Good Tuesday morning!
The Democratic National Committee’s platform committee voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reject both including the term “occupation” and adding language conditioning aid if Israel moves forward with annexation.
Several groups involved in the debate around the platform claimed victory once the final platform was approved. Democratic Majority for Israel and the Jewish Democratic Council of America said the platform reflects Joe Biden’s pro-Israel views, while J Street, which advocated for the inclusion of the word “occupation,” said the language in the Israel plank “reflects the major progress that has been made on these issues since 2016.”
Arab American Institute President James Zogby called it “embarrassing” that the DNC voted down the proposal. “This is language that every Democratic administration has used,” Zogby told JI. “We are to the right of [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu right now on that particular aspect.” Joel Rubin, who served as director for Jewish outreach for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, described the approved platform as realistic with “a lot of wins here for what we progressives have been asking for.” Read more here.
The campaign of Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) was criticized for an attack ad that enlarged the nose of his Jewish challenger, Jon Ossoff. “This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history,” Ossoff tweeted last night. Perdue pulled the ad and claimed it was an “inadvertent error.”
Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hookvisited Tunisia, Qatar and Kuwait to discuss the U.N. arms embargo on Iran ahead of the October deadline, the State Department confirmed yesterday.
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The law professor turned congresswoman with viral cross-examinations
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) has earned a national profile for her rigorous and combative approach at congressional hearings, hurling pointed questions at government officials. But when she is in her home district, Porter is often the one being cross-examined — and she doesn’t shy away from debate. “The thing that allows me to be successful in representing a really diverse population is that I’m pretty frank,” she told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “I think the willingness to have an honest dialogue with people, even when there is disagreement, buys you a lot of good will.”
Background: A native of rural Iowa, Porter studied under now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at Harvard Law School while getting her law degree. She worked as a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, before being elected to Congress. In 2018, she flipped California’s 45th district when she beat two-term Republican incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters by just four percentage points. This election season, Porter has raised more than $8 million in her effort to fend off Mission Viejo City Councilman Greg Raths, who has pulled in only about $750,000, according to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission.
Collegial support: Porter recently launched a political action committee, called the Truth to Power PAC, whose stated motive is to support progressive candidates around the country. The congresswoman has already had some apparent success with her efforts: She backed Mondaire Jones, Jamaal Bowman and Ritchie Torres, all of whom are projected to have won their New York congressional elections. “I’m really interested in trying to support candidates who don’t necessarily come from the kinds of backgrounds where there is a built-in fundraising ability or a built-in network of expertise,” Porter said. “I’m really looking for people who are thoughtful in how they approach issues.”
Straight talker: Porter’s straight-talking ethos has earned her viral moments, headlines and, perhaps, some sighs from her aides. She says she hasn’t tempered her views in her own district, where such statements might alienate her constituents, but she hastened to add that she mostly tries to avoid instances of partisan one-upmanship. “I really almost never talk about President Trump or about Democrats or Republicans,” she said, adding, “I don’t find that naming and creating these different divisions is particularly helpful.”
Israel approach: Porter has never been to Israel, citing difficulties in traveling as a single mom, but plans to go next year if she can. The congresswoman believes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies have been misguided. “I think annexation is counter to Israel’s national security interests,” she said. “I think it will undermine a future two-state solution, which I support. And that’s not just my opinion. That’s really what I have learned in talking to people who are experts, including Israel’s former military leaders.”
INSIDE THE CHAMBER
Norm Eisen was in the room where it happened
Norm Eisen, the White House special counsel for ethics and government reform under President Barack Obama, wasn’t surprised by the Senate’s decision earlier this year to acquit the president in his impeachment trial. But he does take comfort in the idea that the vote presented a strong case for voters to consider when they head to the polls in November. Eisen, who served as the majority counsel of the House Judiciary Committee, discussed his new book, A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump, in detail during a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Burned olive branch: “I was not a ‘Never Trumper,’” Eisen told JI. “I tried to help. I have had dinner with the president… I was prepared as a patriotic American to do what I could to help.” The gesture blew up in Eisen’s face as he watched the first post-election press conference, in which Trump declared he would not divest from his businesses. “That press conference was the moment when my hope for the Trump presidency was lost,” he writes. From that moment on, Eisen became a vocal critic of the president and his family over ethical transparency and conflict of interest matters.
