👋 Good Monday morning!
The U.S. State Department strongly condemned a Hamas terrorist attack that killed one Israeli and wounded four others in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday morning. “We offer our condolences to the victims and their families,” said a statement issued by department spokesperson Ned Price.
The Israeli killed was identified as South African immigrant Eliyahu David Kay, 26, who worked as a tour guide for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Police identified the terrorist as a Hamas member from East Jerusalem. He was shot dead by police officers at the scene. This was the second attack in the Old City within a week.
Later Sunday, a Palestinian man from Jenin, in the West Bank, stabbed a man, 67, in Jaffa, moderately wounding him. Police arrested the 18-year-old suspect.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday, “I have directed the security forces to prepare accordingly and be alert, also over concern for copycat attacks. We need to be on heightened alert and prevent future attacks.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with the Prince of Wales at his private residence today as part of an official visit to the U.K. Yesterday Herzog visited the Chelsea Football Club’s “49 Flames: Jewish Athletes and the Holocaust” exhibition at Stamford Bridge, the club’s stadium, where he met club owner Roman Abramovich, club chairman Bruce Buck, artist Solomon Souza and Holocaust survivor and former weightlifting champion Sir Ben Helfgott, who celebrated his 92nd birthday during the event.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick says she’ll speak up for Israel in Congress
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Democrat who prevailed by just five votes in South Florida’s recent special congressional primary, emphasized her continued support for Israel in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. The 41-year-old healthcare executive said she met with AIPAC on Thursday in Washington, D.C. “We were able to have a long conversation, break down everything, understand what policies are there, and where everything is right now,” she told JI. Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, she said, was one major topic of discussion. (AIPAC declined to comment.)
Iron Dome: The defense funding was a high-profile issue in Cherfilus-McCormick’s race, where 11 candidates vied to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), a staunch pro-Israel advocate who died in April. Only one candidate, state Rep. Omari Hardy, opposed the recent legislation that would give Israel $1 billion in supplemental aid for the Iron Dome system. Cherfilus-McCormick, for her part, made clear — as did most other candidates in the race — that she would have voted in favor of the funding.
Her approach: Cherfilus-McCormick, who advocates for such progressive policies as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, suggested she would continue to speak up in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship, even as her Middle East foreign policy views put her at odds with some otherwise like-minded progressive lawmakers in the House. “I don’t think there should be tension because I think that we can have commonality in certain positions and policies but not have to be identical, and that’s necessary, especially, when you look at my district and who I represent,” she told JI. “I represent the people, and not necessarily someone else’s ideas.”
Strengthening alliances: Cherfilus-McCormick is all but assured a seat in Congress after the Jan. 11 general election in Florida’s heavily Democratic 20th Congressional District. The CEO of Trinity Home Healthcare poured millions of dollars of her own money into the race — her third bid for the seat. She will be the first Haitian-American Democrat in Congress if she is elected. “From the beginning, I always said that I believe that the Jewish community and the Black community are intimately tied,” she told JI, “and part of us moving forward is having our alliances.” She plans to visit Israel in February with a delegation of freshman Democratic House members sponsored by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation.
Jonathan Schanzer joins ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
With the aftereffects still being felt from the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in May, Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, joins Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” to discuss his new book, Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War, in which he argues that the Biden administration’s initial support of the Palestinian Authority election in April indirectly sparked the conflict.
Early start: “My view is that the war was probably put in motion a month before the conflict erupted. And that stemmed from a decision — an ill-fated decision — by the Biden administration when they first came in to accept the decision of the Palestinians to hold elections in April… Hamas was slated to take part in those elections. It would have undoubtedly led to a disastrous consequence had Hamas actually been able to take part because it would have meant that Hamas was going to hold seats in the parliament and take part in whatever the next government would look like. And that would trigger laws that would defund the Palestinian Authority here in the United States… In April, the U.S. prevailed upon the Palestinians to cancel the elections. But that left Hamas feeling pretty raw, left out of the political arena, and looking for a way to make themselves relevant again. And there is no better way for Hamas to make itself relevant than by waging war against Israel.”
