👋 Good Tuesday morning and happy International Women’s Day!
Former Vice President Mike Pence is in Jerusalem as part of a multi-day trip to Israel this week. Pence had dinner on Monday evening at the home of Dr. Miriam Adelson. More on the former vice president’s trip below.
More than seven months after Deborah Lipstadt was tapped to be the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism was announced, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote this afternoon on the Holocaust historian’s nomination.
With support from at least two Republicans on the evenly divided committee, Lipstadt is expected to have enough support to pass through the committee to a floor vote.
But any committee member could slow that process by requesting that the committee vote be delayed until the committee’s as-yet-unscheduled next business meeting.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who was the target of critical tweets by Lipstadt, has been working to build opposition to Lipstadt’s nomination. Johnson did not respond to a request for comment on whether he plans to ask that the vote be delayed.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on hate crimes with Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, former Antisemitism Envoy Elan Carr and Colleyville, Texas, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.
The House Intelligence Committee will hear from the top officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Security Agency and FBI at 10 a.m. about worldwide security threats.
plea for help
Zelensky compares Putin to Nazi regime in address to Jewish leaders
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine “pure Nazi behavior” in an impassioned plea on Monday to leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. Dressed in the green T-shirt that has become his uniform since Russia began its invasion last month and sitting next to a Ukrainian flag, Zelensky, who is Jewish, drew comparisons between Moscow and the Nazi regime, noting the indiscriminate killing of civilians.
History repeating: “All of this already happened in Europe,” Zelensky said over Zoom, speaking through the platform’s translation function. “All of this happened during Nazi times. This all happened [when] the German army rolled through Europe, and everyone gave their Jewish people away, putting them into ghettos… They’re taking the city, that’s what’s happening. They see an ordinary city, they block all the roads… and don’t let people out. They don’t let people out from those towns and cities, even those who simply want to leave or run away, they don’t let them out. They don’t allow us to bring food in. They don’t allow us to bring the water in. They disconnect the internet, the TV, electricity. This is a Nazi behavior. This is Nazism. This is just ordinary Nazism. This is no different from the Warsaw, the Polish ghettos.”
Wake-up call: “I keep telling this for the world to wake up,” he said. “The question of the survival of the Ukrainian nation — the question will be the same as antisemitism. It’s going to be exactly the same. All of these millions of people are going to be exterminated. And this is a big tragedy.” He added that Russian troops have lobbed hundreds of missiles into Ukrainian territory. “There’s not any secret in who’s sending those missiles,” Zelensky said. “There’s no secret in who is bombing from these planes. They are bombing the life out of everything [that] is moving, they want to take away rights and freedoms just by showing, demonstrating, by humiliating that if Russia wants something they will achieve it.”
9/11 parallel: Zelensky compared the ongoing attacks on Ukrainian cities to the Sept. 11 attacks. “I was looking at what was happening with the American people. And it was as painful to me, it was hurting, because I thought, ‘If America is not protected, if terrorists can just say and kill people then what can you talk about Ukraine and my motherland?’ And I understand that this is a common goal, to protect our rights and freedoms. If the Twin Towers are falling down in the United States, it can happen in Ukraine as well.”
Standing together: Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff told JI, “During this troubling and chaotic time for Ukraine, President Zelensky’s appeal to the leadership of the Conference of Presidents is particularly salient given his role as a member of the Jewish community whose citizenry are suffering in ways unseen in Europe for many decades. In tandem with American Jewry donating tens of millions of dollars for rescue and relief efforts in Ukraine, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters praying for peace and continued U.S. leadership to end the conflict.”
Lawmakers reflect on trips to Israel
Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod caught up last week with six representatives, four Republicans and two Democrats, from the two separate delegations of 30 Republicans and 14 Democrats who visited Israel for a week in late February on trips organized by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation.
Flip sides: Visiting a kibbutz on the Gaza border, Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) spoke to a grandmother who pulled out several missiles and incendiary balloons that had landed on her property, near where her grandchildren were playing. “You think about what would happen if something like that was happening in America… I think it would change a lot of [people’s] minds.” Also at a kibbutz near the Gaza border, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) met a woman on the Israeli side who keeps in touch with a woman just over the line in Gaza. “She maintains a relationship with a woman who lives in Gaza and they just try to keep the relationship going there,” she said. “And her story was incredibly inspirational.”
New hope: Despite the perpetual security concerns, some members on return visits to Israel said they felt a stronger sense of optimism than they had seen previously, stemming in part from the Abraham Accords, as well as the new Israeli government. “I saw a lot more optimism,” Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), who had last traveled to Israel in August 2013, said. “I do believe the Abraham Accords are very positive. And you can see that in the meetings with the ambassadors from other countries that had come for one of our evenings.”
