👋 Good Monday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said on Monday that Iran was behind an apparent assassination attempt on Israeli businessman Teddy Sagi in Cyprus last week. “In contrast to some information published last night regarding the incident in Cyprus, I would like to clarify, on behalf of the security forces, that this was a terrorist incident directed by Iran against Israeli businessmen living in Cyprus,” a spokesperson said in the statement.
Sagi, an Israeli billionaire who now lives in Cyprus, was apparently saved at the last minute from an assassination plot several days ago, Israeli media reported Sunday. Sagi, who is well-known in Israel, founded the gambling software company Playtech and owns Camden Market in London.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is expected to bring a unanimous consent request for the House’s $1 billion Iron Dome funding bill to the Senate floor today — the request aims to pass the bill without a full Senate floor vote.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has demanded an amendment to pay for the funding by reallocating aid to Afghanistan, has not indicated plans to lift his objection to the unanimous consent request, which would trigger the Senate to vote on the legislation.
The Jewish Federations of North America held its virtual Global Assembly on Sunday. Speaking via webcast, Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned of the threat of a rift between Israel and North American Jewry, calling for solidarity and mutual respect. “I cannot imagine a world in which the two epic centers of Judaism function in solitude and disconnect, without working to build bridges back to each other,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said, “I feel like all of us in public life have an obligation to speak out forcefully against extremism, no matter what form it takes, and I worry about the phenomenon that I call the Jeremy Corbynization of politics in America.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, in a pre-recorded address, spoke about the importance and increasing urgency of action in the face of increasing antisemitism. “The ancient evil of antisemitism is on the rise. I encountered this sad reality at the United Nations — hateful governments like Iran didn’t even bother to hide their hostility toward Jews. I heard it in their words, I saw it in their deeds. Other countries were more subtle. They didn’t go after the Jewish people; instead they went after the Jewish state.”
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indefinitely postponed a vote on the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill on Friday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), the lead negotiator for centrist Democrats, called the move “deeply regrettable” and blasted a “small far-left faction” he accused of using “Freedom Caucus tactics” for blocking the bill.
Pompeo calls reopening Jerusalem consulate ‘illegal’
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Biden administration’s intended reopening of the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem is “illegal,” telling co-hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein in an upcoming episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” that President Joe Biden lacks the legal authority to reopen the consulate, which handles Palestinian affairs, given the existing embassy’s presence.“I think it’s illegal,” Pompeo said. “We don’t have consulates in the same city we have embassies anywhere in the world.”
Background: The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem was closed in 2018 following the decision by the Trump administration to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. At the time, Pompeo announced that Palestinian relations would be handled by a special affairs unit within the embassy. In May, Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced the State Department would reopen a Jerusalem consulate. Asked if a future Republican president would reverse such an opening, Pompeo, considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate, called the issue non-partisan. “I think every president needs to commit to it.”
Wrong signal: “It’s unnecessary and counterproductive, and I think, frankly, sends the wrong signal to the Palestinians as well,” the former secretary of state continued. “It signals to them [that it’s] back to business as usual, back to the kleptocracy, and ‘pay to slay’ and all the horrors that the Palestinian leadership and the West Bank [has] imposed on its own people as well,” he said, invoking a term used for the Palestinian Authority’s payments to families of individuals who commit terror attacks against Israelis.
Read more here.
The full interview with Pompeo will be available on Tuesday.
Bonus: Pompeo will travel to Israel next week to inaugurate former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s new peace institute, The Friedman Center for Peace through Strength, and also to participate in the Jerusalem Post’s 10th annual Diplomatic Conference. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will also be at both events.
day in court
Supreme Court takes up Nazi-looted art case in new term
The Supreme Court is once again delving into the legal complexities surrounding Nazi-looted art in a new case — its third in the past two terms — hinging on whether state or federal law should be applied, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Backstory: The Court announced last Thursday that it would take up the case of Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation. The case, which began in 2005, involves a painting by Jewish French Impressionist Camille Pissarro that was looted by the Nazis in 1939. The piece now resides in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a state-owned museum in Madrid, Spain. Spain has refused to return the artwork to the descendants of its pre-Holocaust owner.
State or federal: Federal district and circuit courts in California have ruled in favor of the museum. The Cassirer family’s attorneys, led by legal heavyweight David Boies, argue in a brief that, under California law, the Spanish museum could never acquire legal possession of the stolen artwork. Under Spanish law, however, the museum has gained a legal right to the stolen work by holding possession of it for a sufficient length of time.
