Good Thursday morning!
The Trump administration is expected to change the State Department’s policy to allow listing “Jerusalem, Israel” as a birthplace on American passports and consular reports, after years of lobbying — and a U.S. Supreme Court case — on the matter.
Assistant Secretary of State R. Clarke Cooper told reporters yesterday that the administration will not seek to bypass Congress on the F-35 deal with the United Arab Emirates.
Palestinian leaders are reportedly counting on a Joe Biden victory to give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “ladder to climb down from the tree” — and hoping it will lead to the reinstatement of some U.S. assistance.
The long-awaited Equality and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism in the British Labour Party, released this morning, found that the party broke equality laws and was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jewish members. The report concluded that the party had a “practice or policy of Political Interference” in responding to internal reports of antisemitism.
In a response shortly after the report was released, Labour leader Keir Starmer apologized to the Jewish community, saying the party accepted the “stark” findings of the report “in full,” and promised to fully implement the changes mandated. Still, when asked, Starmer refused to specifically blame former leader Jeremy Corbyn, calling it a “collective failure of leadership.”
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When a candidate met the ex-Israeli PM who killed his grandparents
Ammar Campa-Najjar never imagined that he would come face-to-face with the man who, nearly 50 years ago, led the team of Israeli commandos that killed his grandparents. But last October, he found himself shaking hands with Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister who carried out the covert mission during his time in an elite unit of the Israel Defense Forces, the candidate told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in his first public comments about the encounter.
Background: Campa-Najjar’s paternal grandfather, Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar, was a high-level Palestinian intelligence official who is believed to have helped orchestrate the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. Barak led the raid to assassinate al-Najjar in his Beirut apartment in April 1973, during which Campa-Najjar’s grandmother was also shot and killed while attempting to defend her husband. Campa-Najjar, now a Democratic congressional candidate in San Diego, said he met with Barak behind the scenes of a J Street conference in Washington, D.C., after he requested the meeting and Barak courteously obliged.
Reconciliation: Campa-Najjar believes their hourlong meeting carries implications for those who have concluded that there is little hope of finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “What began as a conversation that could have been tense ended up being one of reconciliation and peace, which I felt was important,” he told JI. “It was a very cathartic experience.” Campa-Najjar said the pair “talked about how he believed that a millimeter beneath our skin, we’re all the same, and he made this premonition that, one day, my generation and his grandkids will sit down at the table of peace and we won’t be able to explain even to ourselves why it took us this long,” he said. “Those sentiments I will carry for the rest of my life.”
War of words: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has come to play a role in his campaign against former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) in California’s 50th congressional district, which includes a large swath of San Diego County. On Tuesday, Issa alleged on Twitter that his opponent was against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Oh, and you made an anti-Israel propaganda video with the PLO,” he added. Nick Allman, a spokesman for Issa’s campaign, told JI that Issa was alluding to a demo recording of a song called “Peace in Palestine” that Campa-Najjar posted on Kickstarter nearly a decade ago. “It’s a nothingburger,” Campa-Najjar said, adding that the crowdfunding campaign was to help a charity for Palestinian children.
Trading barbs: Campa-Najjar charged that Issa’s record on Israel was far more questionable, accusing his opponent of calling Israel an “apartheid state” and expressing sympathy for Hezbollah. Issa told JI in an April interview that such statements have been taken out of context. “I have a 100% pro-Israel voting record,” he said. In questionnaires recently solicited by JI, both candidates adopted largely similar postures on Israel, expressing their support for a two-state solution.
Chat claims: In a separate tweet earlier this week, Issa accused Campa-Najjar of being untruthful in his questionnaire. “I’ve been shown the WeChat,” Issa said mysteriously. “You owe the Jewish insider [sic] an apology for lying on their questionnaire. Telling Anti-Israel donors that you don’t take ‘Zionist Money’ is the kind of disgusting racist language that should have no place in our politics.” Allman claimed that on Tuesday that an undisclosed source leaked the contents of a series of WeChat exchanges purportedly showing Campa-Najjar engaged in conversations with “anti-Israel activists and donors.” Allman shared a text file of the messages with JI, though JI was unable to verify the authenticity of the file. “Baloney, complete baloney,” Campa-Najjar said of the alleged group chat messages. “There’s nothing there.”
