👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Sixty-eight senators — 37 Republicans and 31 Democrats — signed onto a letter led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) urging Secretary of State Tony Blinken to work to shut down the U.N. Human Rights Council’s permanent Commission of Inquiry investigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was established after last May’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“The COI is the latest endeavor by UNHRC to discredit the only Jewish state and is likely to further fuel antisemitism worldwide,” the letter reads.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote today on the nominations of Deborah Lipstadt and Barbara Leaf, after the votes were delayed last week due to Democratic absences. Lipstadt is the administration’s nominee to be the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Leaf is the nominee for assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken continues his trip to the Middle East today with a stop in Rabat, Morocco, where he will meet with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
In Rabat, Blinken will also meet with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan following weeks of tensions between Washington and Abu Dhabi amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Houthi attacks on the UAE.
The Abraham Accords Gamesare setto take place this evening at Expo 2020 Dubai, kicking off a night of cultural events that will celebrate the Abraham Accords during the final week of the Expo.
An “Abraham Accords Classics” Team of soccer players from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain will compete against a “World Classics” Team consisting of retired top players from Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Nigeria, France and the Netherlands, with kickoff at 6:20 p.m. local time, 10:20 a.m. Eastern Time. The event will be livestreamed. Afterwards, well-known chefs from the four Abraham Accords nations will prepare a festive dinner together.
Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley and the National Security Council’s Brett McGurk will give a classified briefing today on the Iran deal negotiations to members of the House Armed Services Committee. (h/t Punchbowl)
State of play
Sanctions alone won’t stop Iran, Israeli strike may be necessary, Graham says
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested that an Israeli strike on Iran could be the most likely way to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod on Monday from Jerusalem.
Three paths: While “maximum pressure” sanctions “[make] it more difficult,” Graham argued the only ways to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions are an unlikely “change of heart” by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an internal overthrow of the regime or a U.S.-supported Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “If you don’t [understand] that, you’re making a huge mistake,” Graham said. “This is never going to end short of a nuclear weapon unless somebody stops them. And those are the three ways that would stop the advance toward a nuclear weapon. The first one is one in a billion. The second one — who knows — if the Iranian people want to continue to live like this, that’s up to them. But the third one [the Israeli strike] is probably the way this movie ends.”
On deck: Graham detailed a plan to increase congressional oversight of Iran’s nuclear program that he has been developing during his trip. He said he had asked Israeli officials on a previous visit to the country in February to put together a detailed list of red lines and major concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The South Carolina senator said those conversations prompted him to craft legislation, tentatively titled the Iran Nuclear Weapons Monitoring Act, which will likely require a report from the administration every 120 days about Iranian weaponization efforts, fissile material, missile technology, proliferation and violations of International Atomic Energy Agency inspection regimes. The legislation will also require collaboration with U.S. allies.
In depth: “It’s a directive to our government, in consultation with our allies, to stay on top of the Iranian nuclear program,” Graham said. “And if we see areas of concern, the administration, whoever they would be, would be required to come up with an action plan. This approach, I think, is the best insurance policy to make sure that the Iranian nuclear program does not get out of hand.” Graham said the legislation is “essential” with or without a new Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In his defense: Graham also touched on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and appeared to defend President Joe Biden’s off-the-cuff comment made over the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” which set off an international firestorm. “If you’re upset with Biden calling for Putin to go — question for the French and everybody else: Are you willing as part of a negotiated settlement to provide security guarantees to Ukraine from future invasions by Russia?” he said. “If you’re not willing to do that, then I think more conflict is inevitable.”
White House requests $360 million for nonprofit security grants for 2023 budget
The Biden administration is asking for $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) in its 2023 budget request to Congress, a shift from the 2022 budget proposal that made no specific funding request for the program, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On target: The $360 million funding level was the target level for Jewish groups and some proponents of the program on Capitol Hill this year. Congress approved $250 million in funding for the program for 2022, up from $180 million in 2021. “The Nonprofit Security Grant Program is a vital resource for faith-based communities across the country,” Robert Silvers, the Department of Homeland Security’s undersecretary for policy, told JI. “Our administration is strongly committed to growing this program, and will work with Congress to achieve our goal of $360 million in annual funding.”
On the Hill: “President Biden knows that protecting our religious spaces, like our synagogues, mosques, churches and more demands more help at the federal level,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told JI. “I already successfully pushed to double this national pot of funds in 2021, but we needed more and the president knew this, too. That is why I made the $360 million push, so that the nation and New York can tap these funds and help fortify more places of worship.”
Outside in: Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs, attributed the increase in part to vocal advocacy from the Jewish and other interested communities.“Because of all the advocacy, because of the statistics that have been put forward and because of, unfortunately, the [security] incidents, I think all of that sort of coalesced,” he said. “I think the administration…recognized that there had to be a significant increase in the appropriation and that led to their ask.”
Skeptic: Not every reaction from NSGP supporters on Capitol Hill has been entirely positive. “While I am pleased to see the president prioritizing funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, I am concerned that President Biden is cutting critical funding for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and Urban Area Security Initiative to do so, which could make us all less safe,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said.
