👋 Good Tuesday morning!
This evening, the Senate will hold cloture votes on Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Biden’s nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Judge Merrick Garland, the administration’s pick for attorney general, the next step toward full Senate confirmation votes, which are expected later this week.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the fourth-ranking Senate Republican, announced he will not run for reelection in 2022, kicking off speculation about his potential replacement. Blunt is the fifth GOP senator to announce his retirement ahead of the 2022 vote.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) was named the new chair of the World Jewish Congress’s relaunched International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Retired Gen. Russel Honoré, who led a task force to review Capitol security in response to the January 6 riot, recommended sweeping changes, including installing a retractable fencing system around the Capitol complex.
13 years from now
‘Imagining is a deterrent’: Why two military vets wrote a novel imagining a deadly world war
Picture a world with a belligerent Iran, China on the rise, chaos-seeking Russians and waning global influence for the United States — in other words, 2021. Then imagine that the simmering tensions between the U.S. and each of these nations boil over, leading to a full-fledged world war. That is the plot of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, a new book released today from Adm. James Stavridis and Marine Corps veteran Elliot Ackerman that explores what a future world war might look like. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch spoke to Ackerman about the novel and its real-life lessons.
Sparknotes: 2034 is neither a patriotic tribute to American exceptionalism nor a political salvo criticizing military might. Instead, it aims to get at “how quickly you can find yourself trapped into an escalatory paradigm where no one can get out of the escalation,” Ackerman told JI in a recent interview. Put more clearly: 2034 is about “how we could sleepwalk to war,” he explained. The novel’s villain, Ackerman said, is “war itself.”
Inside flap: The book’s co-authors share a history of military service. But within the military, there was little overlap: “If my rank was at the treetops, [Stavridis is] sitting up in the stratosphere. I mean, he outranks me by a gazillion,” Ackerman told JI. Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine, while Stavridis retired from a 37-year military career as a four-star U.S. naval officer, at one point overseeing U.S. Southern Command. After spending four years as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Stavridis became dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he met Ackerman.
Failure to imagine: When the pair sat down to write the book, they focused on several “tranches,” as Ackerman explained: “Cyber, China, the role that Iran could play, the role that Russia could play, and how we could sleepwalk to war,” he said. What they wanted to show most of all was that “imagination is a national security imperative,” Ackerman noted. “The great three national security catastrophes that have hit the United States in the last 100-odd years,” Ackerman argues, were Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the coronavirus pandemic. And all three catastrophes were, he claimed, “failures of imagination” that might have been prevented — or at least mediated — had decision-makers better considered the threats in advance.
Keeping it concise: In one passage, an offhand reference reveals that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps helped Syria retake the Golan Heights from Israel in 2030. Inexplicably, this move did not spark broader conflict. “More than anything,” Ackerman explained, he and Stavridis inserted the Golan Heights plot point to relate “the idea that things have not remained how they’ve been for the past several decades, and that there is a sense of realignment in the region — that the Iranians are very much continuing to act aggressively.” The pair decided not to “write a book that had everything in the kitchen sink in it,” opting instead to write “something that was concise, that a reader wasn’t going to get lost in appendices of who each character was.”
Steps away: Ackerman points to World War I as a reference point: In the summer of 1914, “nobody thought that Europe would go to war with itself, based off of the interconnectedness of all of the royal families,” he noted. But it happened anyway, leading to four years of bloodshed that devastated Europe. The same thinking now undergirds American policy vis-a-vis China, he said. “We’re so interconnected economically with China, it would be in nobody’s best interests” to go to war, he explained. Still, “war in and of itself is an emotional decision, not a rational one. One needs to take into account how quickly a series of unfortunate events could lead to countries to want to engage in the type of war we’ve imagined.”
109 votes brought Rep. Claudia Tenney back to Congress
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) had a rocky road to her second term in Congress. Tenney, who was first elected in 2016, lost the 2018 election to former Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) by 1,293 votes. The 2020 race featured a rematch with Brindisi — but this time, Tenney came out on top after a lengthy battle that stretched until February 5, when a judge ruled that Tenney had bested Brindisi by just 109 votes. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to Tenney about her return to Congress.
At last: “Even in talking to my opponent when he conceded, it was just so long and so arduous. And we both were — it’s funny — we both had the same feeling at the end that we didn’t care who won. We just wanted it to end, it’s just so long,” Tenney told JI in an interview on Friday. Brindisi initially pledged to continue to challenge the results after the February 5 court decision, but ultimately conceded on February 8.
