👋 Good Thursday morning!
Later this morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will issue a statement condemning the Amnesty International report released this week that accused Israel of apartheid. “I applaud the Biden administration for swiftly rejecting the absurd and patently false labeling of Israel as an apartheid state,” Schumer writes, according to a preview shared with Jewish Insider. “Delegitimizing the existence of the State of Israel – a fellow democracy and the world’s only Jewish state – as Amnesty does in its report, brings the parties no closer to peace, but simply hardens the extremes who do not wish to ever see a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace, freedom, security and prosperity.”
Following JI’s reporting on Texas’ 35th Congressional District candidate Greg Casar’s Israel policy, the Austin branch of the Democratic Socialists of America announced it voted to “continue discussing” the issue and said it would issue a longer statement on Sunday.
CNN President Jeff Zucker resigned on Wednesday, explaining he failed to declare a romantic relationship with a colleague, a relationship that surfaced during the network’s investigation into former anchor Chris Cuomo. Zucker will be replaced on an interim basis by Michael Bass, Amy Entelis and Ken Jautz.
The Biden administration believes that any agreement with Iran over its nuclear program would still leave the country able to amass enough fuel for a bomb in less than a year, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning.
Israel is participating in a U.S.-led naval exercise along with approximately 60 other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Oman, with which it does not have relations.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and commander of the Israeli Navy, Vice Admiral David Saar Salama, visited the U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain today. They were hosted by the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper and Bahraini Defense Minister Abdullah Bin Hassan Al-Nuaimi.
“In the past year, thanks in part to the Abraham Accords and to Israel’s move to CENTCOM, cooperation between the IDF and the Fifth Fleet has expanded. This strategic cooperation is critical in facing developing challenges in the region. Deepening cooperation will enable us to maintain regional stability and to defend the common interests of Israel, the United States and Bahrain,” Gantz said.
“This visit highlights the importance of the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s decades-long strategic relationship with Bahrain and expanding partnership with Israel following the recent alignment of Israel to U.S. Central Command,” said Cooper.
Qatar ruled out the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel, in an interview Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani gave to Axios this week.
University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann appears likely to secure confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Germany; the Senate voted 54-37 on a procedural motion to advance her nomination Wednesday night.
empire state of mind
With a target on her back, Carolyn Maloney gets lift from new map
Forced into a defensive crouch in recent primary cycles, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the veteran New York City lawmaker who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee, has found herself among the most high-profile targets of the insurgent left. Maloney, 75, is now preparing to defend her seat against a Justice Democrats-backed challenger in her late 20s, Rana Abdelhamid. An updated House map, approved by state lawmakers on Wednesday, seems likely to give Maloney an edge in the June primary. “I’ve never lost an election in my entire life, even in high school,” she told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “I don’t intend to start now.”
New lines: The map, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul as soon as this week, would expand Maloney’s 12th District westward into Manhattan, where she is likely to pick up a cluster of new voters, adding to her traditional support base on the Upper East Side. Meanwhile, the new boundaries cut back on left-leaning enclaves in Brooklyn and Queens, where Maloney has performed poorly in recent elections. She had reportedly proposed that the new map jettison voters in those neighborhoods, including Williamsburg and Astoria.
Israel issues: While Maloney is aligned with Abdelhamid on such marquee progressive policies as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, they part ways on foreign policy issues concerning the Middle East. Abdelhamid, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, supports conditioning U.S. military aid to Isrsel, for instance, while Maloney, who has earned endorsements from Democratic Majority for Israel as well as Pro-Israel America, is opposed to such measures.
Foreign policy flashpoint: In a somewhat rarer contrast, Abdelhamid supports reentering the Iran nuclear deal, a view that is widely shared among Democrats, and Maloney publicly opposed the deal when it was brokered by the Obama administration in 2015. Maloney said she would “continue to trust” the Biden administration as it engages in renewed negotiations following the Trump administration’s abandonment of the deal in 2018, but clarified that she “will remain vigilant and speak up against any agreement that instead speeds Iran’s path toward a nuclear weapon.” She added, “I still do not trust the regime in Tehran to negotiate in good faith.”
