👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel since yesterday evening and the IDF has struck dozens of targets in Gaza in response as violence flared up amid clashes in Jerusalem and across Israel. More below.
The New York Times editorial board endorsed Kathryn Garcia in New York City’s mayoral race, giving a boost to the former sanitation commissioner, who has lagged behind frontrunners Eric Adams and Andrew Yang in recent polling. Yang picked up an endorsement from Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) yesterday, and is reportedly slated to be backed by Satmar rabbis in Williamsburg this week.
Yang and fellow mayoral candidates Ray McGuire and Dianne Morales took to Twitter last night to tweet about the ongoing unrest in Israel. Yang’s post, which said the former presidential candidate was “standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks,” was met with heavy criticism from activists, and by Monday night “#YangSupportsGenocide” was trending on Twitter. Morales tweeted, “Whether in NYC, Colombia, Brazil or Israel-Palestine, state violence is wrong. Targeting civilians is wrong. Killing children is wrong.”
Adams posted — and then deleted— a tweet saying he stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Israelis, who “live under the constant threat of terrorism and war,” adding that “New York City’s bond with Israel remains unbreakable.” An hour later, Adams reposted the deleted tweet.
A report in The Financial Times asserts that President Joe Biden has decided to appoint former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
The Pew Research Center will release the findings from its 2019-2020 survey of American Jewry at noon ET today. The last survey was released in 2013.
Businessman Glenn Youngkin was declared the winner of the Republican nomination for Virginia governor. A June 8 Democratic primary will determine who Youngkin will face in November. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is currently leading the crowded Democratic field.
The latest on the tensions in Israel
More than 300 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza in less than 18 hours, including the first missiles aimed at Jerusalem since the 2014 war. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro lays out all the latest developments.
Jerusalem burns: Monday, which marked Jerusalem Day, kicked off with violent clashes atop the Temple Mount between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police officers. Tensions in the city have been high for weeks over the now-delayed legal ruling on the potential eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. Palestinians threw rocks at police outside al-Aqsa Mosque and police responded with rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades. Hundreds of Palestinians were wounded and more than 20 police officers were hurt. As the clashes raged, Palestinians threw rocks at a passenger vehicle just outside the Old City, causing it to crash into some of the gathered crowd, which then attacked the driver. Later, Palestinians threw fireworks at a muted Jerusalem Day celebration at the Western Wall, resulting in a tree atop the Temple Mount catching fire.
Rockets fly: As tensions seethed across Jerusalem yesterday and threatened to spill over in protests around the country, Hamas issued a warning to Israel: Withdraw all forces from the Temple Mount and Sheikh Jarrah by 6 p.m. Shortly after the deadline, a barrage of seven rockets from Gaza were fired toward Jerusalem. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continued to fire rockets at southern Israel throughout the night and this morning, including a heavy barrage at Ashdod that hit an apartment building this afternoon. A rocket that hit a home in Ashkelon early this morning wounded at least six people, one seriously, and school was canceled for students across most of southern Israel today. The IDF continued a steady stream of air strikes on Hamas sites in Gaza in response. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 25 Palestinians have been killed, including at least nine children and more than a dozen Hamas operatives.
Spilling over: Violent protests among some Israeli Arabs raged in cities across Israel last night as tensions escalated. In Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Nazareth and other towns, Israeli Arabs clashed with police and on some occasions with Jewish counter-protesters, and dozens were arrested. In Lod, an Israeli-Arab man was shot dead during a protest last night and two others were wounded. Two Jewish suspects from the city were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the shooting. Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved calling up 5,000 reservists to the IDF to boost the military presence on the Gaza border and throughout the West Bank.
Political pause: Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas halted all coalition negotiations yesterday amid the violence, putting a hold on Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s plans to announce a government as early as this week. Analysts suggested the speed bump is indicative of the larger problems that could face such a government in the future. “The rioting in Jerusalem and the rockets from Gaza only serve to highlight the shaky grounds on which the alternative, Netanyahu-free government would be built,” wrote Lahav Harkov in The Jerusalem Post. Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told JI on Sunday that “if the Arab parties are supporting riots in Jerusalem in which policemen are getting seriously hurt, it’s going to be really hard for someone like Naftali Bennett to cooperate with them in a government… It also indicates the problematic effect of, everytime we’re going to have some kind of security issue with the Arabs, the government is liable to fall.”