Twitter, Facebook answer questions about antisemitic content on platforms
Social media companies Facebook and Twitter faced scrutiny yesterday over their policies towards Holocaust denial and other hateful content, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as Google CEO Sundar Pichai, were called before yet another congressional hearing to face questions over their efforts to police content. Meanwhile, Facebook vice president of content policy Monika Bickert joined an American Jewish Committee webcast to discuss Facebook’s recent decision to ban Holocaust denial.
Trending: On Capitol Hill, Dorsey sparred with Republican lawmakers over his company’s decision to permit tweets from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for the destruction of Israel and denying the Holocaust. At a raucous Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) pressed Dorsey on why Twitter had not taken action against tweets from Khamenei threatening Israel. The Twitter founder responded that the company does not see the tweets as an immediate threat to Israel or its citizens’ safety. “We did not find those to violate our terms of service because we considered them saber-rattling, which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries,” Dorsey responded. “Speech against… a country’s own citizens, we believe, is different and can cause more immediate harm.” Read more here.
Speech police: During AJC’s webcast, Bickert explained that Facebook’s recent decision to ban Holocaust denial content from its platform was prompted by an uptick in global antisemitism and antisemitic violence coupled with an increasing lack of awareness about the Holocaust. She added that the company is “taking input” from Jewish groups around the globe to decide where to draw lines on content moderation, noting that regular meetings with Jewish groups are important to improving Facebook’s overall content moderation practices. Still, Bickert cautioned that, while Facebook immediately began removing Holocaust denial content when it announced its policy changes October 12, the company is still in the process of rolling out its subject-matter training for platform moderators and will “be going full-force enforcing the policy” in the coming weeks. Read more here.
A league of her own
Justine Siegal always loved baseball. But at 13 years old, a coach told her to quit and move to softball, because she was a girl. “The more I was told I should quit, the more I wanted to keep playing,” Siegal said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen. Siegal, now 45, became the first female coach to be hired by Major League Baseball when she was tapped to join the Oakland Athletics in 2015. Today, her A’s jersey hangs in Cooperstown, N.Y.’s National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Team Israel: Siegal, who was born and raised in the Cleveland suburbs, has been to Israel five times, on trips celebrating her siblings’ and her own bar and bat mitzvahs, and that of her daughter. Siegal was hired as the mental performance coach for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier. She was given a uniform and asked to coach a variety of positions, including pitcher and first base. She helped the team, which consisted mostly of American Jewish minor league and former major league players, advance to the main tournament in South Korea. “I was really proud to wear ‘Israel’ across my chest,” she said.
Rising to the challenge: Siegal has become an active crusader for gender equality in sports, founding the Baseball For All nonprofit. While the pandemic has shut down live games, “we had to cancel all of our baseball events on the field, which is our primary income,” she said. Instead, Siegal created 10 webinars on women in MLB leadership, and is now in the midst of “Read On, Lead On,” a six-week online program in which participants — more than 80 girls ages 9-18 — read a book about a girl booted from her all-male Little League team. The program also includes a mentorship component.
Hollywood: Siegal was tapped as a baseball coach for the upcoming Amazon reboot of the 1992 classic “A League of Their Own,” this time starring “Broad City” actress Abbi Jacobson, who is also producing the series. The pilot was filmed shortly before COVID-19 shut down production across the country. Siegal ran a three-day camp for cast members, and worked with them individually for a month beforehand. “Coaching actors was a lot of fun. I loved it. The actors were very coachable and eager to learn as much as they could as quickly as possible,” said Siegal. “It was fun watching them get better with every practice, and I knew they were having fun too.”
👩💼 Deep Dive: In an interview with Vanity Fair’s Michelle Ruiz, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) opens up about her rise to prominence, her public battles and her ambitions for the future. “I don’t know if I’m really going to be staying in the House forever, or if I do stay in the House, what that would look like.” [VanityFair]
👨👩👦👦 At Risk: Columnist Shmuel Rosner argues in The New York Times that the “greatest strength” of Orthodox Jewish communities — their large families and “sense of community and mutual responsibility” — has become their “greatest weakness” in the face of the pandemic in both New York and Israel. [NYTimes]
💰 Backing Out: Financial Times reporters Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Eric Platt reveal that SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son said to “use whatever excuse” to get out of a deal to pay up to $3 billion to WeWork shareholders, including its co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann, after the company’s planned IPO went south. [FT]
🛋️ Long Read: In T:The New York Times Style Magazine, Reggie Nadelson spotlights the Weinrib family behind the iconic ABC Carpet & Home store in Manhattan, which has its origins in the late 19th century when “Sam Weinrib, a Jewish immigrant from Austria, peddled used carpets from a pushcart on the Lower East Side.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🎙️ Leaked Tape: In audio from an interview with journalist Bob Woodward in April, published by CNN yesterday, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner bragged about President Donald Trump “getting the country back” from doctors in his COVID-19 response.