The secret chords that sounded in the Sinai
It is difficult to think about a present that doesn’t include the melancholy, haunting music of Leonard Cohen, the dark and sultry edges of “Hallelujah,” the words of a young man grappling with his faith in “Lover, Lover, Lover.” But that present almost didn’t exist. In October 1973, the 39-year-old singer-songwriter was living on a Greek island, mourning what he considered to be the end of his career. And then the Yom Kippur War began. It wasn’t long before Cohen found himself in Israel, where he and other wartime entertainers traveled from army base to outpost to camp to raise the spirits of disheartened fighters on the brink of catastrophic loss. “I think that, for him, our crisis here in Israel was, in some ways, a way out of his own personal crisis, which might have been a more pressing crisis for Leonard Cohen,” Matti Friedman, author of the new book Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai, told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weissin a recent interview.
Origin story: In 2008-09, Cohen staged a comeback tour to recoup some of the losses sustained after his manager — who later was sentenced to 18 months in prison for harassment — stole upwards of $5 million from the singer. The tour stopped in Tel Aviv. An Israeli newspaper covering the concert mentioned Cohen’s 1973 tour through the Sinai, sparking Friedman’s interest in a story that was nearly lost to history. “I understood that Israelis felt a deep personal connection to Cohen,” Friedman explained. “That it was beyond this, ‘Look at this cool star coming from America.’ It really felt like they know him. In some ways they feel like he’s Israeli, which is very weird. It’s not true of all Jewish artists; they don’t feel that way about Bob Dylan, for example, or Paul Simon. They do feel that about Leonard Cohen, and it had something to do, I realized, with this shared experience that they had had with this guy.”
Deep dive: Friedman set off to learn more about Cohen’s Sinai tour, clipping news articles and eventually talking to soldiers who remembered catching — or just missing, as was the case with one exhausted medic who couldn’t summon the energy to chase the music he was hearing on the base — a performance. Interviews with once-young soldiers led Friedman to one person, and then another, and then another who caught a “show” — often no more than the musicians playing for a group of several dozen exhausted young Israelis.
Never before seen: Who By Fire — originally a line from the Yom Kippur liturgy “Unetanneh Tokef” and, millennia later, used as a song title on Cohen’s first album in the post-war years — is interspersed with entries from Cohen’s 45-page manuscript recollecting his trip as well as pocket diaries he kept during the tour. The singer’s estate gave Friedman permission to read and use Cohen’s journals. The entries, largely unedited, present an account of the singer’s travels through the Sinai. “It felt a bit weird, because I’m not sure what he’d think about people seeing, you know, behind the curtain, but I had the really incredible pleasure, for someone who loves Leonard Cohen, of looking through these notebooks, for example, and seeing drafts of his songs as they come out of his head,” said Friedman. “I saw the draft of ‘Who By Fire,’ [as it’s] being written down and the draft of ‘Lover Lover,’ literally the first time it is written on paper, and words are scratched out… ‘Chelsea Hotel [#2],’ there’s a few rough fragments of ‘Chelsea Hotel’ where he is still messing around with the words. So that’s an amazing thing.”
🪧 Hurd Mentality: The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta profiles former Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), as the moderate former CIA officer mulls a 2024 presidential bid in an increasingly polarized political environment. “Hurd proposes a wholesale reorientation of our politics — away from the dopamine-inducing cultural conflicts of the day, and toward the generational trials that will shape American life in the 21st century. To pull it off, he says, we’ll need both a groundswell of reasonable people reclaiming the political discourse from absolutists and ideologues, and innovative, unifying leadership at the highest levels of government. Hurd knows that these two conditions are codependent: A leader can’t emerge without a movement, and a movement manifests only with the inspiration of a leader. He also knows that some people view him as uniquely qualified to meet this moment: a young, robust, eloquent man of mixed race and complete devotion to country, someone whose life is a testament to nuance and empathy and reconciliation.” [TheAtlantic]
🇺🇦 Helping Hand: As the refugee crisis in Ukraine worsens, the Wall Street Journal’s Dov Lieber and Yardena Schwartz look at the challenges facing immigration officials in Israel, which has not faced similar waves of non-Jewish immigration in decades. “Israeli officials say they expect between 50,000 to 100,000 Jews this year to immigrate from countries once part of the former Soviet Union, through a law that allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to receive citizenship. Israeli officials also said nearly 2,000 Russians have already immigrated to Israel since the war began and thousands more have submitted inquiries regarding immigration. In the seven decades since its founding, Israel has almost exclusively dealt with waves of Jewish immigration, but it was forced this time to cobble together an ad hoc policy for non-Jewish refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Jerusalem-based think tank the Israel Democracy Institute.” [WSJ]