World reacts: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said yesterday that the U.S. is “very deeply concerned about the rocket attacks that we are seeing now, that need to stop, and need to stop immediately.” He also expressed concerns about “provocative actions” on the Temple Mount and said “all sides need to de-escalate and reduce tensions.” The U.N. Security Council weighed issuing a statement expressing “grave concern” over tensions and calling on Israel to halt any evictions, but the U.S. reportedly held up a formal statement. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned “the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and locations within Israel” and called for “an immediate de-escalation on all sides.” Thousands protested in Jordan against Israel yesterday, and Turkey and Egypt issued condemnations of Israeli actions.
Weighing in: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee subcommittee that oversees the Middle East, called on leaders on both sides to “commit to a path of de-escalation” during a call with reporters on Monday. “This constant ratcheting up of violence may serve political interests, but it could lead to chaos that is ultimately going to get a lot of people killed,” Murphy continued. “Hamas needs to stop rocket attacks but Israel needs to stop the forcible eviction of Palestinians from their homes.” During the call, Murphy also weighed in on prospects for broader peace and the Iran nuclear negotiations. Read more here.
Capitol reactions: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) called for a de-escalation of tensions and condemned the “ongoing violence” in Jerusalem, singling out “Hamas’ recent attacks on the holy city.” In a follow-up tweet, he voiced concern over “evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement expansion, and home demolitions,” which he called “unilateral actions that place a two-state solution further out of reach.” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) posted that the latest rocket fire “underscores the need for missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, which protects Israeli civilians — both Arabs and Jews.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for “calm for all in Jerusalem” while reiterating that the U.S. “stands by our ally Israel.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted that “Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians.”
Alessandra Biaggi is carving her own path
Alessandra Biaggi delivered a damaging blow to Scott Stringer’s New York City mayoral prospects when she rescinded her endorsement of him earlier this month after accusations of sexual misconduct. Stringer was credited with boosting her long-shot 2018 primary bid for the New York State Senate in what had been a mutually beneficial alliance. Now three years into her tenure representing parts of the Bronx and Westchester, Biaggi, 34, has gained a reputation as an upstate force — an influential lawmaker with a growing list of legislative accomplishments who is an outspoken and independent voice in Albany’s cutthroat political sphere. “We created an opening in Albany,” Biaggi told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “It was a cesspool and really bad things were happening. But because we transformed it, we were able to do all of these things.”
Executive Mansion bound?: Already Biaggi’s name is being floated as a possible primary challenger capable of taking on New York’s embattled governor, Andrew Cuomo, laid low in recent months by a series of sexual harassment accusations and COVID-related scandals that seem to have diminished his chances for reelection. “I do believe that she has the potential to go statewide,” said Eli Valentin, an author and political analyst in New York, describing Biaggi as a “pragmatic progressive.” Biaggi told JI she was “flattered” by the suggestion that she could mount a credible gubernatorial bid. But without denying the possibility outright, she largely dismissed such speculation. “It’s not something that I am thinking about doing,” she clarified. “But I certainly am here to make the most impact in people’s lives, and I am very much open to the energy of the universe guiding me in that direction. We’ll see where it leads.”
Family ties: Biaggi’s name is likely familiar to those who remember her late grandfather, Mario Biaggi, the well-liked Bronx congressman who resigned from office in 1988 amid a corruption scandal and served 26 months in prison. “I was very close to him,” recalled Biaggi, who was two years old at the time of his resignation. “He was very stern about certain things,” she said, choking up as she remembered their relationship. “If I came home with an A, he’d be like, ‘Where’s the rest of the points?’” Biaggi told JI that she has no current ambitions to follow his path to Congress, but that he is “a lot of where my drive comes from.” Right now, she said, “I want to be present to what I’m responsible for,” Biaggi explained, pointing to unfinished work on abuse survivors’ rights as well as a host of other issues. “That is really what’s important to me. But I also am committed to growth and to making the most impact I possibly can.”
