👋 Good Wednesday morning!
President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House this afternoon.
Yesterday, Biden delivered a forceful defense of his recent decisions in Afghanistan. “This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries. We saw a mission of counterterrorism… morph into a counterinsurgency, nation building, trying to create a democratic, cohesive and united Afghanistan. Something that has never been done over many centuries of Afghan’s history. Moving on from that mind-set and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home,” Biden argued.
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the speech “a quintessentially American address directed at a domestic audience.” Miller added, “If US allies were looking for apologies and reassurance, they surely weren’t going to find it in Tuesday’s speech.”
Today, the House Armed Services Committee will conduct a marathon meeting, expected to stretch into Thursday morning, to amend and vote on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The defense spending bill includes $500 million in funding for Israeli missile-defense programs.
The markup and vote are happening against a backdrop of unease among moderate Democrats over the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The FBI recorded the highest number of hate crimes in 12 years in 2020, with Jews being the target of 57.5% of reported crimes motivated by religion. The statistic caught the attention of several celebrities on social media, including Amy Schumer and Mandy Moore.
behind the scenes
Inside the effort to extract one family from Afghanistan
Two weeks ago at the Arizona State Capitol, Alma Hernandez, a Democratic representative in Tucson, watched Gov. Doug Ducey sign her long-awaited Holocaust education bill into law. For Hernandez, who is Jewish, the legislation was an achievement of profound significance, but in the moment, her mind was elsewhere as chaos unfolded in Afghanistan. For the past few days, Hernandez had been in close and nearly constant communication with an Afghan family with whom she has long-standing personal ties — working, to no avail, in a desperate, around-the-clock effort to help them escape before an ill-fated U.S. withdrawal that would leave the country under Taliban control not seen since the early 2000s, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Watch and wait: As the last American soldiers emptied out of Afghanistan, the family Hernandez is assisting remained in hiding at a safehouse in the capital city of Kabul, just a mile from the airport, with no apparent possibility of immediate evacuation. Hernandez has not abandoned hope for the family of mine operators from the north-central province of Panjshir Valley, whom she has gotten to know well on their annual visits to attend the Tucson Gem Show. “They’re here so often because of the work that they do that they’ve just become like family to us, and it’s really sad to see that they’re needing this assistance and help now and there’s not much we can do,” Hernandez said in an interview with Jewish Insider on Tuesday evening. “There really haven’t been any instructions or directions on what to do now,” she said. “We’re not giving up on trying to get them to safety, of course, but we are definitely just waiting at this point.”
No game plan: “What is the plan?” she wondered aloud, sounding increasingly exasperated. “I know the president is saying we will do our best to take out our allies and those Americans who want to get out, but really, what is the plan to do that?” Her open-ended question underscores a broader sense of confusion over the Biden administration’s exit from Afghanistan, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers have, absent clear guidance from the White House, devised their own rescue strategies to save the stranded. “We certainly are not the only ones,” said Hernandez, who has publicly documented her humanitarian efforts on social media with the hope of reaching potential allies.
Bright spot: A glimmer of hope, Hernandez said, came recently, when two family members were able to board flights out of Afghanistan and have since arrived in the U.S. “The rest of the family was actually turned away,” she added. The remaining family members — including a sizable assemblage of siblings and their children as well as a family matriarch — has found only momentary refuge in a friend’s house following what Hernandez describes as a violent run-in with the Taliban in which one brother, who worked as a military contractor for several years, was stabbed, though not fatally. “The Taliban went into the home that they were in, so they moved, and they did tell them that they would be back,” Hernandez said. “They can’t be in the same spot for long. They’re not safe.”
A rising tide of cultural tolerance in the UAE as it approaches its 50th year
The rapprochement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, which has been some years in the making, signaled immediate changes in the Gulf nation: In the wake of last year’s historic Abraham Accords, Hebrew could suddenly be heard in shopping malls and hotels; men wearing yarmulkes were a frequent sight; and kosher food was on the menu at major commercial outlets as thousands of Israelis flocked to do business or simply vacation in the UAE. Over the last year, a picture has begun to emerge of a cultural exchange that could provide rich benefits for both nations, and be a different kind of normalization model than Israel’s “cold” peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, reports Rebecca Anne Proctor from Dubai for Jewish Insider.
