Good Thursday morning!
Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, said yesterday that he assured Jordan’s King Abdullah of his country’s “categorical rejection” of Israel’s “illegal annexation.” UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash told the Middle East Institute yesterday that annexation could lead to Arab states calling for a one-state solution.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)has signed onto the House letter against annexation, a spokesperson confirmed to JI.
Ireland and Norway were elected to the U.N. Security Council yesterday and Canada was denied its bid for a seat, shaping up a body likely to become even more critical of Israel in its upcoming term.
Leaked excerpts from former national security advisor John Bolton’s book claim that President Donald Trump encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to build concentration camps for Muslims, said that journalists should be executed and promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would put a stop to an investigation against him for violating Iran sanctions.
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Pro-Israel groups seek to mobilize voters to boost Engel
As embattled Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) fights for his political life, constituents and longtime supporters of the 16-term New York congressman are growing nervous about his chances in the 16th district’s Democratic primary on Tuesday. Engel’s possible ouster by Jamaal Bowman, a 44-year-old Bronx middle school principal backed by Justice Democrats, has provoked angst in some parts of the district, where constituents see Engel as a friend and a staunch supporter of Israel.
Tuned in: Stu Loeser, a political consultant and resident of Riverdale, told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that the primary race is — for the first time in years — a topic of conversation in the Jewish community. “People obviously aren’t seeing each other as much these days, but when we talk or run into each other, the primary almost always comes up,” said Loeser, a former spokesperson for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Last night, NORPAC, a bipartisan political action committee that supports pro-Israel candidates, held a Zoom fundraiser for Engel with 120 donors signed on as co-chairs.
Drawing a contrast: Rabbi Avi Weiss, the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, recently published an open letter to Bowman, asking the candidate to clarify his positions on Israel. Weiss told JI on Wednesday that he was “very disappointed” that Bowman hasn’t responded to the issues raised in the letter. “Amongst the issues… most important to us is the well-being of the State of Israel, one of America’s greatest allies,” Weiss explained. “Dr. Bowman’s Israel policy is too questionable for me to consider sending him to Congress.”
All about turnout: Harry Feder, another member of the Jewish community in Riverdale and a longtime friend of the congressman, told JI that community leaders are urging members to take the race seriously and vote. “I think it’s a matter of people coming out to vote and that they realize that this election is being looked at nationally,” said Feder, the former president of the Riverdale Jewish Center. “Engel is one of the strongest — if not the strongest — member of the House in support of Israel, and to lose him as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee would be a horrible thing for the Jewish community.” Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division, whose son lives in the district, told JI, “We are trying to mobilize people within this district, making sure that our community is aware of [the situation] and comes out to vote.”
Sending a message: Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, suggested that Engel’s challenge is part of an “instinctive drive” by the some in the progressive movement to oust pro-Israel lawmakers. “We have to understand there’s a showdown here,” he explained. “Why would any of the progressives not support someone with Eliot Engel’s record? They would agree on almost anything, with the exception of Israel.” Rosen told JI that if Engel prevails it will marginalize their influence and serve as a “wake up” call to the liberals. “We have to understand that the way to beat them is just come out and vote. If you vote, you win.”
Establishment support: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced his endorsement of Engel yesterday in a Jewish Insider exclusive. “I have a longtime, close friendship with Eliot Engel and have worked with him on many issues… Eliot Engel has been a strong and effective fighter for the people of his district and all Americans — and I am proud to endorse him,” Schumer told JI. Earlier Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw his support behind Engel. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is also backing Engel.
On the air: A new TV spot from DMFI attacks Bowman for a series of unpaid New York State taxes that he recently repaid after learning about it from the ad. The video was criticized by some for highlighting what Bowman said were financial troubles in the early 2000s.
BEHIND THE POD
Josh Levin looks at the rise and fall of David Duke
Josh Levin was 8 years old when David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, won his bid to represent a suburb of New Orleans in the Louisiana state legislature. More than three decades on, the memory of Duke looms large in Levin’s psyche. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel recently spoke to New Orleans native Levin, now the national editor at Slate, as he explores Duke’s rise — and eventual fall — in a six-part series for Slate’s “Slow Burn” podcast.
Constant worry: Levin, who is Jewish, viewed Duke as a menacing presence during his childhood, instilling in him “a feeling of dread and concern.” As a child, Levin struggled to understand the Duke phenomenon, worrying that a neo-Nazi would take control of the state. “What would that mean for me and my family?” he said. “That’s the sort of thing I remember.”