Primary outlook: Maloney emphasized that she was taking the race seriously no matter what the outcome of the redistricting process. “I am deeply engaged in all of the communities and have delivered significant results across my district from Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan,” she said, touting a “progressive record” that has included “important infrastructure battles” such as the expansion of the Second Avenue subway line. “I’m just continuing to work hard, and that’s it.”
House Homeland Security Committee hearing addresses domestic antisemitism threats
In a wide-ranging House Homeland Security Committee hearing on terrorism threats on Tuesday, members of Congress and expert witnesses decried continued antisemitism in the U.S., taking aim at celebrities and social media companies as they sought to highlight ties between antisemitism and domestic threats, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Whoops: Committee Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY) called out the “absolutely irresponsible rhetoric” about Jews from political and communal leaders, as well as celebrities “like we’ve now seen in the last couple of days” — seemingly a reference to “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg’s controversial comments earlier this week about the Holocaust. “I think all that helps contribute to this ignorance and misinformation, which then fuels bad acts. I think it’s incumbent on us to have that holistic discussion at some point,” Katko said. “We’ve got to really hammer people when they engage in irresponsible rhetoric.”
Blocked: During an exchange with one committee member over a policy recommendation barring extremists and extremist sympathizers from government service, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, one of the experts who testified as a witness, said “Some of the horrific anti-Israel people out there who say that the Jewish state is committing genocide… I don’t think they belong as interns in your office or any public office for that matter, I feel very strongly about that.”
Fuel on the fire: The ADL CEO suggested that an Amnesty International report released this week accusing Israel of engaging in apartheid could fuel a renewed wave of antisemitic harassment against Jews, particularly online and on college campuses. “I promise you, I predict it, I’ll be back on this committee talking about threats against Jews spawned by this kind of wild accusation,” he said, “To release this report six months after Jews are being beaten and brutalized in broad daylight… by people coming from anti-Israel rallies is shocking,” referring to attacks on Jews that came in the wake of last May’s fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Anti-social: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) also raised concerns about the social media amplification of conspiracy theories, noting that the hashtag “Hitler was right” spread rapidly on Twitter during the May 2021 conflict. “Those conspiracy theories are spreading faster and faster than ever before and escalating to more violence than ever before,” Torres said. “History tells us that a conspiracy theory can be a gateway drug to antisemitism because antisemitism is itself a conspiracy theory of its own.”
Federal complaint alleges hostility toward Jewish students in Brooklyn College graduate program
Two students attending a master’s degree program in mental health counseling at Brooklyn College have filed a federal discrimination complaint alleging a “hostile atmosphere” toward Jews in their courses, eJewishPhilanthopy’s Ben Sales reports.
Civil rights act: The complaint was made under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in federally funded institutions, including public campuses like Brooklyn College. It was filed early last year to the Department of Education on behalf of the students by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The Brandeis Center said it received notice last week that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had opened an investigation based on the complaint.
Peer pressure: The two students who submitted the complaint — one of whom is Hispanic — told eJP that they faced consistent pressure from other students and faculty to identify primarily as white, rather than Jewish, during class discussions of their personal identities.“ As somebody who has obviously grown up their whole life in a brown body, yes, I know that there is colorism and I’ve experienced it, but now that I identify as Jewish, all the sudden I’m white, and it’s like none of my experiences matter to you,” said the Hispanic student, describing the perceived attitude of students and faculty in the program.
Fruitless appeals: Appeals to the administration went nowhere, the students claimed. One student told eJP that they complained to a director of the degree program, who did not offer to address the issue. The student told eJP they then followed a formal complaint-filing process, but never received a response. One of the two students dropped out of the program on Monday, months ahead of graduation, due to the alleged discrimination.
Today in SAPIR, Alana Newhouse and Blake Flayton present reconceived notions of journalism and Zionism itself.
