👋 Good Monday morning and Happy Hanukkah!
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is reportedly on President-elect Joe Biden’s shortlist to head the United States Agency for International Development.
Israel and Bhutan agreed on Saturday to normalize relations, with the tiny South Asian country becoming the latest nation to establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state in recent months. The deal with Bhutan, however, was not brokered by the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien in Jerusalem yesterday. “Peace deals are becoming a regular event,” O’Brien said in his public remarks. “Nations in the region are putting aside old ideas and old grievances and embracing a better future.”
The U.S. has officially removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, paving the way for completion of a deal that involves the normalization of ties with Israel.
Outgoing Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) is likely to enter the crowded race for New York City mayor in the coming days. The Staten Island congressman, who was ousted by Rep.-elect Nicole Malliotakis last month, registered a mayoral campaign committee with NYC’s Campaign Finance Board last week.
Spy novelist John le Carré died on Sunday at age 89. Le Carré spent time in Israel researching his 1983 novel The Little Drummer Girl, later describing the Jewish state as “the most extraordinary carnival of human variety that I have ever set eyes on, a nation in the process of re-assembling itself from the shards of its past.”
Le Carré, who included Jewish characters in a number of his books, signed onto a public letter last year announcing that he would not vote for the UK’s Labour Party, in a show of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community.
Israeli writer Matti Friedman tells JI that “John le Carre is usually described as the bard of the Cold War, but I think his real contribution was the more basic understanding that the spy world isn’t a setting for myths like James Bond but a serious way to view human existence — and particularly the way we deceive each other and ourselves. He was a keen observer of the world and the people in it, including himself. There aren’t many writers who’ve had more influence on the way I think, not just about spies, but about writing. He was a great example of a great generation that’s leaving us, and that we’re all going to have cause to miss.”
Tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Gila Sacks, daughter of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, will light the menorah for the fifth night of Hanukkah. UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba lit the candles on the third nightalongside the Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Abdulla R. Al Khalifa.
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Meet the students carving out a space for pro-Israel Jews on Instagram
When Americans across the country gathered on the streets in May and June to protest the killing of George Floyd, a new viral trend emerged simultaneously on Instagram: simple, colorblock educational infographics. Activists were using the platform to share information about issues including racism and police brutality. For many young people on the left, scrolling through Instagram in the months since has become akin to a communal civics lesson, with pleas to vote, lessons about American history and testimonials from people who had faced racism. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch spoke to Jewish students who are now using social media to share their experiences of antisemitism on college campuses.
How it began: Isaac de Castro, who founded the account @JewishonCampus and is now a senior studying architecture at Cornell University, had followed the Twitter antisemitism conversation closely. While at Cornell, de Castro grew familiar with the puzzling brand of antisemitism that emerged in his humanities classes, after his initial surprise that Israel was singled out and criticized in his architecture and urbanism classes. As he read through tweets about pro-Israel students being doxxed — a relatively new term for having one’s personal information, including phone number and address, posted publicly — and receiving death threats, de Castro thought of Instagram’s infographic activism trend. “That same day, I posted a tweet that was like, ‘We need to have one of these accounts modeling other minority group accounts that are posting anonymous stories,’” de Castro said.
How it works: In early July, de Castro created the @JewishOnCampus account with two other college students he met on Twitter. On a gray background overlaid with black text — with red highlighter for emphasis — the account shares anonymous experiences of antisemitism on college campuses in the U.S., with occasional stories from the U.K. and Canada. De Castro, who calls 2020 “the age of the infographic,” creates the graphics himself. Amid educational resources, the account shares testimonials of antisemitism including a student at Indiana University who was attending a Kol Nidre service outdoors when someone shouted “Heil Hitler” out a car window, and a DePaul University student who reported being called a “dirty Jew” by members of the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine.
Virtual battleground: Mark Rotenberg, vice president of university initiatives and legal affairs at Hillel International, told JI that online attacks against Jewish students have increased since the start of the pandemic. With classes and social events held largely online, “there are fewer swastikas on buildings or rocks through windows at Hillels,” said Rotenberg. However, he noted, there has been “a very substantial increase in the kinds of attacks that occur and the vicious nature of the words that are used in social media.” Rotenberg suggested that the increased hostile rhetoric observed online is rooted in an “intolerance and hatred that would only very rarely be done if it was face to face.”
Next generation: Bari Weiss, the former New York Times opinion editor and author of the book How to Fight Anti-Semitism, told JI that the students running these accounts are “leaders of our community. Sure, they are using social media in a savvy way. But lots of people can master Instagram,” Weiss said. “What makes them special is their courage and moral clarity.”
RED SEA SUMMIT
Where do Israel and Saudi Arabia go from here?
It made headlines around the world when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly met face-to-face with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom, Saudi Arabia, late last month. While the Saudis denied the meeting took place, most observers are confident that the leaders did meet up, bolstered by flight tracking information showing a direct flight to the city from Israel. But what exactly is on the horizon for the relationship? Jewish Insider‘s Amy Spiro spoke to a series of experts who have written books on Saudi Arabia about the state of the two nations’ ties.