Sticking out: Duke’s election “reinforced the idea of being different,” said Levin, noting that while New Orleans has a sizable Jewish community, he still grew up with the understanding that he wasn’t like all his peers. “Was it a good thing to be different, to have this kind of culture and heritage and connection to other people we knew in the city and my ancestors and this long tradition, or does that actually mean that you’re at risk?” he recalled wondering.
Relevant today: While Levin believes that Duke’s moment has come and gone, he regards him as a harbinger of our current political landscape, in which white nationalist sentiment is on the rise. “It does feel like his rise to prominence and his whole arc as a person is a really important story to be telling now,” Levin told JI. “You can draw a through-line from his ideas and how he tried to present them to the people who are trafficking in those ideas today.”
Lessons from the past: The most recent episode of “Slow Burn” features an interview with Anne Levy, a Holocaust survivor from Poland who helped raise the alarm regarding Duke’s Nazi sympathies after he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1989. “It’s a very powerful story,” Levin said, “because it’s about someone who lived through that experience, survived moving to this new place thinking that it was past her, and then being confronted with this figure who was an extremely horrifying reminder of what could happen.”
RACE TO WATCH
Two veterans face off in Virginia’s 10th district GOP primary
Two military veterans in Virginia are hoping that serving in Congress will become their next mission. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with Jeff Dove and Rob Jones, two leading contenders for the Republican nomination for Congress in Virginia’s 10th district, ahead of the party convention on Saturday.
Uphill battle: Whoever emerges victorious from the drive-through convention at Shenandoah University this weekend, where only pre-registered delegates can vote, will face incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), who unseated two-term incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) in 2018. Wexton won by more than 10 points in 2018, has stronger name recognition than either Republican and is better funded than her opponents. Jones has $77,000 on hand and Dove has $41,000, while Wexton has $1.8 million.
New mission: “In the Marine Corps, I learned to be a person that took responsibility for the things that are important to them,” Jones, who lost both legs above the knee in an IED explosion and went on to become a paralympian and advocate for disabled veterans, told JI. He said that after studying Wexton’s background and record, “I set my sights on a new mission to return conservative leadership back to my home on behalf of my home and on behalf of my family.” Since leaving the military, Jones has become an activist for wounded veterans, raising money while bicycling across the country and running 31 marathons on 31 consecutive days.
Listen up: Dove would also bring a unique perspective to Congress if he is elected. With Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) retiring, Dove could become the only black Republican in the House. He is sharply critical of the way Democratic politicians address the black community. “It’s a shame that politicians on the Democratic side feel they need to do something… to show that they’re so-called ‘down with the struggle,’” he said, referencing the announcement made by Democrats last week regarding a police reform package, which the party’s leaders made while wearing stoles with a traditional Ghanaian pattern. “It’s all pandering and it’s ridiculous. We don’t want to be talked at. The black community wants to be talked to, and heard.”
Conflict resolution: Dove said he supports a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but, “it’s ultimately not going to be our decision. It’s going to be the parties involved… They’re going to have to come together at some point and end this fighting. Because it’s not beneficial for either side to continue.” Jones also supports a two-state solution, and said the U.S. should “help them come to a solution between the two of them that both of them can be happy with.”
Former deputy national security advisors debate Obama admin support for Israel
Former foreign policy officials K.T. McFarland and Tony Blinken on Wednesday relitigated relations between the U.S. and Israel under the Obama administration, debating the former president’s support for the Jewish state while in office. The exchange took place during a discussion on the 2020 election at the American Jewish Committee’s virtual Global Forum.
She said: McFarland, who served as deputy national security advisor in the early months of President Donald Trump’s tenure, criticized the Obama administration for allowing an anti-Israel measure — UNSC Resolution 2334 — to pass through the U.N. Security Council in the final weeks of 2016.
“There was a debate at the United Nations about Israeli settlements, and the Obama administration for the first time in… 50 years, the Obama administration refused to support Israel,” McFarland said. “Now President Trump did support Israel. So did a lot of Republican senators and a lot of Democrats including Senator [Chuck] Schumer of New York. And that to me was a real wake-up call — where is the Democratic Party, where is it going now? I mean, if President Obama is not going to have Israel’s back, then what happens to Israel going forward? Because if America doesn’t have Israel’s back, nobody has Israel’s back.”
He said: Tony Blinken, who held the same position under President Barack Obama, pushed back against McFarland’s claims. Blinken, who is a foreign policy advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, recalled an exchange that took place during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas:
“I got a call late one night from the Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, and he said, ‘Can I come over tonight? It’s something urgent.’ And I said, of course, come on over. This is about 9 o’clock at night at the White House. And he and the military attache from the embassy laid out to me in detail why Israel urgently needed a replenishment of Iron Dome interceptors that were saving lives from missile attacks.”