The right thing: “The painting was indisputably owned by the Cassirer family and indisputably stolen by the Nazis in 1939. And now you have a democratic ally of the United States refusing to honor its international commitments and do the obvious thing, which is to return the painting to the family,” Sam Dubbin, another lawyer representing the Cassirer family who is experienced in Holocaust restitution issues, told Jewish Insider. “We’re gratified that the Supreme Court is taking up the case.”
Flip side: In a statement, Nixon Peabody, the firm representing the art museum, argued that even if the Supreme Court decides that state law should apply, the ultimate outcome will be the same. “At the conclusion of the case, regardless of which choice-of-law test is applied, the Foundation anticipates that its ownership of the painting — already recognized by the district court and the Ninth Circuit — will be affirmed,” the statement read.
end of an era
‘My life is not in threat anymore,’ Afghanistan’s last Jew says after leaving country
Zebulon Simentov, until recently the last Jewish resident of Afghanistan, has been living in migratory limbo since he fled the Taliban early last month, finding refuge in an undisclosed neighboring country as he awaits instruction from his handlers. Despite some uncertainty about his future, Simentov sounded relatively sanguine in a phone conversation with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Friday, three weeks after vacating the ramshackle synagogue in Kabul he called home for decades. “My life is not in threat anymore,” he said in Persian through an interpreter. “I feel a little bit safer than when I was in Afghanistan.”
Big Apple or bust: Speaking from a safe house, where he is now in hiding, Simentov said his “final plan” is to settle in New York. “Everything is exciting in New York — the cars, the whiskey, the people,” he said. “Everything.” A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed to JI that his office is working on Simentov’s case. But for the moment, it seems more likely that Simentov will end up in Israel, according to Moti Kahana, the American-Israeli businessman who orchestrated the evacuation. “He would like to make it to New York tomorrow,” Kahana said. “But it’s not going to happen.”
Israel via Dubai: Kahana said he had spoken with Simentov late last week and advised him to go to Israel, where Simentov’s sister as well as his ex-wife and children live. He is currently preparing for Simentov’s departure to the Israeli embassy in Dubai, where officials are expecting him, likely within the next week or so. Kahana estimates that Simentov will be required to wait for just a few days while his papers are processed, and then make his way to Israel. There, he can apply for an Israeli passport after 90 days.
‘Real tragedy’: During his time in Kabul, many journalists paid visits to Simentov’s synagogue residence, revealing tidbits about his eccentric existence. He watched TV on Shabbat, kept a pet partridge and slaughtered chickens in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Somewhat infamously, he was once imprisoned by the Taliban for bickering excessively with another fellow Jew. Such details have imbued Simentov’s plight with a vaguely screwball quality, even if they obscure a gloomier story. “It’s kind of tragic and sad,” said Sara Koplik, the author of a book about Afghanistan’s Jewish history. “There’s real tragedy.”
One-way ticket: Simentov said he had no run-ins with the Taliban before he left Afghanistan last month, but he looked back on their previous reign with a sense of despondence. “During the Taliban it was a bitter life,” he said, particularly for women. He has no plans to return to Afghanistan, nor does he envision any Jews settling in the country again after so many years of turmoil. “Never, never,” he told JI. “I don’t think that any Jews want to go there and to live there. I don’t think so. It’s probably over.”
Read the full story here.
Bonus: Author Dara Horn, whose recent book People Love Dead Jews explores antisemitism around the world, writes in The New York Times about what happens when entire Jewish populations leave — or are forced out — of countries. “Nostalgic stories about Last Jews mask a much larger and darker reality about societies that were once ethnic and religious mosaics, but are now home to almost no one but Arab Muslims, Lithuanian Catholics or Han Chinese. It costs little to wax nostalgic about departed Jews when one lives in a place where diversity, rather than being a living human challenge, is a fairy tale from the past.”
