👋 Good Tuesday morning!
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Monday with Yousef Al Otaiba and Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, respectively the Emirati and Saudi ambassadors to the U.S., and “reiterated the United States’ commitment to the security of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia” following last week’s Houthi drone strike that killed three civilians in Abu Dhabi.
Nine Senate Republicans introduced a bill to impose new terrorism sanctions on the Houthis and redesignate the Iranian-backed militia group as a terrorist organization.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the bill, joined by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
In a statement, Cruz blamed the Biden administration’s decision to lift terrorism sanctions on the Houthis for “caus[ing] Iran to escalate its aggression across the region.”
PAC see, PAC do. A month after AIPAC announced the formation of its first PAC and Super PAC, J Street revealed yesterday it is launching J Street Action Fund and J Street Grassroots Action to focus on independent expenditures. “[W]ith groups to our right increasingly spending millions to push candidates towards more hawkish and conservative positions, the Action Fund will be a critical new tool of our work,” J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said in a statement.
In a first, an official Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Egypt
Egyptian officials, American scholars and foreign diplomats gathered on Monday at a luxury hotel on the banks of the Nile to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the first time such an event has ever been held in Egypt, The Circuit’s Gabby Deutch reports. The gathering was hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. A similar event will take place later this week in Abu Dhabi, where Noura al Kaabi, the United Arab Emirates’ culture minister, is slated to speak.
Regional trendsetter: “It was symbolically, I think, very important that we were able to do this in Egypt,” Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a speaker at the event, told The Circuit from Cairo. “I was just delighted with what happened today and the fact that this occurred in the largest, most populous, trendsetting Arab state.”
Warming peace: The event is the latest symbol of changing attitudes in the Middle East in the wake of the Abraham Accords signed in September 2020. While Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1978, the Camp David Accords did not lead to a significant shift in Egyptian attitudes toward Israelis and Jews. “There is a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, but that peace has always been a cold peace,” said Mina Abdelmalak, who conducts Arabic outreach for the USHMM and was born and raised in Egypt. “It was never translated into the mainstream, people-to-people level. It was mostly government-to-government. So to be able to push this a little bit, that is significant.”
First-generation peacemaker: The Abraham Accords “raised the bar for everyone,” Satloff said, including the “first-generation peacemakers” — Egypt and Jordan. But there were other factors at play too: Egypt, like Israel, sees Iran as a foe. Last week, Egypt’s permanent representative to the United Nations gave a speech in Arabic on behalf of the Arab Group, condemning Holocaust denial as the United Nations General Assembly debated and then passed a resolution on the subject. The only country to vote against the resolution was Iran.
No longer laughable: “If you would have told me a few years ago that such an event would take place in Cairo, I would laugh,” Abdelmalak told The Circuit on Monday. “Until this morning, it wouldn’t have completely surprised me if the government of Egypt would say, ‘Due to security reasons, this is not going to happen.’”
House ethics office finds ‘substantial’ evidence Marie Newman tried to bribe prospective opponent
A congressional ethics probe uncovered “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) attempted to induce a potential 2020 Democratic primary opponent not to run against her by offering him a position as her foreign policy advisor, with a particular focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Written up: Before being elected to Congress in 2020, Newman allegedly pledged to hire Palestinian-American professor Iymen Chehade as her foreign policy advisor if she were elected in exchange for his agreement not to run against her, according to a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) released yesterday.
At the center: Newman said in a deposition to the OCE that she believed her 2018 primary defeat came in part because “I did not understand the Palestine-Israel issue very well.” As she explored a second campaign, she said she sought to provide the Arab and Muslim American community in her district with “a very clear commitment” that she would advocate for their positions on the issue, in part by working with Chehade. Chehade is a vocal supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel and spoke at a 2014 National Students for Justice in Palestine conference. He is now mounting a congressional run in a newly drawn Illinois district.
Quid pro quo: In a draft contract emailed to Newman in October 2018, Chehade outlined a proposed agreement, writing, “Chehade agrees not to announce or submit his candidacy for election to Congressional Representative of the 3rd District of Illinois. In exchange, Newman will hire Chehade as her Chief Foreign Policy Advisor.” Newman signed an employment contract with Chehade — which did not include the language about his potential candidacy — in December 2018. The two later had a falling out and she did not ultimately employ him. Chehade filed a breach of contract lawsuit over the issue, which Newman settled last summer.
Quotable: “The OCE found that Mr. Chehade’s policy expertise was not the only reason she contracted to employ him in the future,” the report reads. “Instead, Rep. Newman likely was motivated to enter the agreement to avoid competing against Mr. Chehade in the  Democratic primary.”
House letter urges Blinken to ‘prioritize’ better UNHRC treatment of Israel
A bipartisan group of 42 members of Congress is urging Secretary of State Tony Blinken to “prioritize reversing” the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “discriminatory and unwarranted treatment of Israel,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Focus in: The lawmakers — led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) sent a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, to Blinken on Monday urging him to work to shut down the UNHRC’s open-ended Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was created in May 2021.