Indirect result: “I’m not saying that they caused it directly; what I would say is that they made a disastrous decision. And I actually remember talking to a relatively senior Biden administration official when they made the call that they were going to move forward with these elections initially. And I asked, I said, ‘You know, don’t you think that it’s a bad idea that Hamas is taking part, given that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization here in the United States?’ And the response that I got was, ‘Well, far be it from us, after the disastrous events of January 6, for us to tell anyone who can take part in an election, what democracy should look like, how it should operate.’”
The chameleon: “Hamas is many things to many people or many regimes. It is one of Iran’s most important proxies based in the Gaza Strip. It is also a proxy of Turkey. It’s a proxy of Qatar. It’s even maybe, to some extent, a proxy of Malaysia, which gets very little attention. But I would argue that the group has really benefited over the last several decades from the largesse of Iran, and it has become a tool of Iran, even as its leaders maintain some semblance of independence from its paymasters in Tehran.”
Lightning round: Favorite Yiddish phrase? “It’s a phrase that I heard from my grandparents when they were mad at at people they would say ‘Gay kaken ofn yahm!’ One of my all-time favorites.” Favorite Arabic word? “I probably shouldn’t say this on your podcast, but I had an Egyptian friend that taught me five different words for fart. Which I have to say was really shocking to me.” Most memorable Middle Eastern dish? “It’s an Iraqi fish called masgouf. I think it comes out of the Euphrates River. It’s like a carp. And it’s a freshwater fish, very light, very flaky and when it is served with the rest of the Iraqi trappings, it’s tremendous. I had it, actually, in the town of Hilah, in central Iraq, in 2004. And it was incredibly memorable and then just had it again very recently, in Riyadh, and it lived up to expectations.”
Republican state AGs strategize around potential reentry to Iran nuclear deal
A group of Republican attorneys general and staffers from 11 states met in Washington, D.C., in early November to discuss strategies for keeping pressure on Iran if the Biden administration reenters the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or eases sanctions against the Islamic regime, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Come together: A panel of experts — Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (who also co-hosts Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast”); Jonathan Missner, a partner at the law firm of Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner and board chair of Pro-Israel America; and Avi Jorisch, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council — addressed a group organized by the Republican Attorneys General Association with suggestions for steps that the state officials can take to counter Iran, especially in its efforts to fund terrorist activities. The gathering took place on the sidelines of a Federalist Society conference.
Follow the money: Goldberg said he laid out a number of ways that states and state AGs can deter in-state businesses from doing business with Iran. He proposed modernizing state pension laws to block investment in any business with ties to a number of Iranian financial, energy and construction sectors, in line with current U.S. sanctions. Current state pension laws addressing Iran are largely outdated, he explained. Goldberg also recommended that AGs warn financial institutions in their states against any association with banks that transact with Iran’s financial sector.
Reinforcements: Missner told JI that he focused on the role that AGs can play in supporting victims of Iranian terrorism who are suing the regime under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) — an issue with which his law firm has long been involved. Missner said he offered to help connect AGs with Gold Star families who have been the victims of Iranian terrorism, and urged the AGs in attendance to “[push] back hard” against any attempts to rescind the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ designation as a terrorist organization, which he said could make JASTA suits more difficult.
Moving forward: “I think there’s going to be a lot of follow-up conversations and discussion and coordination with attorneys general across the country,” Goldberg said. “This is a big opportunity for attorneys general to send a message to President Biden that Republican attorneys general will do everything within their power to prevent Iran from gaining access to the banking sector and to resources that can fund terrorism, no matter what Biden does on the nuclear agreement.”
Deborah Lipstadt says she’s not driven by partisanship amid Senate delay
Amid delays to her confirmation as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt said on Sunday that she does not approach her work combating antisemitism from a partisan perspective, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Envoys abound: Lipstadt was speaking at a virtual event organized by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a Holocaust memorial museum in Lower Manhattan, alongside Ira Forman, who served as the special envoy during the Obama administration. Her confirmation process for the special envoy post is being slow-tracked by Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concerned about her past tweets, particularly those about members of the committee.
Balls and strikes: “Someone once asked me, ‘Do you fight antisemitism on the right or the left?’ I said, ‘I am like an umpire. I am like what Chief Justice John Roberts believes Supreme Court justices should be,’” Lipstadt said. “I call balls and strikes as I see them. Then I throw up my umpire’s uniform and I become a fighter. I’m on the offensive when people are acting in a certain way and I’m going to defend those who are being attacked.”
