👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Elon Musk will purchase Twitter for roughly $44 billion, drawing mixed reactions from both the Jewish community and the broader Twitter universe. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” the billionaire entrepreneur tweeted shortly after yesterday’s announcement.
“Twitter has made some strides in tackling online hate and extremism in recent years, and so while we want to be cautiously optimistic about how Elon Musk will run the platform, he has not demonstrated any focus on these issues to date,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said shortly after the announcement. “We worry that he could take things in a very different direction. Moreover, as a private company, Twitter will lack the transparency and accountability of a public firm. It strikes me as deeply troubling and potentially dangerous that two people — Musk and Mark Zuckerberg — essentially control the public square. That seems like a sad day for democracy.”
Israeli-American writer Yossi Klein Halevi said he was “delighted” by the move and speculated that Musk will create “a censor-free Twitter,” adding, “The situation today is that the most vile calumny against Israel and the Jewish people is permitted, while pro-Israel voices are arbitrarily removed. So level the playing field and let us debate.”
Delivering the Tanous Family Lecture at Georgetown University yesterday, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served in both the Bush and Obama administrations, warned that North Korea and Iran are watching the situation in Ukraine as it relates to their nuclear programs.
“They’re not stupid,” Gates said. “So they look around the world — [Muammar] Qaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons, he’s dead and his regime is gone. Saddam [Hussein]…had nuclear weapons, he’s dead, his regime is gone. Ukraine gave up 1,800 nuclear weapons in 1994 in exchange for guaranteed territorial integrity by the United States, United Kingdom, and — guess who — the Russians. And now they’ve lost a third of their country. Kim [Jong Un] looks at that picture. And he’s trying to figure out how you could possibly think getting rid of his nuclear weapons is a good idea.”
“And I think it’s a question of whether Iran will be willing to be a threshold state, which means, in essence, they have the capability to build a nuclear weapon, they have the components to build the nuclear weapon, but they won’t throw it together unless they have to,” Gates added. “If they were to acquire nuclear weapons, and everybody knew they had nuclear weapons, I would wager a lot that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey would probably not be far behind. So there is a real risk there if the Iranians acquire nuclear weapons.”
Israeli defense chief hosts Iftar for Arab ambassadors
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday sought to soothe tensions over recent violence in Jerusalem by inviting Arab diplomats to break the daily Ramadan fast at his office compound in Tel Aviv, The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger reports.
Table talk: Over a traditional Iftar dinner, Gantz asked envoys from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt to relay to their leaders that Israel is “taking unprecedented steps to enable freedom of worship,” according to a Defense Ministry statement. He said “extremists” are to blame for restrictions that have triggered clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Shared concerns: In his remarks to the Arab diplomats on Monday, Gantz hailed the Abraham Accords while warning about the nuclear threat from Iran. “Israel values freedom of worship and we will do everything in our capacity to enable it, while an extremist group — the minority — aims to harm it,” Gantz said. “It is important for us that this message is brought to the leaders of your countries.”
Invite list: Guests at the Iftar meal in Tel Aviv included Moroccan Ambassador Abderrahim Bayoud, UAE Ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja, Bahraini Deputy Head of Mission Abdulkarim Ebrahim Alanansari and Egyptian Embassy Counsellor Walid Talaat Mahdy. No Jordanian representative was listed in the Defense Ministry statement.
Bonus: President Joe Biden spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday. The two “discussed in detail recent efforts to stem violence in Israel and the West Bank, including at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem,” according to a readout of the call distributed by the White House. “The President welcomed recent steps to reduce tensions and expressed his hope that the final week of Ramadan will pass peacefully. He underscored the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.”
AIPAC super PAC spent $1.2 million in four Democratic primaries
AIPAC’s new super PAC, the United Democracy Project, has focused all of its spending so far — $1.2 million — on four Democratic primary races, according to FEC filings, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Cash flow: The super PAC raised $15.7 million in the first quarter and has so far spent $1.2 million across four Democratic primary races set for early May — Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, Ohio’s 11th and the 1st and 4th Districts in North Carolina. It made no expenditures for or against Republicans. Its spending included expenditures in support of three Democrats and against two. AIPAC’s PAC has endorsed more than 300 candidates as of last week, all but 10 of them incumbents.