“The next day, I went to the Oval Office. I sat with President Obama and Vice President Biden [and] I laid out what I’d heard from the ambassador and the military attache, and I got three words from both of them in response: ‘Get it done.’ That was Friday morning. Tuesday, we had a quarter of a billion dollars from Congress to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome supply. That’s the kind of real action — real deeds — that go to the heart of Israel’s security.”
🏠 Slow Battle: In Reuters, Francois Murphy highlights how the decades-long battle over Hitler’s birthplace shows how slow Austria has been to confront its dark past, as statues of slave-traders and colonists are being toppled around the world. [Reuters]
⏩ Paradigm Shift: Bill McKibben writes in The New Yorker about how public opinion shifts over time — both slowly and rapidly. “Culture usually shifts gradually — painfully gradually for those of us who want change. But, occasionally, attitudes swing quite suddenly, as if pressure had been silently building up behind a dam until it burst.” [NewYorker]
👮 Talk of the Nation: Jesselyn Cook and Nick Robins-Early explore in The Huffington Post the online message boards and social media haunts populated by police officers that often devolve into racist memes, disinformation and rampant bigotry. [HuffPost]
💔 Helping Heart: Segway inventor Dean Kamen is setting his sights on a new ambitious project: producing lab-grown human organs. Kamen toldOne Zero’s Liz Brody: “There ought to be a way to make a high quantity of them, a high quality of them, and at a realistic cost.” [OneZero]
Around the Web
😷 Startup Nation: Israeli scientists say they have invented a face mask with a USB port that can disinfect itself by being plugged into a phone charger.
🧑🏭 No Return:Israeli Finance Minister Israel Katz insists the government will not lock down the economy again despite the rising number of new COVID-19 cases.
😠 All Talk: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed Orthodox Jewish lawmakers for cutting off the locks at playgrounds in Brooklyn and indicated they “should be treated like anyone else” breaking the law.
👱♀️ Walk Back: The House Republican leadership is distancing itself from congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who finished first in last week’s GOP primary for Georgia’s 14th congressional district, over a series of racist and antisemitic videos. Greene faces a runoff for the nomination in August.
👎 Call Out: West Virginia Democrats are calling on local GOP leaders to denounce “antisemitic hate speech” by Robert Karnes, the Republican nominee for the State Senate’s 11th district.
👨🎓 Campus Beat: Florida State University’s student government will vote whether to impeach new president Ahmad Daraldik — who was recently elected after the impeachment of his predecessor — over a series of antisemitic online posts.
💵 Keep the Change: Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could face seven years in prison — but can keep more than $2 million he made in an illegal scheme — after his reconviction on corruption charges.
✌️ Equal Rights: A German court has ruled that children born out of wedlock to Jews who fled Nazi Germany are also entitled to citizenship.
🎖️ Honoring a Hero: Portugal has finally granted recognition to its diplomat in France who issued visas to thousands of Jews during World War II against government orders.
🏺 Calling for Change: Employees at New York City’s Jewish Museum are calling on management to bring greater diversity to its staff.
🚧 Breaking Ground: Construction work is set to begin on a new Jewish museum in Augusta, Georgia, on the site of a 19th-century synagogue.
Pic of the Day
Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, Director of the Jewish Uniformed Service Association of Maryland, visited the State Emergency Operations Center yesterday to deliver gift bags to staff as part of his Gift Bags for Heroes program.
Music mogul Scooter Braun turns 39…
The only Alderman on the Chicago City Council who was an ordained rabbi, Solomon Gutstein turns 86… Washington Post reporter Fred Barbash turns 75… IT management advisor at Next Stage, Steven Shlomo Nezer turns 73… Croatian entrepreneur and government minister Davor Stern turns 73… Rabbi at Or Hamidbar in Palm Springs, California David James Lazar turns 63… Rebecca Diamond turns 60… Best-selling author and journalist Joanne Lipman turns 59… Professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas Helene Meyers turns 58…
Executive of the UK’s William Pears Group Trevor Steven Pears turns 56… Principal of the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies real estate and gaming empire, Reed Cordish turns 46… Film director and screenwriter, Jonathan A. Levine turns 44… ABC television producer and writer Jeremy Bronson turns 40… Baseball pitcher, a first round pick of the NY Yankees in 2008, he pitched for Team Israel, Jeremy Bleich turns 33… Associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Esther Lifshitz turns 33… Investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley, Jacob E. Best turns 25…