Broken Media: Alana Newhouse asks Jews to break up with the mainstream media and imagine something entirely new. “In their glory days, which are long past anyway, newspapers were mirrors; in front of each one stood a group of readers, receiving a desired reflection. For decades, American Jews were a vital cohort in the group standing before general-interest titles — a small crowd over there in the back, but colorful, noisy, important. The other people in the shot weren’t surprised to see us in the shared reflection, nor we them. But we aren’t, in any communal way, in that crowd anymore.” Read here.
Making Zionism Sexy: Blake Flayton urges us to remember “the days of the Zionist pioneers, before or after they were in the Yishuv: Jewish liberation has always been a young person’s game, full of the intellectual, emotional, physical, and revolutionary fervor that young people crave. Ambitious thinkers meeting face to face to argue politics, drafting and reading manifestos and biographies, listening to speeches by academics and journalists, learning to speak and read Hebrew, organizing civil disobedience and marching in the streets, raising money for those in need, and turning to Jewish ritual to replenish their souls. These are the elements of a vibrant movement into which we need to breathe new life.” Read here.
Join us for a conversation with Yossi Klein Halevi, Chloe Valdary and Blake Flayton on March 14 at 12 noon ET. Register here.
☢️ Midterm Wildcard: As talks over Iran’s nuclear program near their end in Vienna, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein questions the impact that a potential return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could have on the midterm elections. “Both Democrats and Republicans have groups within their parties that care a lot about foreign policy, in general or over specific policy areas. Winning support from those groups may be important for winning nominations. So candidates will try to align their policy preferences and priorities with them. And because foreign-policy experts within the Republican Party do tend to care a lot about Iran, we can expect Republican candidates to talk about it in 2022 and 2024.” [Bloomberg]
🎙️ Sounding off: In The Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Sugar writes that Whoopi Goldberg’s recent remarks on the Holocaust are a sign of the times — where it’s common to use public platforms to sound off, regardless of one’s expertise or lack thereof. “Ms. Goldberg’s offense isn’t that she is an anti-Semite, it is that she is a self-important celebrity with a platform. Like many others in her position, she takes that not as a responsibility but as an opportunity. She speaks because she can, not because she has something informed to say… Who does this? Who speaks with presumed authority and moral superiority but next to no knowledge? In our culture, that would be everyone with a Twitter account, an iPhone, a classroom full of students, an election coming up, or a TV show. Our entire culture is marinated in people mindlessly mouthing off simply because they have an audience. Everyone is Whoopi Goldberg in his own small way.” [WSJ]
🗺️ Mapping Makeover: The New York Times looks into the potential ramifications, and legality, of the recent reconfiguration of New York’s congressional districts, which positions the Democratic party to flip three seats in the House this year. “Legal and political experts immediately criticized the new district contours as a blatant and hypocritical partisan gerrymander. And Republicans, who were powerless to stop it legislatively in Albany, threatened to challenge the map in court under new anti-gerrymandering provisions in New York’s Constitution, though it was unclear if they could prove partisan intent… Any court case would likely hinge on how judges interpret language included in the same 2014 constitutional amendment that created the defunct redistricting commission and how Democrats actually arrived at their lines.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
😠 Suspension Fallout: “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg is reportedly threatening to quit the show after executives suspended her from filming for two weeks in the wake of controversial comments the actress made about the Holocaust.
🗯️ Name Game: In the New York Post, John Podhoretz argues that Whoopi Goldberg, whose birth name is Caryn Johnson, should revert back to using her birth name in the wake of her recent comments about Jewish people and race.
📗 Banned Book: In response to a Tennessee school board’s decision to ban the graphic novel Maus, which tells the story of a family’s experiences during the Holocaust, a comic book store owner in California offered to ship the novel to any family in the county where it was removed from lesson plans.
✡️ Never Forget: President Joe Biden tweeted a video of his meeting last week with Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman at the White House.
🚓 Antisemitic Vandalism: Hate crime charges were filed against a man who allegedly smashed windows and spray painted swastikas on the walls of synagogues and a Jewish school in Chicago over the weekend.
