👋 Good Tuesday morning!
CIA Director William Burns arrives in Jerusalem today for meetings with Israeli officials, including Mossad head David Barnea, that will largely focus on Iran’s activity in the region, including the recent attack on a tanker with ties to Israel and the recent rocket fire from Lebanon into Israel. Burns is also expected to meet with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, investment groups from Israel, Europe, India and the UAE are expected to present bids in October to purchase the port of Haifa from the Israeli government. Last year, U.S. officials were reportedly working to find American bidders for the project in an effort to counter China’s expanding reach in the region.
Vice President Kamala Harris called Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday to congratulate him on his recent inauguration. A readout from the call released by the White House said “the two leaders discussed the importance of continuing to deepen the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship and the Vice President expressed her strong commitment to Israel’s security and support for continued normalization of relations between Israel and its neighbors.” Herzog expressed concern about growing antisemitism worldwide and the challenges of global climate change.
What was Bakari Sellers thinking in Ohio 11?
Bakari Sellers, the former South Carolina state legislator who has appeared frequently at AIPAC events and is a close ally of establishment Democrats, turned some heads when he threw his weight behind Nina Turner, the outspoken progressive candidate and prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate, in Ohio’s recent bruising 11th Congressional District special election. The 36-year-old lawyer, CNN commentator and memoirist elaborated on his seemingly curious commitment to Turner’s failed candidacy in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Monday evening. “I’ll continue to be pro-Israel, and I’ll continue to be nuanced in my political positions,” Sellers averred. “And people I love, when we disagree, I’ll try to be in the room to help them understand my point of view. I don’t have any regrets.”
From the heart: “I’ve known Nina for 15, 16 years,” Sellers told JI. “I consider her a friend.” Still, while Sellers characterized Turner as a progressive champion on issues like universal health care and climate change, he emphasized that he disagreed with her views on the Jewish state, in particular her effort to cast Israel as an apartheid state during the May conflict between Israel and Hamas. “That’s bullshit,” he said. “Look, Nina and I disagree on that issue wholeheartedly. But if we’re going to continue to move the ball forward on this issue and continue to make it a nonpartisan ideal, then some of us are going to have to, especially when we have friends in the race, take those chances and see what happens.”
Pro-Israel pushback: Sellers claimed he received no pushback from allies in the pro-Israel community over his support for Turner. “They know where I am, and they know that if she would have won, and I had an opportunity to speak to Congresswoman Turner, then I would be one of the voices in the room that says we need to talk about the fact that Israel has a right to defend itself,” he said. “Whether or not that voice would have won over, I don’t know. But we would have had a voice in the room. We wouldn’t have been locked out of the room. And I think that’s important.”
Looking West: Public intellectual Cornel West, who supported Turner, campaigned alongside Sellers in the district last week, and in YouTube interview after the race ended seemed at pains to make sense of their shared interests, describing Sellers as “so tied to very, very right-wing Jewish lobbyists in terms of money and status and so forth.” Sellers countered, “I don’t have shit to say about Cornel West. If Cornel West runs for office I won’t be there standing by him.” He added, “You know, at one point, Cornel utilized antisemitism as political currency a lot like [former President] Donald Trump used racism. Now, it’s pretty fair to say that Cornel West is an antisemite just like Donald Trump is a racist.”
clearing the fog
Amos Hochstein will spearhead Biden’s energy security policy at State Dept.
Less than a month after reversing course on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, President Joe Biden has appointed his former advisor Amos Hochstein to serve as the energy envoy overseeing the new policy, Axios first reported yesterday. Although Hochstein’s portfolio appears focused for now on Nord Stream 2, he will also be working on issues of energy security more broadly and, experts say, that the role could end up encompassing issues related to Israel and the Middle East, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Energy in Eastern Mediterranean: One issue that could arise under Hochstein’s watch is the construction and implementation of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline that would transport natural gas to Europe. In January 2020, Israel, Cyprus and Greece signed a deal to build the 1,180-mile pipeline from Israeli and Cypriot waters through Greece and onto Italy. “He essentially wrote the Obama administration’s roadmap on the Eastern Med gas issue under Vice President Biden,” said Daniel Silverberg, who worked with Hochstein — then a special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs at the State Department — in his role as national security advisor to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
Border dispute: During his time in the Obama administration, Hochstein also tried to resolve an ongoing dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the countries’ maritime border. “That is a file that he’s intimately aware of and involved with…when he was in the U.S. government,” said David Schenker, the Taube Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs in the Trump administration. “It’s a possibility for him to be involved again, if he sees any benefit for that.”
