👋 Good Wednesday morning!
An Al Jazeera journalist was killed and another journalist injured this morning in an exchange of gunfire between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank. The Qatar-based news outlet blamed Israeli forces for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. Israel said that it was “looking into the possibility” that Abu Akleh, who is a U.S. citizen, was killed by Palestinian gunfire, pointing to video footage in which a Palestinian gunman announces that a soldier was struck by fire. No Israelis were injured in the confrontation.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), the only House Republican who voted against supplemental Iron Dome funding last year. Massie has also compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust and accused AIPAC of “foreign interference” in U.S. politics.
In West Virginia, Rep. Alex Mooney, Trump’s favored candidate in the GOP primary in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, beat out his opponent, Rep. David McKinley, who was endorsed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in a member-on-member primary after the state lost a congressional seat in the redistricting process. In Nebraska, state Sen. Tony Vargas will be taking on Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) in one of Democrats’ best hopes for flipping a seat this cycle, while Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, who was facing allegations that he had groped multiple women, lost his primary by three percentage points.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees yesterday amid rising tensions between Jordan and Israel over recent violence in Jerusalem. He’s set to meet with President Joe Biden on Friday, as well as members of the House Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees.
In a development that could complicate these talks, Jordan’s foreign minister said yesterday that Israel has no sovereignty over the Temple Mount, calling it occupied Palestinian land.
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Iran “could increase targeting against our partners in the region as well as U.S. forces if they had increased funding” through sanctions relief, echoing recent comments from other defense officials.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power will testify today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a House Appropriations subcommittee. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will testify before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
Multiple Jewish groups will be lobbying lawmakers today and tomorrow — the Jewish Democratic Council of America has meetings set with more than 50 lawmakers and The Jewish Federations of North America will be meeting with more than two dozen lawmakers as part of its Washington conference.
Sydney Kamlager wants to speak ‘truth to toxicity’ in Washington
The daughter of an actress and activist parents, California state Sen. Sydney Kamlager has a flair for the dramatic. She danced in her seat to the music at a Los Angeles coffee shop while talking about her work bringing funding to underserved communities in LA. Her email signature includes her preferred gender pronouns: “she/her/hers/fire.” Born and raised in Chicago, LA is her adopted hometown of three decades, and a city she hopes to represent in Congress. “I had fallen in love with the city and all of its flaws, but all of its opportunities,” Kamlager, who is 49, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch last week over green tea and a chocolate-tahini pastry.
Endorsement game: Kamlager, a Democrat, has been described by some as the heir apparent to Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). “I was also really intimidated by the shoes that Congresswoman Karen Bass will leave, to have to fill — but then really empowered by my record,” said Kamlager. Bass, who was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 2019 to 2021, is running for mayor of LA. In her bid to represent California’s 37th Congressional District, Kamlager has been endorsed by a who’s who of California Democrats: Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla and Reps. Bass, Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, among others.
Deep ties: Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, who chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, has worked with Kamlager since both were elected to the Assembly in the same special election in 2018. “She’s not one of these people that suddenly wants to develop a relationship with the Jewish community because she’s running for office,” Gabriel told JI. “She has a decade-long relationship with our community, and has been an ally and friend to our community going back for a pretty long time.”
Heal the planet: On foreign policy, Kamlager has learned about the issues from the diverse immigrant communities in the 37th District. She hopes to play a role in global diplomacy: “That’s part of the human condition… to coexist, but also to, you know, get into it. I’m very interested in that, because it’s volatile everywhere,” Kamlager explained. “I want to have a deeper understanding and play some role in the stabilization of this world and the healing of the planet.”
Important ally: The U.S. is “fortunate,” Kamlager explained, to be allies with “really important countries, and Israel is one of those. And it is important, I think, for our allies to have the right to exist and be able to exist. And sometimes they also need aid to support them in those endeavors. I think that’s incredibly true and has been true for a long time with Israel. And so I also believe that it’s important that we maintain that kind of military aid to Israel.” Kamlager added that she would vote in favor of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.