A love letter to Squirrel Hill, a Jewish community that was extraordinary
In the year after 11 Jews were gunned down during a Saturday morning Shabbat prayer service in Pittsburgh’s tight-knit Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Tablet’s Mark Oppenheimer traveled to Pittsburgh 32 times. He came armed only with pen, paper and a tape recorder. The result is his new book, Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood, which chronicles how individuals in Squirrel Hill reacted, adapted, mourned and carried on in that first year, culminating in a portrait of a community whose “special qualities did make it uniquely resilient in the aftermath of a mass killing,” Oppenheimer told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Quintessentially American: The book, in stores on Wednesday, is not meant to be a chronicle of the attack that occurred nearly three years ago. It’s a history and an ethnography of what Oppenheimer believes is a quintessentially American neighborhood. “I think that anyone who’s interested in how cities have become vital hubs for immigrants and for people who want a piece of the American dream will really appreciate what Squirrel Hill has to offer,” Oppenheimer argued.
Coming together: Pittsburgh has “a long history of being a pretty tolerant place,” said Oppenheimer. “What you saw in the aftermath of the Tree of Life shooting was a lot of people stepping forward as fellow citizens to reassure us that they are part of that fabric.” In the days after the attack, members of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh raised more than $70,000 for the synagogue, and local Muslims helped distribute the money for funeral expenses and medical bills.
🗳️ Ideological Battles: In Vanity Fair, Ken Stern looks at the 2022 Senate races in purple and red-leaning states, where the splintering of the Republican Party over former President Donald Trump could provide an avenue for centrist Democrats to emerge victorious next November, if surprise successes by the left flank of the party don’t upend those states’ primaries. “The emergence of [Tim] Ryan [in Ohio], [Conor] Lamb [in Pennsylvania], and [Mandela] Barnes [in Wisconsin] as early front-runners begs the question: Whither the progressives? So far, the left wing of the Democratic party seems to have struggled to put forward effective challengers… A lot can happen between now and the primaries next year, especially in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the fields are deep and diverse, and where progressives likely represent a high percentage of the primary turnout.” [VanityFair]
💰 Money and Politics: In the Sydney Morning Herald, Charlotte Grieve delves into the legal dispute between Alex Turnbull, the son of former Australian Prime Mminister Malcolm Turnbull, and Russel Pillemer, chief executive of Sydney investment firm Pengana. Grieve explores how their close and mutually beneficial relationship went sour. “Pillemer helped grow Turnbull’s political base within Wentworth’s influential South African Jewish community, and went to great lengths to shield the family’s sensitive business dealings from public view. While Turnbull invited the Pillemers to long lunches, allowing them to rub shoulders with some of the world’s most powerful figures. The families are now no longer on speaking terms, after Alex Turnbull launched legal proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court alleging Pillemer engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by withholding crucial information about the potential for Pengana to list on the ASX.” [SMH]
🛑 Violent crime: The New York Times’s Isabel Kershner examines the dramatic rise in violent crime in Israel’s Arab sector. “The killings — not by Israeli soldiers but by Arab criminals — account for about 70 percent of all Israeli homicides, though Arabs represent just over 20 percent of the population. The surging violence has shocked the country and put a spotlight on what the government acknowledges to have been decades of neglect of crime in Arab communities… The spike in killings has spawned an ‘Arab Lives Matter’ campaign. But unlike the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, Arab leaders are begging for police action.” [NYTimes]
🚢 Awaiting Disaster: An oil tanker positioned off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea since 1987 is precariously close to disaster, threatening the lives of thousands of Yemenis who are already struggling amid the country’s civil war, Ed Caesar writes in The New Yorker. “A fire or an explosion on the Safer could pollute the air for up to eight million Yemenis, and would complicate the delivery of foreign aid to the western coast. A spill would be even more calamitous. Yemen’s Red Sea fishing industry has already been ravaged by the war. An oil slick would knock it out entirely. A big spill would also block the port of Hodeidah, which is some thirty miles southeast of the tanker. Two-thirds of Yemen’s food arrives through the port. In every projection presented to the U.K. government, Hodeidah remained closed for weeks; in the worst case, it did not reopen for six months.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🎙️ Allies: Former congressional candidate Nina Turner interviewed former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn on an episode of The Young Turks’s “The Conversation.”
🎤 Comic critique: Comedian Sarah Silverman leveled criticism at “the Squad,” over their attempts to block funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, in a podcast released on Thursday.
🔙 Backtrack: The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, apologized for comments he made recently that “borrowing” the image of a yellow Star of David to protest mask mandates “is actually a credit” to the Jewish community. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke from the Senate floor on Friday, criticizing anti-vaccine demonstrators who draw parallels between vaccine mandates and the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.