New developments: “COI’s mandate is designed to accelerate the political, economic, and legal challenges to Israel and undermine its legitimacy by pressuring international legal institutions to take action against Israeli leaders,” the letter reads. “This COI is outrageous and ought to be cancelled. With the UN budget in crisis, stretched by the COVID pandemic which affects all humanity, it is irresponsible to spend precious resources on yet another unjustified UN investigation of Israel.” The letter calls on Blinken to “lead the effort” to eliminate the COI.
In the details: The letter enumerates several concerns about the COI in particular, including that the resolution that created it did not mention violence emanating from Hamas or Israel’s right to self-defense, that the U.N. already has six other bodies investigating Israel and that the COI is permanent, unlike other UNHRC investigative bodies. The letter’s authors also express concerns about several of the officials selected for the COI, whom they allege “have records of anti-Israel bias.”
SAPIR: A Journal of Jewish Conversations is proud to launch its fourth issue today on the theme of Aspiration. Articles will be released this week and next through Jewish Insider.
Future Forward: Publisher Mark Charendoff reflects on the thinking behind SAPIR’s launch a year ago and how it has evolved in the time since: “When we founded SAPIR a year ago, we had a simple notion. We wanted to shift the focus of Jewish communal leaders to the day after the pandemic. Once the immediate crises were in our rear-view mirror, what ought Jewish leadership to be thinking about?” Read here.
Beyond Imagination: Dara Horn offers an anchor essay on how Jews might think about aspiration. “What might it be possible to hope for? What would we even want to want? Self-abnegation is not a virtue. We are entitled to want more than crumbs; the ability to desire more is the most humane act of respect for ourselves and others. That act of aspiration and of imagining what might be possible is also at the heart of what distinguished Judaism from other ancient traditions.” Read here.
Please join us on Feb. 14 at 12 noon ET for a conversation with Dara Horn and SAPIR Editor in Chief Bret Stephens. Register here.
🪖 Stand By Me: In The Hill, former Ambassador Dennis Ross outlines the measures the Biden administration can take to address the recent Houthi drone strike in Abu Dhabi and provide support to the United Arab Emirates. “Rarely has it been more important for an American administration to show it will stand by a friend in response to an attack that could have resulted in many civilian casualties, including Americans. It is not just our friends who need to see this but those who seem so determined to challenge the United States and our desire to shape an international order. From Vladimir Putin to Xi Jinping to Ali Khamenei, it is essential to counteract their perception of our risk-aversion and demonstrate that their actions are making us more risk-ready. Deterrence demands nothing less.” [TheHill]
💼 Tough Job: The Washington Post‘s Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager look at the challenges and criticisms facing President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, a year after he was tapped for the top White House role. “Klain rejected the critique from some centrists that the White House agenda has been too ambitious, turning off swing voters. ‘I think the challenge here is not that we’ve tried to do too much — it’s that we still have work left to do,’ Klain said. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a centrist who is retiring from Congress, ridiculed that assertion, saying, ‘Has he read a poll lately?’ She added, ‘Hopefully we’re moving away from progressive aspirations and towards pragmatic results.’” [WashPost]
💊 Faith and the Favela: In The Guardian, Tom Phillips delves into Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, where a new generation of gangs blend drugs and violence with Christian symbols and references to Israel. “Packets of cocaine, handguns and uniforms are emblazoned with the Star of David – a reference to the Pentecostal belief that the return of Jews to Israel represents progress towards the second coming. Gang-commissioned graffiti offers spiritual guidance and heavenly praise…Nowhere is the evangelisation of Rio’s underworld more visible than the Complexo de Israel, a cluster of five favelas near the international airport governed by Peixão (‘Big Fish’), a preacher turned drug peddler who takes his nickname from the ichthys ‘Jesus’ fish…A neon Star of David, at night visible for miles around, sits on a water tower at one of the complex’s highest points.” [TheGuardian]
💸 It’s the Economy…: In New York magazine, Eric Levitz profiles economist Larry Summers, weighing his criticism of President Joe Biden’s economic policy. “Back in March 2021, blue America was in high spirits. Thanks to their improbable sweep of Georgia’s special Senate elections, Democrats found themselves in full control of the federal government. They would waste little time in using it, with President Biden swiftly unveiling a $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill known as the American Rescue Plan. The package won plaudits from all corners of his big-tent coalition…But Larry Summers was not among them. In a series of op-eds and interviews, the Harvard economist warned that Biden’s bill was excessively large and could ‘set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.’ The president’s first major legislative achievement was, therefore, ‘the least responsible fiscal macroeconomic policy we’ve had for the last 40 years.’ Summers’s warnings did not resonate in the West Wing. Once the consummate Democratic insider, he had suffered the fate of so many left-wing wonks of yesteryear: to see one’s dissent derided as economically illiterate and politically treacherous.” [NYMag]
Around the Web
☢️ Vienna Update: Several members of the U.S. negotiating team who advocated a harder stance against Iran have departed or stepped back in recent weeks, as differences emerge over how to handle languishing talks. Iranian negotiators are considering direct talks with the U.S., but rejected a demand that it release all Iranian-American hostages as a precondition to the U.S. rejoining the deal.