Communal connection: Biaggi seems to have forged strong connections with the local Jewish community. Deann Forman, CEO of the Riverdale Y, said that Biaggi “has been an active partner in addressing the needs and concerns of the Jewish community,” adding that the senator has participated in Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership calls on such issues as Holocaust Remembrance Day, COVID planning and the recent wave of antisemitic attacks against several local synagogues. “That has been a very big part of discussions that I’ve had, whether it’s in roundtables or town halls or one-on-one conversations,” Biaggi said of the wave of antisemitic attacks, including four Riverdale synagogues targeted in late April. “It’s been very important to me, and I know it’s also very important and top of mind to the community.”
Eye on Israel: Biaggi has never visited Israel, despite invitations from several Jewish community members, but she intends to go at some point. “It’s important to me, and it’s also important to the district,” said Biaggi, who is opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “I’m not an international law expert or hold myself up to be in any regard, but I do not believe that economic sanctions are the way to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem right.” And she was critical of a questionnaire distributed last summer by the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America asking that City Council candidates pledge not to visit Israel. “I think the questionnaire was kind of an unforced error,” she mused. “I understand fully wanting to include the issue as a question, but I think the way that it was asked really marginalized a lot of candidates, especially Jewish candidates who felt, of course, offended by that.”
Michael Oren dives back into the 1970s
For Michael Oren, the 1970s in America represent a lost era. “The 1970s was the last moment when being Jewish in America was an ethnicity,” the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview. “We didn’t grow up thinking of ourselves primarily or even secondarily as white people — we were a separate ethnic group.” Oren himself grew up in West Orange, N.J., in the 1970s, in what he describes as a “white-bread America.” The diplomat, historian and author draws on his own experiences during that decade for his latest novel, To All Who Call in Truth, which hits bookshelves today.
Lost world: To All Who Call in Truth centers on Sandy Cooper, a junior high school guidance counselor and football coach who finds himself dragged into a twisted relationship and a mysterious murder case amid a wave of racial and political turmoil in an otherwise quiet town. “This is the world I grew up in,” Oren said. “I grew up in a non-Jewish working-class neighborhood. I encountered antisemitism pretty much regularly. It was a fact and feature of our lives.” But the novel, he said, is about much more than antisemitism. “The book is not just about the period and not just about being Jewish,” he added. “It’s about a relationship, it’s about obsession, it’s about betrayal, it’s about violence. Ultimately I think it’s about hope.”
Words of prayer: The book takes its title from a verse in Psalms, which is repeated three times a day in the traditional “Ashrei” prayer — and is emblazoned on the walls of the fictional synagogue in Oren’s novel, as well as the real one from his childhood: “The Lord is near to all that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Oren said the text is “a beautiful line,” adding: “It’s a fundamental article of faith: If you actually turn to God, God will be there. It’s a remarkable line.”
Dominant personalities: The novel features cameo appearances from unnamed figures that directly echo some of the most dominant Jewish personalities of the era: Elie Wiesel, Shlomo Carlebach and Meir Kahane. “For my generation, we had towering Jewish figures who everybody knew,” Oren recalled. “For better or for worse… but we don’t have these figures anymore. And I knew them all.” Their fleeting appearances are his way of “paying homage to them in this book. And I didn’t want to use their real names because it’s not important for the book. It’s important for what their influence is.”
Never say never: Following his time as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Oren served in the Knesset for four years, departing shortly before what became the first of four national elections in two years. And amid Israel’s ongoing political quagmire, Oren is not particularly optimistic. A fifth election, he suggested, “would be a win for Bibi [Netanyahu],” but a loss for the State of Israel. “The country desperately needs a government.” And despite the malaise plaguing the Israeli political system, Oren wouldn’t rule out a return to the Knesset at some point in the future. “I always say, if they call me to the flag I’ll go to the flag,” he said. “Even if it means giving up publishing.”