Election challenges: Since her race was, at that point, undecided, Tenney was not in Congress on January 6, and missed both the storming of the Capitol and the moves by some Republican legislators to challenge the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Tenney indicated that, had she been present, she would not have supported the Arizona challenge, but would have voted in favor of the Pennsylvania challenge, where she said “rules changed at the last minute.”
Going, going, gone? New York is poised to lose a seat in upcoming redistricting, and, if state Democratic lawmakers control the process, they could merge Tenney’s district with Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-NY) neighboring district. But Tenney, who served in the New York State Assembly from 2011-2017, expressed confidence about her future electoral prospects. “I was the recipient of the worst Assembly district created in New York in 2012. So I know what it’s like to be in a bad position in redistricting,” she said. “Redistricting is still an open question as to what’s going to happen. And nobody really owns a district… We’ll wait to see what happens.”
Looking abroad: On Capitol Hill, Tenney has joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and has vowed to address issues in Myanmar, as well as focus on the Middle East. “A huge issue is going to be what’s going to happen with Israel and whether or not the Biden administration… is going to lead us back into the JCPOA,” she said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal the Trump administration jettisoned in 2018. “I hope that we can be persuasive to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
From south Tel Aviv to the silver screen to the Oscar shortlist
A spur-of-the-moment decision can irreversibly change the lives of people around you in ways you never imagined. Israeli director Tomer Shushan learned that the hard way — and turned his experience into a heartstopping short film. That movie, “White Eye,” has now been shortlisted for the Academy Award for live action short film, one of 10 finalists out of 174 qualifying films. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke to Shushan about his vision for the film and its international recognition.
21 minutes: Shushan wrote and directed “White Eye,” a 21-minute movie about Omer (Daniel Gad), a Mizrahi man living in Tel Aviv who spots his stolen bike chained up outside a factory. When he calls the cops on Yunes (Dawit Tekelaeb), the African migrant worker he believes stole it, the situation escalates beyond what Omer ever imagined. “The story actually happened to me, I found myself fighting to get my bike back, and I almost made a man go to jail, to be deported from Israel,” Shushan said. “I just sat down like one hour after the situation, and I wrote the script in 40 minutes.”
On the list: With support from the Makor Foundation, Shushan was able to bring his script to life. The film went on to win the best narrative short film award at both the 2020 SXSW Film Festival and the 2020 Urbanworld Film Festival, which are both Oscar-qualifying film festivals. “It touched lots of people,” Shushan said. “In their day-to-day life, [people] see immigrants but they never think about their story or about what could happen to them, and how it feels to be illegal… The story happens in Israel but it’s something that is very international.”
One shot: The entire movie was filmed in one continuous shot, adding to the heightened tension and real-time pacing of the film. “The thought behind it was to make the audience connect to the main character,” said Shushan. “The main character doesn’t have the time to cut his actions or to cut his instincts because he can’t breathe. And I wanted to give the same feeling to the audience — that they don’t have any moment to stop and breathe and to understand the actions.”
Close to tragedy: In the film, the consequences for Yunes are more drastic than what happened to the man Shushan encountered in reality. But the filmmaker wanted to drive home the message for viewers. “It was very close to being a tragedy,” he said. “I wanted to show a tragedy… I wanted people to understand that if they don’t control their actions, they can cause harm. So the message will be sharper.”
🕵️ Making History: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matthias Gafni reveals the role that Israeli-born, U.S.-raised psychologist Ralph Daniel played in exposing Cold War-era FBI programs that illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Daniel, whose grandparents were killed in the Holocaust, said his activism was inspired by the “bold, assertive” thinking of the Mossad operation to capture Adolf Eichmann. [SFChronicle]
⚖️ Seeking Justice: Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and international human rights lawyer Brandon Silver write in The Washington Post about the dangers facing Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, an “advocate of religious pluralism, respect for minorities and normalization with Israel.” Cotler and Silver call on the Biden administration to act to “make clear that the time for his freedom has finally come.” [WashPost]
🕍 Religious Freedom: Associated Press reporter Ilan Ben Zion spotlights how new Israeli-Gulf ties have allowed Jewish life in the UAE and Bahrain to emerge from the shadows. “We used to be this small, little family of Jewish people. We would find each other in hidden ways and everyone thought they were the only one,” said Dubai resident Jean Candiotte. “Now it feels quite the opposite.” [AP]
Around the Web
◀️ U-Turn: The Biden administration reimposed sanctions yesterday on Israeli mining billionaire Dan Gertler, reversing the Trump administration’s last-minute move.
