The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned Brexit party leader Nigel Farage for repeatedly referencing antisemitic conspiracy theories in recent interviews.
🤮 Sticking to His Guns: Former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described IDF soldiers at West Bank checkpoints as “incredibly rude people,” as he reflected on his nine visits to the region.
📺 Off Air: The Israeli government has banned a Hebrew Christian TV channel, GOD TV, for broadcasting missionary content.
🎬 On Air: The Associated Pressspotlights the new Israeli spy thriller “Tehran” — which has been bought by Apple TV+ in hopes of capitalizing on the “Fauda” success story.
👨✈️ Hollywood: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is returning with Amazon’s cockpit thriller “7500” after a two-year break to focus on fatherhood, reflects on his career in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
🍲 Dig In:The Economistspotlights cholent as “a perfect lockdown meal,” noting the traditional Jewish dish is “amenable to innovation.”
👩💼 Transition: Credit Suisse has appointed Hila Goldenberg as chief executive officer of its business in Israel.
🕯️Remembering: Milton Glaser, the designer of the “I ❤️ NY” logo and founder of New York magazine, died at age 91. Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Lester Grinspoon, who enraged President Richard Nixon with his early advocacy of marijuana reform, died at age 92.
Gif of the Day
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen infiltrated a conservative rally in Washington on Saturday and got attendees to sing racist lyrics about former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Israeli actress and film director, Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari turns 60…
Baltimore area gastroenterologist, Marshall Bedine, M.D. turns 79… Chairman of Carnival Corporation and owner of the NBA’s Miami Heat, Micky Arison turns 71… Rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Brisk in Jerusalem, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Soloveitchik turns 71… Resident of both DC and Arizona, Helene Carol Resnick Kahan turns 71… SVP and counsel at L Brands for almost 30 years, now a consultant, Bruce A. Soll turns 63… CEO of three firms: Aliya Marketing Group, BH Solar and PPE Centers, Joshua Karlin turns 61… Attorney general of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit turns 57…
Screenwriter and director, Matthew Hoffman Weiner turns 55… Senior rabbi of Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation, Rabbi Steven C. Wernick turns 53… Former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ari Harow turns 47… Former member of the UK’s Parliament, Ruth Smeeth turns 41… Israeli actor and model, Yehuda Levi turns 41… President and dean of Phoenix-based Valley Beit Midrash, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz turns 39… Principal at Sard Verbinnen, Andrew Duberstein turns 33… Campaign finance consultant, David Wolf… Steven Kohn… Sara Sansone… Fred Gruber…