Behind the scenes: “There is, I suspect, much more cooperation than any of us know going on between” Israel and the Saudis, said Karen Elliott House, former publisher and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and the author of On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines — and Future. House, who has visited Saudi Arabia dozens of times over more than 40 years, told JI that Iran is clearly the top agenda item shared by Netanyahu and bin Salman, but they also have other common concerns. “[The Saudis] are very rightly enamored of Israeli technology, and I think they would like investments there,” she said. “I think that’s longer-term on the horizon — the Iranian issue is the pressing one.”
Waiting game: Susanne Koelbl, a longtime foreign correspondent for Der Spiegel whose book, Behind the Kingdom’s Veil: Inside the New Saudi Arabia Under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was released in September, said there is one clear thing holding the Saudis back from an imminent peace deal with Israel. “It has a lot to do with how the different generations look at the relationship,” Koelbl told JI. “It’s very difficult to imagine that Saudi and Israeli relations will be normalized as long as King Salman is alive.” House suggested that if normalization were to take place in King Salman’s lifetime, “I would assume that that’s a sign the king is not very cognitive any more.”
Pivot to Biden: The most pressing current issue for the Saudis, the experts agreed, is preparing for the incoming Biden administration. Joshua Teitelbaum, a professor at Bar Ilan University’s Department of Middle Eastern Studies who has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, told JI that “what’s most important right now is for the two countries — I think more important than normalization — is to coordinate policy vis-àa-vis the incoming Biden administration.” Biden and his advisors have “said quite forcefully that they’re not going to be as friendly to the Saudis and I think the Saudis will look to Israel to smooth things over,” he added. Koelbl said that when it comes to Biden — who has labeled Saudi Arabia a “pariah” — “the question is how much of that harsh language will materialize once he takes office.”
Timeline: Koelbl suggested that the Saudis were angry Israel leaked news of the meeting because the topic of relations with Israel is not particularly popular in the country. “There’s a big divide in Saudi Arabia whether they should have relations with Israel or not,” she said. “The younger people are actually more open to that, because they see the opportunities, they see the possible investments coming there… the Palestine cause is not something that feels relevant to their own lives.” Ultimately, Teitelbaum said, the timing of normalization “is more of an Israeli-Saudi issue than an issue with the Americans. I think the Saudis are going to do it when they’re ready — they certainly wouldn’t rush into it right now… The direction is very clear,” he added. “But the timing is not — and it’s dependent on so many things.”
ON THE HILL
Congress passes 2021 defense funding bill, includes $3.3 billion in aid to Israel
The Senate on Friday passed the National Defense Authorization Actfor 2021, a massive bill that provides $740 billion in funding for a range of defense-related issues for the next fiscal year, including at least $3.3 billion in Israel security assistance, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports from Capitol Hill. The Senate voted 84 to 13 in favor of the NDAA, which passed the House 335-78 on Tuesday. President Donald Trump already announced that he will veto the legislation over unspecified concerns on China. But the bill likely has a veto-proof majority in both chambers of Congress.
Details: Under the terms of the 2021 NDAA, the U.S. would provide a total of $3.3 billion in military assistance for Israel each year through 2028. At least $200 million for missile defense programs would be provided to Israel during the 2021 fiscal year — $73 million for the Iron Dome rocket defense system, $50 million for the David’s Sling anti-missile and anti-aircraft weapons system and $77 million for the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system.
Israel on their minds: The bill directs the State Department and USAID to establish joint Arab-Israeli high-tech projects and tasks other relevant U.S. agencies with exploring joint U.S.-Israel space exploration, desalination and post traumatic stress disorder research initiatives. It also includes provisions that permit the transfer of additional precision-guided munitions to the Jewish state in the event of imminent need, and calls on the president to include Israel on a list of countries eligible for an exception to weapons export regulations. A push by Senate Democrats over the summer to include an amendmentpreventing Israel from using U.S. security assistance funds to unilaterally annex territory in the West Bank never gained traction.
Rand roadblock: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) delayed the expected passage of the bill on Thursday in protest of a provision that would limit the president’s ability to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Read the full report here.
📜 Piece of History: In The Guardian, Elias Visontay tells the story of Linda Royal, the Australian daughter of a Holocaust survivor who escaped to Japan thanks to a visa issued by Chiune Sugihara, known as the “Japanese Schindler.” Royal is now seeking to recover the visa from Australia’s national archives, which is refusing to turn over the document to her family. [Guardian]
🎧 Worthy Listen: The New York Times podcast “The Daily” features the story of David Wisnia and Helen Spitzer, two Auschwitz prisoners who met and fell in love in the concentration camp, then reunited seven decades later. [NYTimes]
🎥 Film Reel: Filmmaker and journalist Jack Baxter writes in The Daily Beast about his recent film, “The Last Sermon,” which seeks answers about the suicide bombers who nearly killed him during the 2003 attack at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv. “It’s a message of our common humanity, regardless of race and ethnicity.” [DailyBeast]
🏗️ Rebuilding: In The Washington Post, Rabbi Shira Stutman of the Sixth & I synagogue in D.C. reflects on the unique resonance this year of the Hanukkah story, a miracle “not in the war but in its aftermath, not in the cruse of oil itself but in the Jews’ decision to light the menorah at all, to rededicate our religious and political center.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🗳️ No Playbook: New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman shared her thoughts with NPR about why Trump has continued to refuse to acknowledge he lost reelection: “He has never before encountered a problem that he couldn’t sue away through the court system or spin away,” Haberman said.