⚖️ Behind Bars: Federal prosecutors in Virginia are asking a judge to sentence two members of a white supremacist group as domestic terrorists, after they pleaded guilty to numerous charges and reportedly formulated plans to assassinate the Jewish speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates.
🙇🏽♂️ I’m Sorry: A New Hampshire state legislator apologized for posting an antisemitic meme on Parler, following a written admonishment by the chamber’s Ethics Committee.
👉 Across the Pond: Bristol University fired David Miller after the professor was accused of including antisemitic content in his classroom lectures.
⚽ Bad Game: Israeli soccer fans attending a match at Berlin’s Olympic stadium were subject to antisemitic attacks and threats during a game between FC Union and Maccabi Haifa.
📖 Biblical Business: Bloomberg spotlights Charlie Munger’s profitable investment in suburban apartments, tracing his big bet to a friendship the billionaire stuck up with Afton Properties co-founder Avi Mayer, then a teenager, who gave Munger a Hebrew-language Bible.
🍲 Caring Cook: Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, chef David Teyf has been delivering meals to Holocaust survivors for Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, the Bronx Times reports.
👨🏻⚖️ Attorney Watch: Alan Dershowitz is teaming up with an attorney who supported efforts to overturn the 2020 election in a lawsuit against Dominion Voting Systems, alleging Dominion sought to suppress free speech of those who sought election audits.
🌊 New energy: Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s energy envoy, will serve as the new mediator between Lebanon and Israel in a dispute over the countries maritime border and natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Axios reported.
🌍 Farewell trip: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to visit Israel on Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed. Merkel will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and participate in a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
🤝 Joint Effort: Israel and Morocco will soon ink a deal that will see the two countries, which normalized relations last year, co-produce kamikaze drones.
🛫 First flight: Egyptair launched its Tel Aviv-Cairo route on Sunday, the first time the Egyptian national carrier will fly openly to Israel.
✈️ Boston↔️Tel Aviv: Delta Air Lines Inc, will add direct flights from Boston to Tel Aviv and Athens in May, the airline said on Sunday.
🚫 Bad Actor: Politico reports that Iran’s behavior since the inauguration of a new hard-line regime has “fueled worries in diplomatic circles” over the feasibility of reaching a new agreement over its nuclear program.
💲 Diplomatic Hurdles: Iran is insisting that the U.S. unfreeze $10 billion in Iranian funds as a sign of goodwill before returning to nuclear talks in Vienna.
💉 Vaccination Nation: Israel updated its coronavirus rules and now requires individuals to receive a third COVID-19 booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated.
🤝 Ramallah visit: Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and other members of the Meretz party met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday night.
🕯️ Remembering: David Komansky, who served as Merrill Lynch Global’s chief for six years, died at 82.
Pic of the Day
The entrance to the Israeli Embassy in Manama, Bahrain. The embassy, Israel’s first in the kingdom, was officially opened by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid last week.
Actress Alicia Silverstone turns 45…
Youngest member ever elected to the Los Angeles City Council, she served as chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Rosalind Wiener “Roz” Wyman turns 91… Former lieutenant governor of Maryland following 20 years in the Maryland Senate, Melvin A. “Mickey” Steinberg turns 88… Senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, his father served as a rabbi in Brooklyn for 35 years, Judge Robert David Sack turns 82… Recent executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, Norman Pearlstine turns 79… Publisher of lifestyle magazines including Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado, Marvin R. Shanken turns 78… La Jolla resident, Adam M. Curtis turns 77… Chairman of the executive committee at the University of Haifa, he was an Israeli peace negotiator under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weissglass turns 75… Actor and past president of the Screen Actors Guild, Alan Rosenberg turns 71… President of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Steven Rakitt turns 66… Former VP of government relations for the National Congress of American Indians, Nathan Steven Bergerbest turns 64… Director of the Israeli Government Press Office, Nitzan Chen turns 58… Canadian businessman, Aubrey Dan turns 58… Actor and director, Liev Schreiber turns 54… Meteorologist at New York City’s WABC-TV, Lee Goldberg turns 49… Former MLB pitcher, he is now the director of international scouting for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization, Ryan Sadowski turns 39… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Ron Katz turns 36… Senior director of executive programs at Leading Edge HQ, Sara Stesis Singla turns 35… Policy and legislative analyst at AIPAC, Gefen G. Kabik turns 26…