🇸🇩 Behind the Scenes: Secret direct contacts between Israeli and Sudanese officials dating back a year reportedly helped pave the way for the normalization deal announced last week.
😬 Awkward Encounter: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly brushed away Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, the daughter of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who confronted him after a speech in Abu Dhabi where he didn’t mention her father’s role in the Oslo Accords.
🧢 Out of Bounds: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly working to prevent Steve Cohen from purchasing the Mets, something the mayor’s office denies.
⚾ Ballpark Figures: ESPN partnered with FiveThirtyEight to examine the political contributions of major sports team owners, which include close to $12 million donated in the 2020 cycle, with $10 million of that going to Republican causes.
📈 Startup Nation: Israeli-based startup SimilarWeb has raised $120 million to expand its platform through acquisitions and investing in its own R&D.
💸 Succession Speculation: Apollo Global Management investors are reportedly imagining for the first time who might succeed founder Leon Black.
🏗️ Time Out: The Tower of David in Jerusalem is undergoing intense restoration and conservation efforts, taking advantage of no tourism to conduct excavations.
😷 Slow Return: Israel is continuing its slow, more cautious exit from its second lockdown, with 1st-4th grade students slated to return to classrooms next week.
🚑 Rapid Response: The all-female Orthodox Jewish EMT service Ezras Nashim debuted its first ambulance this week after winning an ambulance license appeal in August.
🗣️ Speaking Out: Albanian lawmakers held an online forum against antisemitism yesterday with participation from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
🏫 Expressing Regrets: Reinstated Palm Beach principal William Latson apologized for his comments on the Holocaust and asked to keep his job ahead of a new school board vote.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge told a court that she felt “under threat” by abusive antisemitic messages she received.
⚰️ Preserving History: Activists are pushing to restore a deteriorating Jewish cemetery in Vienna that dates back to the 18th century.
📽️ On Screen: The film “200 Meters,” about the life of Palestinians living in the West Bank, is competing at the Venice Film Festival this year.
Song of the Day
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and editor of The New Yorker since 1998, David Remnick turns 62…
Haifa-born director and screenwriter of animated and live-action films including “The Lord of the Rings,” Ralph Bakshi turns 82… Dean emeritus of the Yale School of Management, Jeffrey E. Garten turns 74… Academy Award-winning actor, he played Yoni Netanyahu in the 1976 film “Victory at Entebbe,” Richard Dreyfuss turns 73… CEO of the Center for the National Interest and publisher of its namesake foreign policy magazine, The National Interest, Dimitri Simes turns 73… Director of the social justice organizing program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Mordechai E. Liebling turns 72… Bernard Greenberg turns 61… Rabbi of Phoenix, Arizona’s Temple Beth Shalom, Dana Evan Kaplan turns 60… Author, satirist and public speaker, Evan Sayet turns 60… Classical pianist and music director, Susan Merdinger turns 58…
Sports agent who has negotiated over $7 billion of player contracts, Drew Rosenhaus turns 54… Actor who appeared in 612 episodes of the daytime soap opera “As the World Turns,” Grayson McCouch turns 52… Screenwriter and film director based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Andrea Dorfman turns 52… Mathematician, cryptologist, computer programmer and professor of mathematics and computer science, Daniel J. Bernstein turns 49… Emmy Award-winning television producer, writer and actor, Michael Schur turns 45… VP for strategic communications and business development at Anchorage-based Northern Compass Group, Rachel Barinbaum turns 38… Associate director of engagement marketing at The Wall Street Journal, Samantha Zeldin turns 28… Senior educational consultant at Hermiona Education, Leora Eisenberg turns 22… Editorial producer at CNN, David Siegel…