👋 Good Monday morning!
Due to the escalation in violence, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi canceled a planned trip to Washington this week to hold talks with U.S. defense officials on Iran. National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and IDF intelligence head Gen. Tamir Hayman, who delayed their trip, are slated to depart this week without Kochavi. Mossad chief Yossi Cohen was spotted by a JI reader arriving in the U.S. on Friday.
In a leaked tape that surfaced yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif can be heard criticizing assassinated Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and noting that the Revolutionary Guards Corps dictates many Iranian government decisions.
Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide welcomed by many in the Jewish community
On Saturday, in a statement marking the mass murder of Armenian Christians in Ottoman Turkey, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to refer to the atrocity as a “genocide,” a symbolic move that nevertheless marks a major shift in U.S. policy. The move was lauded by portions of the Jewish community, as the question of whether to use the word “genocide” to describe the atrocity has morphed into a global geopolitical controversy, with Turkey exerting its muscle to urge countries like the U.S. and Israel to avoid using the term. Biden’s declaration marked the end of a years-long effort by activists to push the federal government on the issue, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Never again: Several Jewish organizations lauded Biden’s declaration. “We believe that remembrance of any genocide is imperative to preventing future tragedies, and that process begins with recognition,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told Jewish Insider. “Bravo to President Biden for being the first American leader to stand up to Turkey and say what was needed,” David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, told JI. “AJC cannot sit idly by and allow that outrageous denial to take root. And next, by the way, it could be about the Holocaust.”
California connection: In California, home to the country’s largest Armenian population, local Jewish organizations were some of the first Jewish groups in the nation to publicly refer to the massacre in Armenia as a genocide. “The relationship between the Armenian and Jewish communities in Los Angeles is strong [and] vibrant,” said Richard Hirschhaut, director of AJC’s Los Angeles office. Hirschhaut noted that Jewish and Armenian groups worked to amend California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum after earlier drafts largely excluded the experiences of Jews, Armenians and other ethnic minorities. “Certainly, the shared experience of genocide and trauma that our communities have been through is is a point for people to bond around,” California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat who represents the San Fernando Valley, told JI. Gabriel, who serves as majority whip and chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, said Biden’s announcement “will be warmly applauded by a lot of folks in the Jewish community in Los Angeles.”
History lesson: Historians have long declared that what occurred in Armenia between 1915 and 1916 was a genocide. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum writes that the mass murder of Armenians by the Ottomans “aimed to solidify Muslim Turkish dominance in the regions of central and eastern Anatolia by eliminating the sizeable Armenian presence” in the area. “The Armenian genocide has been too long denied, diminished in importance or politicized,” Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, told JI. “This is a step in rectifying that. It comes too late for those who experienced this horror, but it will be a bit of a balm to their children, grandchildren and other descendants.”
on the hill
Progressive House Dems push alternative antisemitism definitions
A group of progressive House Democrats plans to encourage Secretary of State Tony Blinken to consider alternatives to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, suggesting two definitions that allow for broader criticism of Israel, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
In the letter: A draft of a letter to Blinken obtained by Jewish Insider, which is being led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and has been signed by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), urges Blinken to “consider multiple definitions of antisemitism, including two new definitions that have been formulated and embraced by the Jewish community,” pointing to the Nexus Document and the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism.
Behind the dispute: While there is some overlap between the two more recent definitions and the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, both the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, a majority of whose signatories are academics, and the Nexus Document, which was authored by U.S.-based academics, allow more space for criticism of Israel. Left-wing Jewish groups, including J Street, have been vocal about their concerns with the IHRA definition. “While the IHRA definition can be informative, in order to most effectively combat antisemitism, we should use all of the best tools at our disposal,” the letter argues.
Biden admin’s stance: In a letter to the American Zionist Movement in February, Blinken said that the Biden administration “enthusiastically embraces” the IHRA definition, indicating that efforts to implement alternative definitions may struggle to gain traction at the State Department.
All about Israel: Abe Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League who led the organization while the IHRA definition was being developed, argued that the criticism stems from disagreements with Israeli policy, rather than legitimate issues with the IHRA definition itself. “The common denominator of all the groups who don’t like the current definition are groups that have issues with Israel,” Foxman said. “[The IHRA definition] included a new dimension of antisemitism which was anti-Israel and anti-Zionism because in the last 20 years or so, antisemitism metastasized to use Israel as a euphemism for attacking Jews.”