Intent vs. content: “I don’t know what’s in someone’s heart. That’s between them and their cardiologist… But I don’t care. If a person acts in an antisemitic fashion, I’m going to call that out. I rarely call someone an anti-Semite — I have — but I rarely do,” Lipstadt added. “Very frequently, I’ll say that person expressed antisemitism or engaged in antisemitism.”
Making distinctions: Also during the event, Forman addressed the nine members of the House who voted against $1 billion in supplemental aid for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. “I think the vote against it was stupid, I think it was unknowing, it was a false premise, it was a double standard. And it can be criticized on other terms. So I think we have to be careful not to overuse [antisemitism].”
🗽 Scaling Up: The New York Times’s Ginia Bellafante looks at the efforts of Pershing Square founder and CEO Bill Ackman to build on the roof of his historic Manhattan residence, and examines how efforts similar to Ackman’s could impact the future of New York City. “Many testimonies that called on commissioners to reject Mr. Ackman’s plans were based on the fear of precedent this project might set, which itself stems from the feeling that the selfishly rich have inflicted so many traumas already. Even on the outlying chance that you could concede that the thing itself was unobjectionable — stunning, even — what would prevent the landmarks committee, as one speaker remarked, from someday allowing Elon Musk to build whatever he wanted, say, on top of the Dakota?” [NYTimes]
✡️ Community Outreach: The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Lovett spotlights a new program in Germany — created amid a backdrop of rising antisemitism — designed to introduce non-Jewish segments of society to the country’s Jewish community. “The goal is to help fill what many Jews here see as a gap in Germany’s remembrance: While German schools teach extensively about the Holocaust, Jews today say they are still not fully accepted into German society. Many say this kind of remembrance, very much focused on the past, does little to address their current concerns. ‘Germans are very willing to put this very heavy weight on their shoulders, like, “We have this dark stain in our history,”’ said Ms. Kisilis, 27 years old. ‘But everything about Jews is centered on that, instead of addressing problems for Jews today.’” [WSJ]
💸 Betting and Blessings: In the Wall Street Journal, Matt Litz looks at the success of part-time poker player Gershon Distenfeld, the co-head of AllianceBernstein’s fixed-income investing unit, who has used some of his winnings to support philanthropic endeavors in the Jewish community. “He is a Modern Orthodox Jew who is playing at the highest level of the game despite picking it up just a few years ago. The 45-year-old Mr. Distenfeld made it to the final table of the World Series of Poker main event in 2020 and last month won a coveted golden bracelet in another World Series event… He also refuses to play against friends in private games citing ethical reasons, donates all of his takings to charity and has launched a campaign urging all winners at the World Series to give away at least 1% of what they make.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🖼️ Joining forces: The American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, Bet Tzedek, the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA and Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights joined amicus briefs in a Nazi-looted art case in the Supreme Court, in support of the Jewish family members trying to recover the art.
⚖️ Legal Lesson: The New York Times Magazine looks at how progressive Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s efforts to reshape the office have produced controversial results, both among staff and in the community.
👨 Free Man: Michael Cohen, a former attorney for former President Donald Trump, completed his three-year sentence — which he has been serving from home since May 2020 — for fraud and campaign finance violations.
🤝 Presidential Problems: In the Wall Street Journal, Tevi Troy opines that, in light of reported tensions between President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, their teams should look to how past presidents and vice presidents have conducted their relationships to achieve political success.
🛑 No To Hate: Damian Williams, the newly installed U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, announced the formation of a new civil rights unit in the office’s criminal division, citing worrying trends about the rise of hate crimes, including antisemitic incidents.
🇺🇸 On Defense: In Bahrain over the weekend, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin fielded concerns from Arab allies frustrated over U.S. policy in the Mideast being upended with each new presidential administration.
👍 Venture Forward: Israeli venture firm OurCrowd received a license to operate in the United Arab Emirates, becoming the first-ever Israeli venture capital firm to obtain Abu Dhabi Global Market licensed status.