⚡ Power Up: Cyprus, Greece and Israel signed an agreement yesterday to speed up work on a project to connect the three countries with a high-powered electricity cable.
🤝 Joint Forces: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will visit Israel this week to discuss fighting COVID with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
🧫 Quick Swab: El Al launched a pilot program yesterday to provide a rapid COVID test to all unvaccinated passengers before boarding.
✅ High Alert: Osem, the Israel-based Nestle subsidiary, is requiring unvaccinated employees to submit a negative virus test every three days.
🪙 Acquisition: PayPal is buying the Israel-based digital security provider Curv as it seeks to expand into cryptocurrencies.
🏗️ Rebound: Israeli builders are eyeing a rebound in the country’s construction sector as COVID vaccinations begin for Palestinian workers.
✈️ New Home: Nursing home operator Kenny Rozenberg, the father of 28-year-old El Al controlling shareholder Eli Rozenberg, became an Israeli citizen yesterday
🎓 Heading Out: Harvard professor Cornel West is leaving the university after being denied tenure, and speculating that his support for the Palestinian cause could be the reason for the denial.
✍️ Call to Action: The world must act to protect endangered religious minorities in the Middle East, write the ADL’s Sharon Nazarian and FDD’s Aykan Erdemir in The Washington Post.
🥬 Vegan Seder: Post-Brexit trade agreements have complicated efforts by Northern Ireland’s small Jewish community to obtain kosher meat ahead of Passover.
🥙 Stepping Up: The German Jewish Student Union held a fundraiser to save a Muslim-owned kebab shop in Halle, Germany, which was attacked by a gunman who first failed to enter a synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019.
🥯 Bagel Blasphemy: New York Times food critic Tejal Rao argues that the best New York-style bagels are actually found in California.
💸 Merger: Apollo Global Management will merge with insurance holding company Athene Holding in a move that will effectively turn the private equity firm into a financial group.
📚 Book Shelf: The New York Times reviews the new memoir Plunder, by Menachem Kaiser, about his battle to reclaim his Holocaust survivor grandfather’s Polish apartment building.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer Yuval Dayan has released a new single and music video, “Ata Bekulam,” (You’re in Everything).
Founder of the Bad Boy Furniture chain and former mayor of North York, Ontario, and later Toronto, Mel Lastman turns 88… Professor emeritus of sociology and Jewish studies at the University of Toronto, Y. Michal Bodemann turns 77… Sag Harbor-based painter, sculptor and printmaker, Eric Fischl turns 73… Radio and television journalist, Ira Flatow turns 72… Author and political journalist, Michael Kinsley turns 70… Israel’s minister of economy, Amir Peretz turns 69… President and CEO of NYC’s flagship public TV station WNET, Neal Shapiro turns 63… Susan Liebman turns 61… Founder and president of NYC-based Gotham Media, Gordon Platt turns 59… CEO, chairman and controlling shareholder of Quontic Bank, Steven Schnall turns 54… VP of product, choice and competition at Facebook, David I. Ginsberg turns 46… SVP at the D.E. Shaw group, Matthew Vogel turns 43… CEO of the Trevor Project, Amit Paley turns 39… Co-founder and CEO at ImpactTechNation, he is also a co-founder of Wake-Up Jerusalem (Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party), Hanan Rubin turns 39… Israeli-born singer, Shlomit Levi turns 38… Communications director for North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Alissa “Sadie” Weiner turns 34… CEO at New Orleans-based QED Hospitality, Emery Whalen turns 34… Pitcher for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and slated to be on the team at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Jared Lakind turns 29… Founding partner of Mothership Strategies, Jake Lipsett turns 28… Israel and antisemitism education coordinator at the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, Marla Topiol turns 28… First round pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Ozzy Wiesblatt turns 19… Private equity and venture capital investor, Howie Fialkov… Partner at Bocarsly Emden Cowan Esmail & Arndt, LLP, Rachel Rosner… Journalist Menachem Wecker…