🤝 ‘Hate epidemic’: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff met on Monday with leaders of the Milwaukee Jewish community to talk about combating antisemitism.
🧑🚀 Moon Shots: In a court filing last week, former Apollo CEO Leon Black accused Apollo co-founder Josh Harris of plotting his dismissal from the firm after not being selected to succeed Black as the firm’s CEO.
🚓 Another Attack: A Haredi man was assaulted in Brooklyn on Saturday night, in what the NYPD is investigating as a hate crime.
👨👩👧👦 Across the Pond: Haredi Jews in the U.K. are launching the Pinter Trust, an organization devoted to outreach to the British public, in a bid to build relationships between Haredi Jews and other Britons.
🎵 On Air: The BBC Symphony Orchestra on Sunday played music written by individuals imprisoned during the Holocaust as part of its “Total Immersion: Music for the End of Time” program.
🛫 Grounded: A Newark-to-Tel Aviv flight returned to New Jersey 90 minutes into the flight, after several Israeli passengers moved to open business-class seats and refused to return to their assigned seats.
🖥️ Metaverse: Facebook parent company Meta said it has built a new artificial intelligence supercomputer that it claims will be the fastest in the world.
🖼️ Rightful Return: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has agreed to return a painting to the heirs of a Jewish collector who owned it before it was looted during World War II.
🎙️ Game On: “Jeopardy!” contestant Amy Schneider has the second-highest number of consecutive wins in the show’s history after beating competitor Matt Amodio’s record on Monday’s episode.
💰 Compassion Payments: Israel is offering $158,000 to each of the 45 families that lost a loved one in last year’s deadly Mt. Meron stampede.
🔥 Settler Violence: Israeli settlers rioted in the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara yesterday, vandalizing property and wounding three Palestinians.
⛔ Condemning Violence: Israel Policy Forum, the Anti-Defamation League, Central Conference of American Rabbis, National Council of Jewish Women, Rabbinical Assembly, Union for Reform Judaism and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism sent a letter to Israeli leaders calling on the government to address the recent violence by “Jewish Israeli extremists.”
⚖️ Taxing Trouble: The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court convicted Aryeh Deri, leader of the haredi Shas party, of tax crimes and will fine him NIS 180,000 ($57,000), as part of a plea deal that saw him resign from the Knesset on Sunday.
💉 Shot Study: A new Israeli study found that a fourth dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine doubles protection against infection from the coronavirus and triples protection against severe illness from COVID-19. The panel of experts advising the Israeli Health Ministry recommended today that adults 18 and over receive a fourth jab.
🗯️ Anti-Vax: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has drawn fire for saying that Holocaust victim Anne Frank had more freedoms than unvaccinated Americans.
🇨🇳🇮🇱 Tech Talk: Israeli officials coordinated with the U.S. ahead of a virtual high-level technology summit between Beijing and Jerusalem held on Monday, at which the countries agreed to a three-year plan to cooperate on a range of issues, including the economy and research and development.
➡️ Transition: Jenna Hopkins, a former House staffer for Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) detailed to the January 6th Select Committee, joined the Anti-Defamation League as director of technology policy.
🕯️ Remembering: Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful politico who was convicted of corruption and spent the last year and a half in prison, died at 77.
Pic of the Day
Izmir Jewish Heritage Project Coordinator Nesim Bencoya speaks about the opening of a number of local synagogues to tourism, which the project anticipates will create the concept of an open-air museum, in Izmir, Turkey.
Member of the Canadian Parliament from Montreal, he won 12 medals in swimming at the 2013 and 2017 Maccabiah Games, Anthony Housefather turns 51…
Israeli author David Grossman turns 68… Editor-in-chief of The National Memo and editor-at-large of The Investigative Fund, Joe Conason turns 68… Dean of the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi… Senior portfolio manager in the Los Angeles office of Morgan Stanley, Robert N. Newman turns 67… Actress and director, Dinah Beth Manoff turns 66… Los Angeles resident, Helene S. Ross… Partner at NYC-based ICM Partners, Michael Glantz turns 63… Chief investigative reporter and senior national correspondent for CBS News, Jim Axelrod turns 59… Former member of Knesset for Yesh Atid, Shai Moshe Piron turns 57… Managing partner of Finback Investment Partners and senior policy advisor at Bryan Cave Strategies, John Leachman Oliver III turns 53… Author of multiple novels and a lecturer in Jewish Studies at Stanford University, Maya Arad turns 51… Toronto-born actress, writer and social activist, Mia Kirshner turns 47… National political reporter at The Washington Post, Michael Scherer turns 46… Executive director of Temple Shalom of Newton (Mass.), David Newman turns 45… President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky turns 44… Benjamin L. Newton turns 37… VP of executive communications for the National Association of Manufacturers, Mark Isaacson turns 33… Senior policy analyst at JINSA, Ari Cicurel turns 29…