Making their picks: “We intend to be active in a significant number of races where there is a clear difference between a candidate who supports a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and a candidate that does not or who may seek to undermine that relationship,” UDP spokesperson Patrick Dorton told JI. “Our goal is to help build the broadest bipartisan coalition of candidates who support the U.S.-Israel relationship… Our activist donors, who include one of the largest donors to the Democratic Party, are focused on ensuring that we have a U.S. Congress that, like President Biden, supports a vibrant and robust relationship with our democratic ally, Israel.”
On the list: In Pennsylvania, UDP spent $347,000 opposing community organizer Summer Lee, who has faced accusations that she is anti-Israel. In Ohio, the group spent $77,000 supporting Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) and $143,000 opposing former state Sen. Nina Turner. In North Carolina, UDP spent $294,000 supporting state Assemblymember Valerie Foushee. Foushee is running against a range of candidates, including activist and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, who is a longtime vocal critic of Israel. The group also spent $326,000 supporting state Sen. Don Davis, who is running against former state Sen. Erica Smith. AIPAC has attacked Smith for past tweets regarding the 2021 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza and for voting against an anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions bill.
Supreme Court unanimously sides with Jewish family in Nazi looted art case
The Supreme Court sided unanimously last week with the heirs of a Holocaust survivor who are seeking to reclaim from a Spanish state museum a painting taken by the Nazis, opening up a new phase in the long-running legal battle, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The question before the Court pertained to legal rules determining whether federal or state “choice-of-law” standards for adjudicating the case should be applied in deciding possession of the artwork, estimated to be worth more than $30 million. These rules determine whether the case would be adjudicated under domestic or Spanish law. A lower court determined that federal choice-of-law rules should be used and that the case should be decided according to Spanish law, which grants legal possession of the looted artwork to the museum.
Ruling: In its 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court agreed that California choice-of-law rules should be applied, but kicked the case back down to a lower court to decide whether that choice-of-law test would dictate the application of California or Spanish law. Authoring the opinion for all nine justices, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that Spain should be treated the same as any other private party — such as a U.S.-based museum — would be in the case, and that the law therefore dictates the use of California’s choice-of-law test.
Response: “My late father, Claude Cassirer, was a Holocaust survivor and as a result, an immigrant to this country. After all that he and his family had been through, he felt strongly that the proudest day of his life was when he became a U.S. citizen after the war,” David Cassirer, the descendant of Holocaust survivor Lilly Cassirer, who is carrying on the suit, told JI. “He and my late mother Beverly, who were married for almost 70 years until my father’s passing, would have been so happy to know that this case was decided favorably, and unanimously, by the highest court in the land.”
Other side: Lawyers for the museum did not respond to a request for comment from JI, but the museum released a statement expressing confidence that it would maintain possession of the artwork. The lawyers have argued previously that California rules would also dictate that the case be judged based on Spanish law, leaving the painting in the museum’s hands.
Oz and McCormick trade barbs in first Pa. Senate debate
The two Republican frontrunners in Pennsylvania’s closely watched Senate primary — TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick — squared off in their first televised debate on Monday evening, trading a litany of pointed barbs with just weeks to go until the May 17 election, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. The sniping underscored the increasingly hostile dynamics of the race in which former President Donald Trump recently threw his support behind Oz, despite McCormick’s aggressive efforts to snag the coveted endorsement.
Convenient shield: During the debate, which was broadcast from Harrisburg by WPXI, Oz repeatedly invoked Trump’s support to deflect insinuations that he has flip-flopped on several key issues and is a Republican in name only, or RINO. Addressing the attack ads from McCormick’s campaign, Oz argued that his opponent’s efforts “are designed to fool the electorate” as well as the former president — to no avail. McCormick, Oz jabbed, had been “unable to pull the wool over” Trump’s eyes. “President Trump saw right through him.”
Addressing China: McCormick, for his part, pushed back against criticism that he had profited from investments in China as the former CEO of Bridgewater Associates. “I’ve been a successful businessman, I’ve run two businesses, I served in our military for 10 years fighting against the communists, I negotiated at the highest levels against the Chinese and other countries when I had a top-secret clearance at the National Security Council, and I’ve done business around the world in 20 countries including 2 percent of our business in China,” he said. “It’s just disingenuous for Mehmet to say that when Mehmet has so many dollars coming into his pocket from China.”