Iran angle: “He was intricately involved in Iran sanctions and the JCPOA, in addition to the Israel portfolio,” said Matthew Zweig, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who worked on Syria sanctions at the State Department during the Trump administration, referring to Hochstein’s work on Iran energy sanctions throughout the negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. As the U.S. attempts to renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, energy sanctions could again become part of Hochstein’s portfolio.
Yogi Oliff, Jewish hoopster, offered D1 scholarship at West Point
For a Jewish kid who fell in love with basketball as a boy, nothing could keep Yosef “Yogi” Oliff out of the gym on game day — not even a long Sabbath walk before tip-off on a bone-chilling Chicago winter’s day. The star point guard from Skokie, Ill., knows firsthand the dedication it takes to play in a competitive Chicago-area high school league, and to be an observant Jew. “I’ve walked four miles to the gym, I’ve walked in snow, I’ve walked in negative weather,” Oliff, who received a Division I offer from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller in a recent interview. If he accepts the offer, he will be following in the footsteps of Tamir Goodman, an Orthodox Jew who played for Towson State in the early 2000s, whom Sports Illustrated dubbed the “Jewish Jordan.”
Young Prodigy: Oliff has played for his school’s varsity team since his freshman year, an unusual feat at Niles North, whose team is ranked No. 55 among all Illinois high school teams, according to the MaxPreps rankings. The offer from West Point marked the start of the recruiting process for the 6’2 Oliff, who made the Central Suburban League All-Conference team the past two seasons. Oliff’s prowess caught the eye of the Niles North Vikings coach Glenn Olson, when the guard played in the school’s youth basketball camps. Olson tapped him for the varsity squad as a freshman. “He thought that’d be the best for my development,” Oliff surmised. The Vikings playmaker — who averaged double digits in scoring his sophomore and junior years — has served as team captain since his sophomore season.
Bigger Leagues: For now, although he is “blessed and grateful” to receive the West Point offer, Oliff is keeping his college options open. “The goal is to see how many [offers] I can accumulate,” he explained, “and then make the best decision from there.” Oliff acknowledged, “Obviously I think it’s everyone’s goal as a kid to play Division I — it’s the highest level, it’s the level that offers scholarships.” But other concerns — academics and Jewish life on campus — remain important to Oliff, too: “If I think that a D3 school who’s recruiting me is a better fit for me to grow as a person and a basketball player, then I’ll go there,” he said.
🤵🏿♂️ New Guard: The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere profiles Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who appears poised to take the party’s reins as House speaker, as House leadership turns over in the next few years, despite discontent from the far-left flank of the party. “But none of the two dozen Democratic members of Congress and party insiders I spoke with privately could present a serious alternative to Jeffries. He’d have the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is stacked with influential members. He’s popular with his colleagues, even those who grumble that he was too meek to challenge Pelosi earlier.” [TheAtlantic]
🗳️ Establishment Politics: CNN’s political numbers-cruncher Harry Enten explores the relationships between Democratic and Republican voters and their respective party leaders, focusing on the role of the “establishment” in fielding primary candidates. “Progressives can certainly be successful in Democratic primaries. A number of them have been this year. For them to have the best chance of succeeding, however, they’ll have to do so by recognizing that the Democratic Party primary electorate isn’t the Republican Party’s. Democrats like their establishment.” [CNN]
😡 Different Hate: Writing in the Wall Street Journal, professor Ruth Wisse argues that antisemitism is a special form of hatred, different from other types of racism due to its mutable nature. “Anti-Semitism is a form of hatred, but it’s more than that. People organize against the Jews as part of an ideological struggle. Scapegoating Jews for the suffering of another people provides an explanation for its misery, an outlet for its anger, and a target for its aggression. From its founding in the 1870s to its current American intersectional variant, anti-Semitism has the unique power to build grievance coalitions between Marxists and Muslims, fascists and fundamentalists, atheists and believers, nationalists, internationalists, CEOs and academics.” [WSJ]
🔇 Cancel Club: In UnHerd, culture writer Kat Rosenfield suggests that “cancel culture” is, despite claims by right-wing media pundits, more of a threat to individuals on the political left — and that it’s increasingly becoming an unpopular trend even among liberals. “And while ordinary Americans slowly move the culture back in the direction of living and letting live, the bubble in which the Left’s most hardcore authoritarians seek to insulate themselves is getting smaller and less populous — not just because they keep eating each other, but because moderate liberals increasingly want nothing to do with them.” [UnHerd]
Around the Web
🏥 Pushback: Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) called on the UK to allow 2-year-old Alta Fixlser to be transferred to Israel or the U.S. for further medical care after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last week in favor of the hospital seeking to take her off life support.