Tali Farhadian Weinstein picks up Roberta Kaplan’s endorsement in DA race
Roberta Kaplan, the celebrated attorney now leading three high-profile lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, will announce today that she is endorsing Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, for Manhattan district attorney. The imprimatur from Kaplan, one of the most prominent litigators in the country, is likely to give Farhadian Weinstein a boost as the DA’s office has drawn scrutiny for what critics describe as a lackluster record on sexual assault. “I believe very strongly that the Manhattan DA really needs to focus on these issues and just start over, because we haven’t been doing a very good job,” Kaplan told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in an interview. “I know Tali shares that view.”
‘Cultural change’: Farhadian Weinstein, who was general counsel to the Brooklyn DA’s office before announcing her candidacy last July, has released a detailed plan to establish a bureau of gender-based violence, including sex crimes and domestic violence units, if she is elected. “What I want to do in the Manhattan DA’s office,” Farhadian Weinstein, 45, told JI, “is to use this legal institution to radically change people’s lives for the better, to free them from hate and violence, and to use the law to make cultural change, to change our attitudes toward things like sexual violence.”
Kaplan’s creds: Kaplan, a founding partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, gained national recognition when she argued on behalf of Edie Windsor in the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, Kaplan, who is Jewish, has taken on a number of noteworthy cases, including a groundbreaking federal lawsuit targeting the neo-Nazis who orchestrated the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville as well as E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against Trump. Kaplan is a co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which supports victims of sexual harassment,
White-collar crime: Kaplan told JI that she is also supporting Farhadian Weinstein because she believes the former prosecutor will be tough on white-collar criminals. “That tradition at the Manhattan DA’s office unfortunately has kind of waned in recent years,” Kaplan said. But Farhadian Weinstein “is very dedicated to the idea that an important part of what the Manhattan DA does in a city which is the center of business and commerce and Wall Street is to investigate and prosecute white-collar criminals,” Kaplan added. “It’s really important to send a deterrence to others out there who may be thinking of committing fraud.”
Bennett enters talks with Lapid as Netanyahu falters
With just over a week until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadline to form the next government, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett officially announced he is in talks to form a coalition with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro breaks down all the latest Israeli political developments.
Change exchange: Netanyahu’s mandate to build a coalition expires on May 4, but figures in the so-called “change bloc” of parties are already in the midst of intense negotiations to form a government that will oust Netanyahu. Bennett, who had not ruled out joining either camp, declared over the weekend that he has entered talks to form a “national unity government” since Netanyahu has “no possibility of forming a right-wing government.” The former education minister said that while his first choice would be a right-wing government, since that appears unlikely, he will work to avoid a fifth election at all costs.
Job jousting: The change bloc still faces tremendous obstacles to forming the government. The 58 members of the anti-Netanyahu parties are already squabbling over ministerial jobs and the division of powers — without settling on a path to form a majority. The potential minority government would require outside support from another party, with the Joint List, Ra’am and United Torah Judaism all reportedly under consideration. But gaining the backing of any of those parties would require further compromises by the already deeply splintered factions.
Hail Mary: With eight days to go, Netanyahu’s ability to form the next government appears all but impossible — though he seems to still be searching for a solution. The prime minister reportedly offered Defense Minister Benny Gantz to join him in return for going first in a rotation agreement, but Gantz declined, with Blue and White calling the offer a “last-minute frantic attempt.” The same offer to Shas leader Aryeh Deri was also reportedly refused. And Netanyahu is also reportedly mulling a proposal to be replaced as the head of Likud by a different party MK but to retain his influence — and even his official residence. National Religious Party leader Bezalel Smotrich, a steadfast ally of Netanyahu, criticized the prime minister amid the escalation in violence over the weekend, stating: “maybe it really is time to replace him.”
🧑🏫 Looking Back: In The Wall Street Journal, author and photographer Andrew Feiler explores the 4,978 schools that were built across the American South in the early 20th century as part of a collaboration between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington, “forging one of the earliest collaborations between Jews and African-Americans.” [WSJ]
🎙️ Podcast Playback: Lyor Cohen, the head of music for YouTube and former president of DefJam, talks to Variety’s Shirley Halperin about his views on the role of record companies today as well as the popularity of Israeli TV. “The reason why Israel is so dope on a whole host of reasons… is because of mandatory public service,” he said. “When you are in that incubation period in public service, it allows you to start formulating.” [Variety]
👨💼 Power Broker: The Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker profiles lobbyist and Republican Jewish Coalition board member Jeff Miller, “Washington’s new ‘Indispensable Man’” whose lobbying firm claims a range of high-profile clients. “People hired our firm because we have close relationships with people in government,” he said. “Isn’t that why everyone hires lobbyists?” [WashEx]
Around the Web
💥 Big Boom: A mysterious explosion at an Israeli air base last week was purportedly caused by a rocket engine test, say analysts.