✍️ Word Choice: In The Wall Street Journal, South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein suggests that the recent Human Rights Watch decision to label Israel as an apartheid state “presents a grotesquely distorted picture of both South African history and the current reality in Israel.” [WSJ]
🇸🇦🇮🇷 Repairing Ties?: Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake lays out why the Saudis are reaching out to Iran for rapprochement talks, pointing to concerns stemming from 2019 about a lack of U.S. involvement in the region. “For now, it’s clear that the Abraham Accords have helped Israel. Their lasting impact, however, depends on Israel’s new Arab friends coming around to the realization that feeding an Iranian crocodile only whets its appetite.” [Bloomberg]
💥 Unpacking: In Yahoo News, Zach Dorfman and Jack Murphy dive deep into the Trump administration’s targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. “For better or worse, the Soleimani killing was one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of the Trump administration, with effects that will reverberate for years to come and likely shape the strategic environment President Biden now faces in the region.” [Yahoo]
Around the Web
🚁 Border Battles: One person was reportedly injured by an Israeli helicopter strike in the Golan Heights near the country’s border with Syria.
☢️ Optimism: European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he is “optimistic” about ongoing nuclear talks with Iran as negotiations enter a crucial phase in the coming weeks.
🛑 Not So Fast: But reports from officials say the sides are still stuck on several key issues and are concerned that the looming Iranian elections next month could stymie any progress.
🛥️ Unto the Breach: U.S. officials said a Coast Guard cutter fired warning shots after 13 armed IRGC speedboats came close to Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
🤳 FB Fine: The Israel Antitrust Authority said today it is weighing levying a $1.8 million fine on Facebook for purchasing two Israeli companies without the agency’s approval.
✈️ Beach Bound: Virgin Atlantic said that demand for flights to Israel has spiked after the country was included on the U.K.’s “green list” for travel.
🍷 Shabbat Shalom: More than 200 people have signed up for the first Jews of Color Shabbaton, which will be held virtually this weekend.
🙅 All About Drama: Substack is turning into a soap opera starring some of the newsletter platform’s best-known writers, Helen Lewis writes in The Atlantic.
🕍 Special Honor: In an interview with The Washington Post, Billy Crystal recounts being honored with an aliyah at Tiffany Haddish’s bat mitzvah while they were shooting their new film “Here Today.”
📵 So Sorry: TripAdvisor apologized for failing to flag and remove an offensive review on its page for the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum in Poland.
🕯️ Remembering: Rachel Zoll, a religion reporter for The Associated Press, died of brain cancer at 55.
Song of the Day
Israeli pop star Agam Buhbut released a new single recently titled “Kol HaOlam” (All the World).
Comedian Mort Sahl turns 94… Israeli optical and kinetic artist and sculptor, Yaacov Agam turns 93… Retired judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, law professor at George Washington University, author of a memoir about his survival in Nazi concentration camps, Thomas Buergenthal turns 87… Sociologist and author, Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. turns 76… Israeli social activist, Iris Stern Levi turns 68… Treasurer and Receiver-General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Deborah Goldberg turns 67… Past President and then Chairman of AIPAC, Mort Fridman, MD turns 63… Copy chief at Random House and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer turns 63… Brian Mullen turns 62… Howard M. Pollack turns 56… CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, Bill Ackman turns 55… Senior fellow and a Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute, Michael Pregent turns 53… Member of the California State Senate, his district includes San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, Scott Wiener turns 51… EVP for North American content at sports streaming service DAZN, Jamie Horowitz turns 45… Filmmaker and podcast host, Dan Trachtenberg turns 40… Manager of special projects in the Office of the President at Carnegie Mellon University, Pamela Eichenbaum turns 35… Senior cost analyst at the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Michael Jeremy Alexander turns 35… PR and marketing coordinator at Leket Israel, Shira Woolf turns 35… Staff writer at Time Magazine, Olivia B. Waxman turns 32… Associate in paid search at Wavemaker, James Frichner turns 30… Israeli actress, she appeared in 30 episodes of “Shtisel” and played the lead role in the Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox,” Shira Haas turns 26…