Red flag: The lawmakers said Iran, and the Biden administration’s efforts to reenter the Iran deal, were a major concern for Israeli officials. Garbarino told JI that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “seemed annoyed” with the Iran deal negotiations, specifically that the Biden administration seemed willing to remove sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He said Bennett also seemed frustrated that supplemental Iron Dome funding remained stalled in Congress.
Blowups: Valadao and Garbarino said that, under questioning from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh dismissed Hamas rocket attacks against Israel — more than 4,000 of them during the latest outburst of violence in May of 2021— as “fireworks.” JI also learned that, during the Democrats’ meeting, a heated exchange took place between House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Shtayyeh when Shtayyeh accused Israel of engaging in apartheid and Jeffries forcefully pushed back.
On the ground: Rice, who is retiring from Congress at the end of her term, said that anti-Israel rhetoric from far-left Democrats is a “huge concern” for her, adding, “It’s really important that people continue to travel to the region because it’s really hard to engage in anti-Israel rhetoric when you go there and you actually see on the ground what’s going on there.”
Pence kicks off Israel visit
Former Vice President Mike Pence landed in Israel Monday afternoon, holding meetings today with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog. Pence will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, Miriam Adelson hosted Pence for dinner at her home.
Back in town: Pence received a warm welcome in the prime minister’s office, sources told Jewish Insider. Herzog welcomed Pence and his wife Karen back to Jerusalem, writing in a tweet, “Thank you for your friendship and support and for always standing with Israel.” Shortly after his arrival, Pence tweeted that he and his wife “are truly blessed to be back in the Holy Land. America Stands With Israel!”
Policy differences: In an interview with Israel Hayom, the former vice president, who is in Israel to receive an honorary degree from Ariel University, was critical of the Biden administration’s continued negotiating over a new nuclear agreement with Iran alongside Russia.
‘Unconscionable’: “As that travesty unfolds on the landscape of Ukraine,it is just unconscionable that the American administration is at the same time negotiating at the side of the Russians to restart the Iran nuclear deal,” Pence told the paper. “It would be bad in a peace time to be restarting the Iran nuclear deal, but to literally be working with the Russians to achieve some once again deeply flawed and dangerous agreement with the ayatollahs in Iran is just utterly acceptable. And I believe particularly at such a time as this, the administration in the United States should not be working with Russia to ease sanctions or in any way put Iran back among the community of nations.”
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⛑️ Role Reversal: The New York Times’ Patrick Kingsley spotlights the exodus of Jews from Ukraine, and the efforts of Israelis — many with Eastern European heritage — helping to facilitate the process. “A century ago, Jews fled widespread antisemitic attacks in cities like Chisinau and Odessa — pogroms that helped spur early Zionists to emigrate independently to Palestine. Today, the violence is not antisemitic. And this time around, representatives of the Jewish state, as well as an unusually high number of independent Israeli aid organizations, are now waiting at Ukraine’s borders to shepherd Ukrainian Jews to Israel. The pogrom in Chisinau, also known as Kishinev, ‘was a very central event that drove modern Zionism,’ the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said in a phone interview on Monday. ‘In the same Kishinev, right now, we’re saving Jews,’ Mr. Bennett added. ‘The raison d’être of Israel is to be a safe haven for every Jew in danger. We didn’t have it in 1903. We have it now.’” [NYTimes]
➡️⬅️ On a Tightrope: In the Wall Street Journal, Natan Sharansky posits that Israel has been forced to walk a fine line when dealing with Ukraine and Russia due to the decisions made by global powers — including the U.S. — on issues related to Syria and Iran that pushed Jerusalem to forge closer ties with Moscow. “Israel would not have been forced to choose between its principles and survival had it not been for the lack of moral clarity in Europe and the U.S. The same free world that now stands in solidarity against one dictator is on the verge of signing — with that very dictator — an agreement that would give hundreds of billions of dollars to another corrupt, oppressive regime that has vowed to destroy Israel… Russia’s actions in Ukraine are a test for the free world, which is why my government’s reluctance to oppose them forcefully is disappointing. Yet the reality of Israel’s dependence on Russia shows again that if the U.S. wants to lead the free world in confronting tyranny, its actions in confronting tyrants must be clear and consistent.” [WSJ]
🗺️ Man with a Plan: In The Washington Post, Gershom Gorenberg throws his support behind the “Holy Land Confederation Plan,” a new peace plan created by Israeli and Palestinian former officials. “Partners in a confederation are independent. They are free to leave if they want, as Britain left the European Union. But they agree to yield bits of independence in favor of cooperation. The whole land between Jordan and the Mediterranean is smaller than Belgium. The economy of what will be two states is entangled. Sewage spilled on one side of the border-to-be flows to the other side, and avian flu that breaks out in chicken houses on one side will likely spread to the other. Shared institutions to handle such issues make sense.” [WashPost]
📘 Tower of Babel: In the Wall Street Journal, Ruth Wisse suggests that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s actions are reminiscent of Russian-Jewish writer Isaac Babel, who was executed in a gulag due to his writings. “Because Stalin’s suppression had not yet solidified when Babel wrote these stories, he felt unconstrained by any cultural expectations. He extended his writerly respect to the Cossack attributes that Jews thought evil, and he let the Cossacks speak for themselves without romanticizing their sometimes brutal justice. At the same time, while he valorizes the pacific Jews, whom he knew better, he does not sentimentalize their victimhood, and he shows through the self-portrait of Lyutov how the desire to be blameless may not be a virtue… Babel did not realize the high price he would have to pay for writing as a free man. He was arrested, tortured and executed in 1940. President Zelensky’s readiness to die for Ukraine’s freedom feels much like Babel’s refusal to curb his independence.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
⚖️ Redistricting Ruling: The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of court-imposed redistricting maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, giving Democrats wins in both states. In North Carolina, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), whose district was eliminated in the state’s redistricting, will likely keep her seat in Congress under the new map.