🎩 Hats Off: Media mogul Bryan Goldberg purchased a hat once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte for $1.4 million.
📘 Never Again: The Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act included in the North Carolina budget defines antisemitism and sets guidelines for Holocaust education.
🎭 Pause for Thought: In The Sunday Times, Kate Maltby investigates the Royal Court Theatre’s “antsemitic blind spot,” after it apologized for giving a character of a greedy billionaire with a large nose the Jewish name Hershel Fink.
👩⚖️ Repeat Offender: A right-wing provocateur known as “Baked Alaska,” already charged for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, is facing new charges for defacing a Hanukkah display at Arizona’s state capitol.
👮 Bad Look: The president of Colombia apologized for a recent incident in which police cadets appeared in Nazi uniforms and displayed antisemitic paraphernalia during an event meant to highlight cultural exchange.
📱 Fake Front: A network comprising hundreds of fake Facebook accounts has shared posts from Knesset member Nir Barkat that advocate against the reopening of the Jerusalem consulate that serves Palestinians.
🐱💻 Hack Job: Iranian hackers are exploiting tech loopholes in basic software used by U.S., U.K. and Australian officials, government officials from the three countries are warning.
☢️ Tactical Talk: American officials have warned Israel that repeated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are counterproductive, The New York Times reports.
🇫🇷 Trumpian Tactics: In the Financial Times, Victor Mallet and Leila Abboud compare French presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour to former President Donald Trump and explore the appeal of the far-right candidate among center-right voters.
🍲 Changing Guard: The emergence of an Israeli government not reliant on the ultra-Orthodox vote is having an impact on everything from kosher certification to subsidies provided to religious families, reports The Washington Post.
✈️ Sky’s the Limit: Israel will provide an additional $44 million in bailout funds to Israeli airlines, which suffered amid the Delta variant surge earlier this year.
🇾🇪 Proxy Battle: Iran-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen made gains to control the oil-rich city of Hodeidah after Saudi- and Emirati-backed Yemeni troops withdrew from the region last week.
🕯️ Remembering: Ardeshir Zahedi, the last Iranian ambassador to the U.S. before the 1979 revolution, whose exploits included a brief romance with Elizabeth Taylor and hobnobbing with Hollywood elite, died at 93.
🥂 Mazel Tov: Sofia Rose Gross, head of policy partnerships and social impact at Snap and a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy Reserve, and Compass Coffee founder Michael Haft got engaged on Sunday. Michael, who was recently profiled in JI, proposed during one of the couple’s routine Sunday runs. Photos
Pic of the Day
Iconic country singer Johnny Cash is interviewed by Israeli radio during a visit to Israel in 1971, in a photograph released last week by the National Library of Israel.
Polish-born Holocaust survivor and a British champion weightlifter who competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, Sir Ben Helfgott turns 92…
Former majority owner of MLB’s New York Mets, he was a high school teammate of Sandy Koufax before becoming a successful real estate developer, Fred Wilpon turns 85… Professor at NYU Law School, Sally Katzen turns 79… Novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, he is CEO emeritus of PJ Media, Roger Lichtenberg Simon turns 78… Born to a Jewish family in Tunisia, he served as a member of the Canadian House of Commons, Jacques Saada turns 74… Former president of the Service Employees International Union, now a senior fellow at the Economic Security Project, Andy Stern turns 71… SVP of development for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, his bar mitzvah was at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Tim R. Cohen turns 68… Television personality, Donny Deutsch turns 64… IT specialist at the IRS, Martin Robinson turns 64… Ukrainian businessman and chairman of Dynamo Kyiv, Ihor Surkis turns 63… Author of multiple New York Times bestsellers, Peggy Orenstein turns 60… Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, known professionally as Brian Robbins, Brian Levine turns 58… Senior editor for The Daily Beast and columnist for the New York Daily News, Harry Siegel turns 44… Actress, whose box office success is one of the greatest of all time, Scarlett Johansson turns 37… VP of communications and media relations for theSkimm, Jessica Sara Turtletaub Pepper turns 36… Actor Alden Ehrenreich turns 32… Social media personality known as Baby Ariel, Ariel Rebecca Martin turns 21… Director of public affairs and communications at Energix, Yarden Golan…