☢️ Warning: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned against returning “to business as usual with Iran,” signaling opposition to President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
🇲🇦 New Era: The Jewish community in Morocco is celebrating the announced normalization of ties between the North African nation and Israel. Meanwhile, a number of Moroccan Islamic groups publicly rejected the decision.
🇩🇿 Not a Fan: Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad decried the normalization agreement between Israel and Morocco, which borders Algeria, labeling it a foreign operation to destabilize Algeria.
😷 Refuah Shleimah: Likud Minister David Bitan is hospitalized in serious condition while battling COVID-19.
📈 New Gig: Dee Dee Meyers, the first female White House press secretary who served under President Bill Clinton, will become the top economic and business advisor to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
📺 Situation Room: As CNN President Jeff Zucker negotiates with WarnerMedia over renewing his contract, the company has attracted interest from outside investors interested in taking the network private.
🇨🇳 Crack Down: The Chinese government is reportedly cracking down on the tiny Jewish community in Kaifeng, forcing its observances underground.
🇪🇺 Double Standard: In Politico Europe, American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris argues that Europe “cannot neglect, minimize or wish away threats to the existence of Israel” while vowing to tackle antisemitism.
🕎 Hanukkah Attack: A driver shouting antisemitic slurs ran overan attendee at a menorah lighting ceremony at the University of Kentucky on Saturday night.
📘 Book Shelf: In their new children’s book The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol, authors Arthur Levine and Kevin Hawkes explain why Jewish families give gifts at Hanukkah.
🏷️ Going Once: Key items of Judaica once owned by the Baghdadi Jewish Sassoon family will go on auction this week at Sotheby’s.
🍎 Cancelled: Objections from Apple CEO Tim Cook led the company to shut down “Scraper,” a planned Apple TV+ show based on blog network Gawker, according to The New York Times’s Ben Smith.
📺 Now Streaming: The Israeli TV show “Valley of Tears,” now playing on HBO Max, has “pried open a collective national wound” in Israel close to 50 years after the Yom Kippur War.
💡 Festival of Lights: Meyerland, Texas, resident Philip Grosman has become well-known for his elaborate Hanukkah light display featuring giant dreidels, gelt and music.
🍩 Culinary Connections: A Jerusalem bakery has debuted a date-flavored “Abu Dhabi” doughnut to celebrate the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE.
🥪 Open for Business: Jewish deli Pastrami Queen opened a new location on New York’s Upper West Side, replacing Fine and Schapiro, which closed in March after 93 years.
🕯️ Remembering: Jerrold M. Post, a leading psychological profiler for the CIA who aided President Jimmy Carter during the Camp David negotiations, died at 86. Norman Abramson, a pioneer in wireless computer networks, died at 88. Sigmund Jucker, a Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the iconic Three Brothers Bakery in Houston, diedat age 98. Shirley Lowy, the wife of Australian mall magnate Frank Lowy, died in Tel Aviv at 86.
Pic of the Day
Former Maccabi Tel Aviv teammates Amar’e Stoudemire and Deni Avdija reunited last night on the sidelines of a preseason NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets. The game marked the debut of Stoudemire as the Nets’ assistant coach and the NBA debut for Avdija, who finished 6-6 from the field with 15 points, though the Wizards ultimately lost 119-114 to the Nets.
Safety and special teams player for the NFL’s New York Giants, he is a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, Nathan “Nate” Ebner turns 32…
Dean emeritus at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and long-time leader of the Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx, Rabbi Zevulun Charlop turns 91… President emeritus of The George Washington University, he is an attorney in the D.C. office of Rimon Law P.C., Stephen Joel Trachtenberg turns 83… Co-founder and past chairman of Creative Artists Agency, Michael S. Ovitz turns 74… President of Bard College since 1975, he is also music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein turns 74… Retired N.Y. State assistant housing commissioner, he also served as a military chaplain for 38 years, Jacob Goldstein turns 74… Retired SVP at Warner Brothers, Howard Welinsky turns 71…
Director of government affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Robin Schatz turns 69… Member of Knesset, Avi Dichterturns 68… Co-founder of Beanstalk, Sixpoint Partners and Vringo, author of NYTimes bestseller Let There Be Water, Seth “Yossi” Siegelturns 67… Hedge fund manager, John Paulson turns 65… Owner of Bundles of Boston, Sheree Boloker turns 64… Retired CEO of San Francisco-based Jewish LearningWorks, David Jonathan Waksbergturns 64… Nurse and mental health counselor, Martina Yisraela Rieffer turns 62… Founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness, now a division of the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, Ted Frank turns 52… Partner and COO of Chicago-based Resolute Consulting, David Smolensky turns 52… Senior rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills, Calif., Kalman Topp turns 48… Matt Kosman turns 32… Senior media relations associate at Chabad, Tzemach Feller…