🕍 Cleveland Concerns: In an op-ed, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) discusses legislative efforts to protect the state’s Jewish community.
💵 Donation Dig: The Washington Post looks at charities, foundations and cultural establishments — including the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene — that have received donations from individuals under sanctions for their connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
🎙️ The Right Stuff: The New York Times spotlights Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell, the liberal hosts of the popular podcast “Know Your Enemy,” which focuses on the history of and internal debates in conservative politics.
🚉 Big Business: Recent regulatory filings show that after a purchase last year, financier Bill Ackman now owns more than a $1 billion stake in the Canadian Pacific Railway, his second investment in the company in the last 10 years, after acquiring and then selling 9.8 million shares in 2016.
🚗 Going Public: Intel announced it filed paperwork to take public the Israeli-based company Mobileye, the self-driving vehicle developer acquired by Intel in 2017, in a valuation rumored to be more than $50 billion.
🇮🇷 Secretary’s Statement: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that discussions with Iran over its nuclear program were “close” to completion, “but there are a couple of very challenging remaining issues.”
🛩️ Air Power: Israeli military officials released video of F-35s shooting down two Iranian drones containing weapons last year, which Israel said Tehran had attempted to send to Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza.
🛫 Gulf Guest: Top White House advisors are reportedly considering a presidential trip to Saudi Arabia later this year, in an effort to repair relations with the Gulf nation amid a concern over future sources of oil resulting from sanctions on Russia.
💳 Accusations: Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba accused El Al of accepting payments from a Russian banking system, with journalists later pointing out that Israel’s national airline ceased accepting Mir payments last month.
🤒 A Plague Upon: An Israeli child contracted polio, the first case in the country in more than three decades.
Pic of the Day
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (center right) joins Ukrainian refugees from Odessa for lunch on Monday at the Szloma Albam House, a Jewish community center in Berlin.
Former governor of Virginia and U.S. senator, his mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family in Tunisia, George Allen turns 70…
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VP for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Evan A. Feigenbaum turns 53… Albany reporter for New York’s news channel NY1, Zack Fink turns 49… Congressman from New Jersey since 2017 (D-NJ), Joshua S. Gottheimer turns 47… Marketing and communications director at the Center for Open Science, Alexis C. Rice turns 44… Executive director of Masbia soup kitchen in Brooklyn and Queens that serves over two million meals per year, Alexander Rapaport turns 44… COO of social networking site Raya, Jared Morgenstern turns 41… Director at PJT CamberView, Eric Louis Sumberg turns 40… Founder and CEO of Delta Flow Solutions, Jeff Sonderman turns 40… Policy director at the Washington State Hospital Association in Seattle, David Streeter turns 35… Actress best known as the store manager Lily Adams in AT&T commercials, she starred in the 2019 film short “The Shabbos Goy,” Milana Vayntrub turns 35… Project manager at Everybody Votes Campaign, Lauren Farber turns 34… Law clerk for a federal district court judge, Nathaniel Sobel turns 33… Program analyst at Mathematica Policy Research, Karen Katz turns 33… Senior manager of public policy and strategic engagement in the Washington office of PepsiCo, Taylor Jaye Lustig turns 32… Senior instructor and curriculum coordinator at Poker Powher, Amanda Helen Botfeld turns 29… Director of client success at LeagueSide, Alexa Chavin… Senior analyst on the partnerships team at Optum Ventures, Miriam Applbaum…