📽️ Tehran Tape: The New York Times’ Farnaz Fassihi interviews Academy Award-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose films focus on everyday Iranians. “If his films are meant as social and political commentary, ‘A Hero’ delivers a daring takedown of the tendency among Iranians to revere religious and political figures as Godlike. Mr. Farhadi said this outcome was inevitable ‘when you are trying to tell a story that is as close as possible to real life.’ Iranians still name their children after ancient literary heroes. Shia Islam, Iran’s dominant religion, is anchored on emulating religious clergy. The political structure of the country, from the Shahs to the current Supreme Leader, has centered on a cult of personality. ‘In a society saturated with slogans, this could happen,’ said Mr. Farhadi. ‘We want to constantly create idols and, say, be like them. The core of it is wrong.’ He added, ‘When we have heroes in society, we are basically escaping from our responsibilities.’” [NYTimes]
✡️ Texas Tribe: Texas Monthly’s Leah Binkovitz explores the Jewish history of the Lone Star State, which saw an influx of Jewish immigration in the early 20th century. “The Jews who arrived in Galveston would experience different trajectories from their Northern counterparts. Many made homes in small towns and forged identities that blended their heritage with that of their new social environs. In the post-Reconstruction era, Texas was also the land of Jim Crow, and newly arrived Jews had to find their place amid increasing racial and social regulation. ‘The experience of being Jewish in the South — I think it is distinctive,’ says [Associate Director of Jewish Studies at Rice University Josh] Furman. ‘Because of the racial dynamic, because of the pervasiveness of a certain flavor of Christianity, and because Jews were more of a minority here [than in Northern cities],’ he says.” [TexasMonthly]
Around the Web
🗣️ Capitol Committee: Jared Kushner will appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as soon as this Thursday.
☠️ Poison Pill: Russian-Israeli businessman Roman Abramovich and a group of Ukrainian negotiators were allegedly the victims of a poisoning attempt, which they blamed on Moscow hardliners.
🤝 Band of Brothers: The Wall Street Journal explores the cooperation between news networks in war zones, highlighting the assistance Fox News foreign correspondent Trey Yingst got from rival network CNN after a team of Fox journalists came under fire in Ukraine.
💻 Bay State Bullying: The Boston Globe spotlights a Jewish state senator in Massachusetts who has become the target of an antisemitic online smear campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic.
🗳️ False Facts: Using the example of a New York City Council race, Gothamist looks at how misinformation campaigns can have an impact on election results.
📚 Book Ban: Author Alice Walker was disinvited from speaking at the Bay Area Book Festival over her history of incendiary comments toward Jews and Israel.
🎭 Funny Guy: The New Yorker’s Alexandra Schwartz reviews Alex Edelman’s new one-man show, “Just For Us.”
📈 Making Moves: IPOs in the Middle East outraised European counterparts by nearly $1 billion this year, just the second time that’s occurred since 2009.
🇲🇦 Regional Alliances: Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Jerusalem’s support for Morocco’s territorial claims over Western Sahara, following the “Negev Summit” that brought together six top diplomats, including Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
💥 Gas Gripe: Iraqi and Turkish officials said an Iranian strike on Erbil earlier this month was precipitated by discussions to supply Europe with gas from Iraqi Kurdistan with Israeli assistance.
👨 Transition: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro is joining the Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow.
🪖 Changing of the Guard: U.S. Army Gen. Erik Kurilla will take over for Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie as head of CENTCOM on Friday.
Pic of the Day
An image taken on Sunday shows the damage from Russian shelling to a large menorah monument commemorating the site of the Drobytsky Yar ravine outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine, where 15,000 Jews were killed by Nazi troops on Dec. 15, 1941.
Attorney, author, and sports agent for many athletes including Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Kirby Puckett and Eddie Murray, Ronald M. Shapiro turns 79…
Chemist, professor at both Hebrew University and UCLA, winner of the 1974 Israel Prize, Raphael David Levine turns 84… Organizer of annual morning minyan services since 1983 for runners in the NYC Marathon, Peter Berkowsky turns 80… Houston-based labor law, employment law and personal injury attorney, Carol Nelkin turns 77… Orthopedic surgeon, former professional boxer, producer and author, Harold “Hackie” Stuart Reitman, MD turns 72… Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics, University of Chicago professor Roger Myerson turns 71… Computer scientist and founder of D. E. Shaw & Co., David Elliot Shaw turns 71… Chairman of consulting firm Roubini Macro Associates and professor emeritus at NYU, Nouriel Roubini turns 64… Miami businesswoman JoAnne Papir… Co-founder and co-CEO of Cerberus Capital Management, Stephen Andrew Feinberg turns 62… Co-CEO of entertainment and media agency William Morris Endeavor, Ari Emanuel turns 61… U.S. Senator (D-NV) Catherine Cortez Masto turns 58… Deputy chief of staff at The Rockefeller Foundation and adjunct fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Eric Pelofsky turns 51… Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Scharf turns 36… Communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, David A. Bergstein turns 34… Senior associate at Strategy&, Annie Rosen Pai turns 32… Business development manager at Arcadia, Alexander Zafran turns 31… Founder of Leopard Strategies, Liz Jaff…