Bully pulpit: Over the course of the Trump presidency, Eisen has seen a spike in Twitter followers — he now has more than 271,000 — attributable to his frequent media appearances and outspokenness on rule of law. “But I would gladly go back to 5,000 Twitter followers to get rid of [Trump],” Eisen told JI.
Unique language: In the book, Eisen describes House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) as a ‘mensch’ and details the close friendship they developed, including a shiva call in 2018 when Eisen mourned the death of his brother. “For all his haimish (down-home) ways, from our earliest conversations it struck me that Jerry was exactly the man to take down Trump for his constitutional violations, if anyone could,” Eisen writes. “This book has the most Yiddish in it of any impeachment book ever written; maybe the most Yiddish book ever written about the inner workings of the American government,” Eisen quipped to JI, “because Jerry Nadler and I are shtemming from similar roots.” Eisen used a unique Yiddish term to describe Nadler’s overall approach: yo yo, nisht nisht — which translates to “you either do it or you don’t.”
End game: “One of the few things that everyone agreed on in the impeachment trial was that whether to convict or to acquit the president was up to the American people,” Eisen said. “The House managers and we, the lawyers, felt that the Senate should have taken that responsibility. But since they didn’t, it was now a case for the American people. And that is why I wrote the book, so that the job that I helped begin can be completed when all Americans vote on the president’s behavior in November.”
You can’t cancel Judy Gold
Judy Gold will not apologize. Not for being a 6’3” outspoken Jewish lesbian, nor for any past jokes that have since been deemed offensive, and certainly not for defending friends and colleagues who have come under fire for their own questionable behavior. The veteran comedian and actress spoke with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about her new book on comedy, free speech and censorship.
Chilling effect:Gold’s latest book, Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble, hits shelves today. “When you try and shut down satire and silence comics, that’s really the end of free speech,” Gold told JI. “Free speech means free speech, especially when it’s comedy, and comedy is subjective.” In her well-researched and often caustic book, Gold, 57, takes politically correct culture to task, criticizing the price some comedians have paid for past jokes. She recounts how, not too long ago, comedians like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin were arrested and fined for using obscenities in their stand-up acts. The situation today, Gold claims, is dangerously close to that era.
Open mic:“When we stop the discourse, when we say ‘well, we can’t talk about that anymore,’ that’s when we… become more ignorant,” she said. “It’s not like it doesn’t exist anymore if we don’t talk about it.” Gold rails against terms that have become popular in “PC culture,” including “microaggressions” and “trigger” words. “When you start telling people you can’t use that word and you can’t say that idea,” she told JI, “when people take comedians’ jokes out of context and don’t take into consideration a comedian’s intent — that’s when we all get into trouble.”
Not for you: There are a few lines that Gold would never cross. She says she would never use the n-word, because “it’s not our word to use.” By the same token, she points out, there are jokes that she — as a Jewish, lesbian woman — can tell that she believes others should not. “Can non-Jews talk about the Holocaust?” she asked. “I feel like you can talk about anything, but if better be f***king funny. It better be educated. You can’t discuss a topic like that and — it cannot be frivolous. It has to be funny.”
Ancient hatred: Gold has been watching over the past weeks and months as high-profile celebrities and athletes have become engulfed in antisemitism controversies. And she’s not too surprised. “Growing up, my mother was constantly talking about how everyone hates the Jews,” she said. When she was younger, Gold said she always assumed her mother was overreacting. But not anymore. “She was right! We are blamed for everything. It’s been going on for thousands of years… and it’s here to stay.” Gold predicted that Israel would be the first to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and “save everyone” — but it wouldn’t change much. “We could get the vaccine for corona and save everyone’s life and they’ll still hate us.”
CALL TO THE BULLPEN
Trump reconsiders surprise pitching change
President Donald Trump’s absence from the baseball diamond appeared over after he announced his intention to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium next month. The president then quickly canceled, but not without surprising both White House and Yankees officials with both announcements, according to a report in The New York Times.
Coincidence? The president made his surprise announcement to reporters on Thursday, the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci kicked off the MLB season at Nationals Park. Apparently, neither Yankees officials nor White House aides were consulted ahead of time. According to the Times, the team had issued no such invitation. Instead, Trump relied on a longstanding offer from Yankees president and former Trump lawyer Randy Levine to toss the ceremonial pitch at a future game. “Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Trump said at the time.
Late scratch: Trump — who has received attention for failing to continue the tradition first started by President William Howard Taft in 1910 of throwing the first pitch — choose August 15, a Saturday game in which the Yankees are scheduled to host the rival Boston Red Sox. But that plan was quickly scratched. On Sunday, Trump announced on Twitter that “due to scheduled meetings on Vaccines, our economy and much else,” he was unable to attend the game in three weeks.