Crowded field: The candidates were joined onstage by three other GOP contenders who are vying to succeed outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), including real estate developer Jeff Bartos, cable news commentator Kathy Barnette and Carla Sands, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark but has struggled to gain traction. Bartos, sticking to a theme he has consistently promoted throughout the race, touted his connections with “Main Street” voters across Pennsylvania, while Barnette charged that Oz and McCormick are “globalists” who are out of touch with the state.
Sandstorm: Sands, who had also sought Trump’s endorsement, suggested that the former president had made a mistake in backing Oz. “President Trump doesn’t always get the best advice,” she said. “It’s unfortunate but true.” The former diplomat boasted of her pro-Trump credentials and insisted that Oz, who previously served in the Turkish army, would “put Turkey first” rather than American interests. His rebuttal: “President Trump was very clear,” he shot back. “I’m America first.”
👰 The Good Wife: In The Atlantic, Avital Chizik-Goldschmidt looks at how The Surrendered Wife, a 2001 book about relationships, has gained popularity — and provoked criticism — in Orthodox Jewish circles. “In the controversial 2001 best seller, the American author Laura Doyle argues that the key to a happy marriage is a wife relinquishing control and allowing her husband to handle all decision making, including household finances, a lifestyle that is rooted in conservative biblical principles. ‘When you surrender to your husband, you accept that a supreme being is looking after you both,’ reads one passage. ‘The more you admire your husband’s magnificence and how everything about him is just as it should be, the more you will feel God’s presence.’ Though these tenets are rooted less in Jewish textual traditions than in the New Testament and in fundamentalist-Christian notions of wifely submission, they have seeped into the Orthodox community over the past two decades.” [TheAtlantic]
📱 Signing Off: In Wired, Kelsey Osgood dissects the popularized concept of “digital Shabbats,” when otherwise non-Shabbat-observant individuals refrain from social media. “Orthodox Jews do not observe Shabbat as a way to spend more time with their families or to prevent burnout induced by living under the tyranny of modern capitalism or to stick it to Zuckerberg once a week. Shabbat does allow us to do those things, and it’s an extremely effective tool for all the above. But no, we do it for a very unfashionable, very simple, supremely awesome reason: because God told us to. The Torah is often terse and cagey about the reasons underpinning certain demands, but it does shed a little more light on why we observe Shabbat: It’s a behavioral manifestation of the covenant between God and the Jews, a way of imitating God’s own cessation from creation in the Book of Genesis, a reminder of our calling to be holy and sanctified. God is a pretty central element in all these things, and it stands to reason that when you cut the core out of something, what’s left will probably rot.” [Wired]
🕍 Jewish Renaissance: Politico’s Zoya Sheftalovich explores the transition over the last several decades in Ukraine, where Jews were once considered second-class citizens but have gone on to have a cultural renaissance in the post-Soviet years. “After facing deadly pogroms during the czarist era and the Bolshevik Revolution, mass murder during the Holocaust and state-sanctioned anti-Semitism and repression under the Soviet regime, Ukrainian Jews say they’ve experienced a renaissance since the collapse of the USSR. Synagogues, Jewish schools and community organizations have popped up around the country. And perhaps most stunningly, Ukrainians overwhelmingly backed Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the 2019 election to do something Soviet Jews would have thought impossible: become a Jewish president. ‘Putin’s claims of de-Nazifying Ukraine is the most ludicrous and craziest thing — the ‘Nazification’ of Ukraine was created by Russian propaganda,’ said Yaakov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine. ‘Nobody asked him to save us. When you claim you’re saving people who don’t want to be saved, that’s a dangerous thing.’” [Politico]
Around the Web
📜 Impeachment Intention: The Republican Study Committee is reportedly considering bringing impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas if the GOP retakes the House in the midterms.
👩 Party Brawl: A group of Democratic lawmakers in Virginia is working to oust Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, the former speaker of the state’s House of Delegates.
🎒 Class Cash: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he will donate $200 million to two of the city’s charter school networks — Harlem Children’s Zone and Success Academy.