‘Year of Tolerance’: Events over the last few years in the UAE indicate the warming of ties between Israel and the Gulf nation, as the Emirates prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of their unification and the country’s founding in 1971. The UAE declared 2019 the “Year of Tolerance,” with the aim of making itself a global capital for “tolerance, co-existence and cooperation.” In September 2019, Abu Dhabi announced it would be building a mammoth complex that will house a synagogue, a church and a mosque. Called the Abrahamic House, the interfaith center, which was designed by acclaimed architect Sir David Adjaye, will be located on Saadiyat Island near the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It is slated to open in 2022.
Fostering Bridges: An example of this new cultural exchange is the Dubai-based Moroccan artist and jewelry designer Chama Mechtaly, who is fostering aesthetic bridges between Jews and Muslims. Through her visual art and jewelry design she seeks to shine a light on Morocco’s unique Jewish history and connection with Andalusia, where for several hundred years during the Middle Ages, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in religious harmony. Her brand Moors & Saints, headquartered in Dubai Design District, is a fine jewelry startup offering products inspired by Moorish design and architecture. It is artwork with coexistence in mind. Her collections reference a spectrum of multi-religious heritage sites, including the Alhambra in Granada, the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba and the Al Qarawiyyin University in Fez.
Business for All: Another collaboration that has come into fruition post-normalization is the Gulf-Israel Women’s Forum, co-founded by three women: Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, entrepreneur Justine Zwerling and PR strategist Ariella Steinreich. Established as the first association bringing together female leaders from across the Middle East, under the auspices of the UAE-Israel Business Council, the forum currently has over 100 leaders from a variety of professional fields and helps foster personal and professional connections that embrace our shared values. “What started as a small organic movement has now grown to include women from non-Abraham Accords countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt,” said Steinreich.
‘We Remember’: In June, “We Remember,” an exhibition about the victims of the Holocaust, opened at Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, an institution located in the historic Shindagha district of Bur Dubai. It marked the first exhibition on the Holocaust in the Gulf. A section of the exhibition was dedicated to Muslims who rescued Jews during WWII. Ahmed Obaid Almansoori, the Emirati founder of the museum, worked with Yael Grafy, originally from Israel and the museum’s new chief operating officer, to convey the horrors of the Holocaust.
📋 Puritan Shock: In The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum examines how strict and ever-changing social codes have come to define our culture, much like in Puritan society. “Right here in America, right now, it is possible to meet people who have lost everything—jobs, money, friends, colleagues—after violating no laws, and sometimes no workplace rules either. Instead, they have broken (or are accused of having broken) social codes having to do with race, sex, personal behavior, or even acceptable humor, which may not have existed five years ago or maybe five months ago. Some have made egregious errors of judgment. Some have done nothing at all. It is not always easy to tell.” [Atlantic]
⚖️ Political Plea: In the Los Angeles Times, Max Kennedy, son of Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was killed in 1968 by Palestinian militant Sirhan Sirhan, implores California Gov. Gavin Newsom to deny Sirhan’s release after a state board granted him parole last month. “Police, immigrants, truck drivers, farmworkers, factory workers, the young and the elderly all came together in June 1968 to stand along the tracks of my father’s funeral train. Even then, our country showed signs of fragmenting along political lines, in the way that has become so familiar in 2021. But I have always believed that my father could have bridged that divide and helped us heal our wounds. Much of that was destroyed by the violent acts of a single deranged anti-Israeli terrorist. Because of Sirhan we never got to live out that better history. He killed my father for supporting Israel and the mere thought of Sirhan returning to Palestine, where he may be cheered for his crime, is sickening.” [LATimes]
📝 Decade’s Demographics: John B. Judis argues in the Wall Street Journal that conclusions about the U.S.’s shrinking white population are overstated and census data about race and ethnicity is flawed. The reason, he claims, is because of the introduction of new racial and ethnic categories on the 2020 census and ambiguities about people’s identity. “That sorry fact is obscured by the census’s diversity indexes and by the use of terms like ‘people of color’ or ‘nonwhite,’ which suggest a commonality between African-Americans living in poverty in Chicago’s South Side and the Indian-American CEOs of Microsoft and Alphabet. The census may help with reapportionment and redistricting, but it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of America and its politics.” [WSJ]
🌴 Sunny Side Up: Tablet’s Armin Rosen decamps to South Florida, where he meets members of the region’s newest diaspora community: disaffected New Yorkers and Californians looking for a new start in a state with fewer COVID-related restrictions. “Because its rise is a mirror to and consequence of New York’s and California’s decline, Miami is proof of how bright the future might be even in a divided and dysfunctional America. Even in its flashiness and general lack of self-awareness, Miami exhibits a potential for national-scale self-correction, and for the possibility of scorned and overlooked segments of the country acting as a check on America’s self-destructive excesses.” [TabletMag]
Around the Web
🤝 On the Ground: Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) arrived in Beirut for meetings on how to address Lebanon’s parallel economic and political crises. They’re also scheduled to travel to Israel “to build bridges with the new Israeli coalition government,” Murphy said in a tweet.