☢️ Sanctions Demands: Iranian diplomat Abbas Araghchi said that the U.S. must remove sanctions designations from 1,500 people in order to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
🇮🇷 Reassurances: Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator, told Jewish leaders on Friday that the administration will not lift sanctions on Iran before any agreement on the 2015 deal.
💰 Big Deal: Israel’s Delek Drilling is working on plans to sell its stake in the Tamar offshore drilling plant to Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Petroleum for $1.1 billion.
🕵️ Exposed: A man posing as an American Jewish rabbi living in Jerusalem was exposed as a Christian missionary working to covertly convert ultra-Orthodox Israelis.
🏢 New Roots: Blackstone is opening a new outpost in Tel Aviv, led by Yifat Oron, the former CEO of technology banking platform LeumiTech.
🗳️ Denied: The Virginia GOP rejected an appeal from Jewish leaders in the state to allow absentee voting in its upcoming nominating convention on a Saturday.
🌐 Ambassadors Incoming: President Joe Biden is close to naming Mark Gitenstein and Julie Smith as his ambassadors to the European Union and NATO, respectively.
✍️ Changing times? D.C. insider David Rothkopf, who is close to White House chief of staff Ron Klain, suggests in a Daily Beast op-ed that “key elements of Israel’s special status in Washington may be in jeopardy” following the end of the Trump era.
🚔 Manhunt: Four synagogues in the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale were vandalized over the weekend, and police believe that one suspect is responsible for the attacks.
🎤 Origin Story: “CBS This Morning” looks at the origins of Billie Holiday’s activist anthem “Strange Fruit,” which was penned by Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol.
⛓️ Delayed: The sentencing of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, the former leader of Chabad of Poway who pled guilty to tax evasion, has been delayed by six months.
📈 Big Deal: SPAC creators can still profit even if the companies they partner with to go public suffer losses, reveals The Wall Street Journal.
🏫 Allegation: Former hedge fund manager Sanjay Shah has been accused of using Ezra Academy, a Queens Jewish school, to execute $1.1 billion in trades, evading tax authorities.
📺 Late Night: Gal Gadot appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week to talk about her new documentary series, her pregnancy and how Israel is beating COVID.
🔪 Back in the Saddle: Legendary 91-year-old Zabars lox slicer Len Berk returned to work on Thursday following a year off due to the pandemic.
⚽ Sports Blink: The Glazer family is reportedly considering selling the Manchester United soccer club for £4 billion.
🗞️ Style Switch: The Associated Press Stylebook announced it was officially updating its guidelines to spell antisemitism without a hyphen.
Song of the Day
Israeli pop duo Static and Ben-El appeared on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” last week to chat about — and perform — their latest single, “Shake Ya Boom Boom,” with the Black Eyed Peas.
An early investor in Berkshire Hathaway and a member of its board of directors, David Sanford “Sandy” Gottesman turns 95… Radio astronomer and 1978 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, he escaped from pre-WW2 Germany as part of the Kindertransport rescue operation, Arno Allan Penzias turns 88… Jewish genealogy researcher and publisher of Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Gary Mokotoff turns 84… Retired CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay (Oakland, CA), Loren Basch turns 77… Investment banker best known as the chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld Jr. turns 75… Professor of computer science and engineering at MIT, Hal Abelson turns 74… President of Brandeis University, Ronald D. Liebowitz turns 64… Moscow-born conservative journalist and political activist in Israel, Avigdor Eskin turns 61… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributing editor at The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch turns 61… Former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland State Senate, Roger Manno turns 55… SVP of content and partnerships at Snapchat, Benjamin Schwerin turns 42… Senior staff editor on the international desk of The New York Times based in Hong Kong, Russell Goldman turns 41… Senior director of federal government affairs at Greenwich Biosciences, Karas Pattison Gross turns 39… Senior publicist for media relations at NPR, Benjamin Fishel turns 38… Reporter for The Wall Street Journal covering startups, he is writing a book on WeWork, Eliot Brown turns 38… Fashion model and actor, Brett Novek turns 37… Head coach of the UC Irvine Anteaters baseball program, he played for Team Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic, Ben Orloff turns 34… Marketing manager at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Alisha Katz turns 31… Journalist Jackson C. Richman turns 28… Development and recruitment manager at Encounter, Ross Beroff turns 26…