🎓 Campus Beat: The dean of students at Georgetown Law School defended an event scheduled for today featuring an anti-Israel speaker who has said Israelis “harvest organs of the martyred” and called Israeli settlers “conscienceless pigs,” comparing Mohammed El-Kurd’s controversial speech to a past speaker who opposed gay marriage.
🏆 Late Night Legend: Jon Stewart accepted the Mark Twain Prize, which honored the longtime host of “The Daily Show” for his contributions to comedy, in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center on Sunday evening that was delayed for two years due to the pandemic.
😬 Raining on Their Parade: The much-anticipated Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” received mixed reviews from The New York Times’ chief theater critic, Jesse Green.
👸 Streaming Israeli History: Netflix picked up Yes Studios’ “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” the first episodes of which will be available to stream in a number of countries, including the U.S. and U.K., next month.
💪 Method Acting: Actor Ben Foster detailed the body transformation he underwent to play a Holocaust survivor in “The Survivor,” a biopic premiering this week on HBO.
🎵 Hip Hop Hasid: HBO is developing “Motherland Bounce,” a comedy series based on the life of Black Hasidic rapper Nissim Black.
🗣️ Bilateral Bargain: Iranian officials confirmed they held a fifth round of talks with Saudi Arabia last Thursday aimed at normalizing relations between the regional foes.
🚀 Cross Fire: In an attack early on Monday, a rocket launched from Lebanon landed near a kibbutz in Israel’s north, the first such incident in months. In response, Israel fired at Lebanon, raising tensions at a dangerous border.
☀️ Going Green: Israeli firm Econergy Renewable Energy announced it would acquire a 49 percent share of capital in Greece’s Terna Energy and will work with the Greek energy company to develop 460 megawatts of solar panels in Greece.
🍫 Sticky Situation: Israeli food company Strauss recalled more than a dozen types of its Elite brand chocolate following a discovery of salmonella in one of the company’s chocolate factories.
📈 Rate Hike: All six Israeli central bankers supported raising Israel’s interest rate to 0.35% and anticipate continued hikes, according to minutes from the Bank of Israel’s April 11 meeting.
Pic of the Day
Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy reviews a matzah pizza in Boca Raton, Fla., as part of his popular series “One Bite Pizza Reviews.” Portnoy, who confessed he has never eaten a matzah pizza before, rated the pizza a 5.9 out of 10.
Radio astronomer and 1978 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, he escaped from pre-WWII Germany as part of the Kindertransport rescue operation, Arno Allan Penzias turns 89…
Early investor in Berkshire Hathaway and a member of its board of directors, David Sanford “Sandy” Gottesman turns 96… Computer expert, Jewish genealogy researcher and publisher of Avotaynu, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Gary Mokotoff turns 85… Retired CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay (Oakland, CA), Loren Basch turns 78… Investment banker best known as the Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers through its bankruptcy filing in 2008, Richard S. Fuld Jr. turns 76… Professor of computer science and engineering at MIT, Hal Abelson turns 75… President of Brandeis University, Ronald D. Liebowitz turns 65… Conservative journalist and political activist in Israel, Avigdor Eskin turns 62… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributing editor of The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch turns 62… Journalist, biographer and the author of five books, Jonathan Eig turns 58… Former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland State Senate, Roger Manno turns 56… Member of the California State Assembly, he is a candidate for California Insurance Commissioner, Marc Levine turns 48…
SVP of content and partnerships at Snapchat, Benjamin Schwerin turns 43… Weekend editor of the international edition of The New York Times, he is based in Hong Kong, Russell Goldman turns 42… Senior director of federal government affairs at Greenwich Biosciences, Karas Pattison Gross turns 40… Media relations manager at NPR, Benjamin Fishel turns 39… Reporter for The Wall Street Journal covering startups, he is the co-author of a book on WeWork, Eliot Brown turns 39… Fashion model and actor, Brett Novek turns 38… Head coach of the UC Irvine Anteaters baseball program, he played for Team Israel in the 2012 World Baseball Classic, Ben Orloff turns 35… Associate account director at Real Chemistry, Alisha Katz turns 32… Strategy and next generation subscription services at Apple, Kenneth Zauderer turns 30… Writer for Mediaite and a contributor to The Washington Examiner, Jackson C. Richman turns 29… Development and recruitment manager at Encounter, Ross Beroff turns 27… Ahron Singer…