⏰ Time Out: Anti-sexual abuse attorney Roberta Kaplan resigned from her position as chair of Time’s Up following revelations that she had acted to discredit one of the women who accused New York Gov. Andew Cuomo of sexual harassment.
🎰 Cha-Ching: Michael Rubin’s Fanatics Inc. raised $325 million in a new round of funding valuing the online sports-merchandise retailer at $18 billion, as it eyes an expansion into online gambling.
🎥 Across the Pond: British actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, who left the Labour Party in 2016 over its failure to address antisemitism, discussed her personal experiences with antisemitism in a recent interview, revealing that a drama teacher once suggested she didn’t “look enough like Anne Frank” to play Jewish roles.
🏦 New Role: Bank of Israel Governor Jacob Frenkel was tapped by Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman for the top position on an economic council tasked with presenting long-term policy proposals.
🦠 High Alert: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated Israel to its highest threat tier, warning against travel to the country due to the latest surge in coronavirus cases.
📞 Phone a Friend: In his first call to a Western leader while in office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the stalled nuclear talks in Vienna.
🅱️ Plan B: The Biden administration is reportedly considering alternatives to reentering the Iran nuclear deal as the window for reaching a new agreement narrows, with talks in Vienna hitting an impasse and Iran scaling up its efforts at regional destabilization.
🕯️ Remembering: Marc Lieberman, an ophthalmologist who brought together Jewish and Buddhist communities, died at 72.
Pic of the Day
American basketball star Sue Bird receives her gold medal following Team USA’s defeat of Japan in the women’s basketball final on the closing day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Bird, who won her fifth Olympic gold medal, was among more than a dozen Jewish athletes to medal at the Summer Games.
Austrian journalist, writer and the current director of the Jewish Museum of Vienna, she was a founder of the German-language magazine Nu devoted to Jewish politics and culture, Danielle Spera turns 64…
CEO at Royal Health Services in Beverly Hills, Robert N. Feldman turns 77… Professor of biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shimon Schuldiner turns 75… Founder and principal of Clipper Equity, David Bistricer turns 72… Former governor of the South African Reserve Bank and the first woman to hold the position, Gill Marcus turns 72… Conservative rabbi who serves as president of the Interfaith Alliance, Rabbi Jack Moline turns 69… Co-leader of the securities litigation practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and co-president of NYC’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Joseph S. Allerhand turns 68… Certified registered nurse anesthetist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Edward Salkind turns 68…
Member of the California State Senate, Steven Mitchell Glazer turns 64… Rabbi in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem and a leader of the Shas party, Rabbi David Yosef turns 64… Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan’s 9th district since 2019, he succeeded his father, Sander Levin, to this seat, Andy Levin turns 61… Professor of physics and astronomy at Tel Aviv University, Yaron Oz turns 57… Former member of the Florida State Senate, Jeremy Ring turns 51… Chief military advocate general of the IDF, Sharon Afek turns 51… Regional chief technology officer in the South Texas office of Technologent, Jason P. Reyes turns 45… Senior development officer of the NYC-based Tikvah Fund, Eytan Sosnovich turns 38… Assistant director of social media at Penguin Random House, Sophie Vershbow turns 32… Lead market surveillance analyst at CME Group, Jacob Cohen turns 28…