🗳️ Eye on Iowa: Former President Donald Trump is planning a rally in Iowa weeks after he hired two political operatives in the state, fueling speculation that he is considering another bid for the presidency in 2024.
⛔ Access Denied: Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corp shareholders rejected an attempt by Sam Zell to buy the company for $2.8 billion.
☎️ Call Security: Dozens of State Department employees sent a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken calling on him to fire a foreign service officer who has maintained a website where he posts antisemitic content for at least four years.
🧑⚖️ Law and Order: Federal authorities will not push for the death penalty for John Earnest, who pled guilty to committing a mass shooting at the Chabad of Poway in Southern California in 2019.
🎓 Heard Yesterday: Harvard University President Larry Bacow welcomed the college’s Class of 2025 by quoting the rabbinic sage Ben Zoma, and urged students to aspire to the Talmudic definitions of wisdom, courage, and wealth.
🦠 New Numbers: Israel recorded a spike in COVID-19 cases, reporting a record high of 10,947 new cases on Monday, as the country pushes to administer booster vaccines to drive down cases. Officials expect infection numbers to rise further as the new school year begins today.
📰 Fake News: Iranian media and Israeli politicians found surprising common ground as they both spread a misleading video of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden that purportedly depicted Biden dozing off during the bilateral summit.
🖥️ Safe Software: Check Point Software acquired Israeli-based firm Avanan, which manufactures cybersecurity software to protect emails.
🎣 Easing Restrictions: Israel announced Wednesday that it will expand the fishing zone in the Gaza Strip, increase its water supply to the enclave and reopen the Kerem Shalom Crossing. This comes despite recent tensions along the border. Measures were tightened after the May flare-up of violence between Israel and Gaza.
👨 Transition: Dan Granot, previously the assistant director for policy and government affairs at AIPAC, is joining the Anti-Defamation League as director of government relations, antisemitism and international affairs.
📸 Fighting for Visibility: Israeli activists, working through the new Jewish Life Photo Bank project, are working to change the ongoing censorship of women in religious society.
Pic of the Day
White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman addressed over 100 students from George Washington University, American University, Georgetown and George Mason University, who sailed the Potomac at sunset on Tuesday on the Chabad Jewish Students Cruise. The event was sponsored by Chabad of George Washington University.
White House press secretary during the first two years of the Clinton administration, Dee Dee Myers turns 60…
Retired Harvard Law School professor and constitutional scholar, Alan Dershowitz turns 83… Conductor, author and composer, Leonard Slatkin turns 77… Israeli rock singer, lyricist and composer, he is often referred to as “The King of Israeli Rock,” Shalom Hanoch turns 75… Author and the matriarch of a literary family, Esther Safran Foer turns 75… Linda Feldman… Director of donor travel programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Nadia Ficara… Former member and speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, the first Jewish House speaker in Texas, Joe Straus turns 62… Executive director of Detroit’s JCRC/AJC and rabbi of Kehillat Etz Chayim, Asher Lopatin turns 57… Former clinical sciences group lead in the global product development group at Pfizer, Malca Resnick… Associate professor of religious studies at Stanford specializing in Talmudic literature, Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert… SVP of public affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, Elana Broitman… Capitol Hill producer for C-SPAN, Craig Caplan… Director of national outreach for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, Harris Vederman turns 51… Fashion designer, businesswoman and writer, Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig turns 50… Novelist and playwright, son of two best-selling authors, Jesse Oren Kellerman turns 43… Video producer at MSNBC, Amitai Perline turns 36… Samuel Asher Salkin turns 35… General manager of Bloomberg Green, Lauren Kiel turns 32… Spokesperson and consul for media affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York, Itay Milner… Director of stakeholder relations at the Jewish Federations of North America, Shauna Ruda…
Birthweek: Attorney and a member of the boards of UJA-Federation of NY, JCRC-NY and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Joseph Rafalowicz turned 75 on Tuesday…