🎭 Set the Stage: A new Off-Broadway play by Joshua Harmon tells the split-screen story of a Jewish family experiencing antisemitism in present-day America and their relatives’ experiences during World War II.
📽️ Streaming: Netflix’s new documentary “Tinder Swindler” looks at the true story of an Israeli man who posed as the heir to an Israeli diamond company and swindled women he met on online dating apps out of more than $10 million.
🤑 Billionaires’ Bash: Financier Michael Milken will launch the six-day Milken Institute South Florida Dialogues on Friday, with gatherings that are expected to draw more than two dozen billionaires. Topics to be discussed at more than 20 “salons” will include the pandemic, health care and the economy, with Alex Rodriguez joining a session on sports and Serena Williams on venture capital at Joshua Kushner and Karlie Kloss’ home.
👨⚖️ Riot Plea: Aaron Mostofsky, the son of a New York judge who participated in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, pleaded guilty to three counts and will be sentenced in May.
📱 Surveillance State: The FBI admitted that it tested the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, but insisted the software was never employed, owing partly to a Department of Justice memo that said using the spyware could complicate prosecutions in court. Separately, a whistleblower alleged the NSO Group attempted to bribe an American mobile security firm for access to global cellular networks.
📰 Achievement Unlocked: The New York Times Company hit its target of 10 million subscriptions ahead of schedule, due in part to its recent acquisition of The Athletic, which was finalized on Tuesday.
💻 Sowing Seeds: An Iranian disinformation unit was allegedly behind a fake network on social media that sought to inflame tensions between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
🛢️ Allies in Oil: An Iranian supertanker carrying more than 2 million barrels of condensate has docked at a Venezuelan port; both countries are under U.S. sanctions.
🌿 Pot Shot: A group of former Israeli officials, including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are pushing for the country to legalize marijuana, in which many of the officials have investments.
🏥 On the Mend: Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) is expected to be absent for four to six weeks after suffering a stroke, leaving Senate Democrats’ legislative agenda in limbo until he returns.
➡️ Transition: Veteran Makor Rishon journalist Zvika Klein is joining The Jerusalem Post as an analyst covering the Jewish world.
Pic of the Day
Israeli skier Barnabas Szollos during the Men’s Downhill first training run ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
Science advisor to President Joe Biden and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Eric Steven Lander, pictured here pointing to the Mishnah at his swearing-in ceremony, turns 65…
Longest-serving chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, now a senior adviser at the Carlyle Group and on the board of Bloomberg LP, Arthur Levitt Jr. turns 91… Former president and CEO of clothing manufacturer Warnaco Group, Linda J. Wachner turns 76… Former chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and former president of the Lillian Vernon Corporation, Fred Hochberg turns 70… Partner at Shipman & Goodwin and a former justice on the Connecticut Supreme Court, Joette Katz turns 69… Singer-songwriter, best known for composing “From a Distance,” winner of the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1991, Julie Gold turns 66… Retired member of the Utah House of Representatives, Patrice M. Arent turns 66… Former CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times, he was previously an alderman of the 43rd ward of Chicago, Edwin Eisendrath turns 64…
Steven F. Schlafer turns 63… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White alliance, Michael Biton turns 52… Deputy commissioner and general counsel for the NYC Department of Finance, Diana Hartstein Beinart turns 51… French actor with 50 film credits and a number television shows, Vincent Elbaz turns 51… Founder of Fourth Factor Consulting, Joel Mowbray turns 46… Australian actress and author, Isla Fisher turns 46… Record producer and music critic, known by her nickname Ultragrrrl, Sarah Lewitinn turns 42… Director of policy and programs at the GeoEconomics Center of the Atlantic Council, Josh Lipsky turns 36… Manager of the synagogue leadership initiative at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Joshua Keyak turns 34… One of Israel’s most popular singers, Ishay Ribo turns 33… Executive at NYC’s Brunswick Group, Noam Safier turns 28…