Extra innings: Fauci told reporters that Nationals owner Ted Lerner issued the invitation to him as a thank you for providing the team with advice on COVID protocols. That advice appears to have already been put to the test, as the MLB announced the postponement of at least two games following 13 Miami Marlins players and coaches testing positive only five days into the abbreviated season.
🗞 Taking Sides: Matti Friedman explores in Tablet the “woke religion” that he first witnessed as a Western reporter in Israel more than a decade ago. “What I was seeing in the mainstream press was a move from rational observation into a kind of moral judgment.” [Tablet]
🗳 Too Soon: Former Romney advisor Dan Senor writes in The Financial Times that it is too early to “write off” Trump’s reelection odds, especially if the president drops some polarizing positions and focuses instead on “cancel culture.” Despite Biden’s strong poll showing, “it’s clear that there is still time for this to become a real race.” [FT]
💻 Virtual Visit: In The Los Angeles Review of Books, Rabbi David Wolpe and Microsoft’s Kinney Zalesne imagine what German Jewish philosopher Martin Buber might have had to say about today’s Zoom world. “As Buber said, authentic encounters with other people elevate our very ‘living.’” [LARB]
🧕 Building Bridges: In The Christian Science Monitor, Dina Kraft spotlights Iman Khatib Yassin, the first hijab-wearing lawmaker elected to the Knesset. “I saw running as a chance to open the door to other traditional women.” [CSM]
Around the Web
💥 Drums of War: The IDF successfully foiled an attack by Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon yesterday, which the terror group denied took place. Israeli leaders warned Lebanon it will bear responsibility for any violence on the northern border, and the Lebanese prime minister urged caution.
🕌 Religious Conflict: Palestinian officials have accused Israeli settlers of setting a mosque in Al-Bireh on fire and vandalizing it with Hebrew slogans.
🏀 Rising Star: Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija, a likely top 10 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has been named Player of the Year for the Israeli Winner League.
🏃♀️ Race for Veep:The New York Timestakes a closer look at former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s record, while Tabletexamines the journey of Rep. Karen Bass, as Joe Biden inches closer to naming a running mate.
🏛️ Under Fire: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has come under criticism for mislabeling 6th-century tefillin from Egypt as an amulet in its Islamic Art Department.
🖼️ Long Read:The New York Times magazine highlights how The Jewish Museum in Manhattan became a center of “artistic avant-garde.”
⚰️ Talk of the Town: The owner of two Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia has kept gates shut and the grounds untended throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite anger from local families.
🎙️ Vocal Divide:A bid to name a street in Haifa after Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum has sparked controversy.
👶 Congrats: Gaby Philipson, a pediatric clinical pharmacist in Miami, Florida, and her husband Evan, Florida’s political director for AIPAC, welcomed their first baby girl, Aviva Maisie Philipson.
Gif of the Day
YouTube star Nas Daily spotlights the religious freedom in the United Arab Emirates, including a synagogue slated to open in 2022.
Chairwoman at Diagnostic Robotics in Jerusalem, Kira Radinsky Ph.D. turns 34…
Artist whose work appears in the Israel Museum, Yad Vashem and the U.S. Capitol, Yehuda Bacon turns 91… Chicago radio news personality, Walter David Jacobson turns 83… Former U.S. Attorney General, Michael Mukasey turns 79… Swedish industrialist, Marcus Storch Ph.D. turns 78… First woman in the IDF to hold the rank of Brigadier General then a member of Knesset, Amira Dotan turns 73… President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass turns 69… Sports columnist and author of 35 sports-related books, John Feinstein turns 64… Partner and managing director of DH Capital, Marty Friedman turns 60… French-Israeli hairdresser and entrepreneur, Michel Mercier turns 59…
Sports executive and former president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn turns 59… Actress and reality show personality, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren turns 48… Co-founder and CEO of the personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki turns 47… CEO of NYC-based Xukuma, LLC, Jennifer Lew Goldstone turns 47… Managing partner at Altitude Ventures, Jay Zeidman turns 37… Member of the editorial board at the New York Daily News, Laura Nahmias turns 36… Assistant GM and director of baseball research for the Washington Nationals, Sam Mondry-Cohen turns 33… Senior politics reporter at BuzzFeed, Ruby Cramer turns 30… Larry Gordon…