While criticizing Stevens and AIPAC, Levin took $55,500 from PACs supporting GOP non-certifiers
Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), who has criticized AIPAC for backing Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election, has himself accepted $55,550 in donations from corporate PACs and interest groups that, according to watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), have also contributed to Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
By the numbers: Between when he filed for reelection in January of 2021 and the end of that year, Levin, who is in a closely watched member vs. member primary race against Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI), took donations from corporate PACs representing Boeing, Raytheon, General Motors, Ford, General Dynamics, Aflac, Comcast, AT&T, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Crystal Sugar Company (a sugar production cooperative) totaling $34,500. Levin also accepted donations from interest groups representing the insurance and financial services industry, realtors, beer wholesalers, electrical contractors and credit unions totaling $21,000. Each of these PACs has also donated to Republicans who refused to certify President Joe Biden’s election.
His own words: “[I] am proud to not be funding my campaign through an organization supporting insurrectionist Republicans and anti-choice candidates on both sides of the aisle,” Levin said in a press release on Monday. He added, “It is shameful that organizations that endorse and support insurrectionist Republicans are wading into these Democratic primaries spending millions trying to drown out the voices of candidates like Summer [Lee] and Erica [Smith].”
Response: “A few donations numbering in the thousands to both candidates does not compare with $300,000 from a single group in bundled contributions given to one candidate in a Democratic primary, which is what our tweet said quite explicitly,” Levin campaign spokesperson Jenny Byer told JI. “With very few exceptions, this is more than most corporations spent on all races combined in the tracking by CREW.”
on the hill
Push for increased nonprofit security funds gains momentum
More than 160 House members came together on Tuesday to call for $360 million in funding next fiscal year for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the largest bipartisan coalition to support this funding level to date, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Joining the fight: Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who has organized a series of letters on the issue, and Michael McCaul (R-TX) led a letter with 161 members to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee calling for “no less than” $360 million in funding for 2023, an increase over this year’s total of $250 million; in 2021, the funding for the program was $180 million. “With over one-third of our chamber committed, I hope appropriators will provide the full request in line with the president’s budget, and we won’t stop asking until we can get it,” Pascrell told JI.
Outside support: Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for government affairs, said he is “optimistic” that Congress could grant $360 million in funding this year. Cohen told JI that the letter is important both “because of the significant boost in funding and the large number of signatories” and because it “represents Congress’ continued commitment to protecting our nation from terror and its deepening understanding that the program must adequately and realistically meet the dangerous challenges confronting its citizens.”
Brown win sets off race for Cleveland-area Democratic Party boss
Following her decisive primary win last week, Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) is poised to step down as the longtime chair of Cuyahoga County’s Democratic Party. Her departure next month sets up another consequential Cleveland-area race, the outcome of which could carry broader implications for the midterms. “If Cuyahoga County actually does its job in November, then Tim Ryan has a chance against J.D. Vance,” Rob Zimmerman, a former city councilman in the Cleveland suburbs, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, referring to the Democratic and Republican nominees in Ohio’s Senate election. “Hence, one of the main reasons I’m running.”
Low-profile, high stakes: Zimmerman, 56, is among at least three candidates jockeying for the role, and the field could grow before central committee members of the county party vote for Brown’s replacement in June. The lawyer and erstwhile lawmaker — who recently retired from a 16-year city council run in Shaker Heights — argues he is well suited for the chairmanship, not least because he is, in contrast with his opponents, no longer an elected official.
Call to action: Brown drew criticism when she remained in the seat after launching her House campaign in the special House election last summer. But Zimmerman, who supports Brown, said his tenure as party chair would face no such scrutiny. “I don’t have those issues,” he told JI. “If I were elected, I would be solely focused on building the party.” Zimmerman said his campaign motto — which doubles as a call to action — is “win bigger and win better,” as Democrats in Ohio and across the nation stare down what is expected to be a bruising election cycle.
Ryan’s route: Zimmerman’s campaign site features a detailed list of proposals including outreach to “disenfranchised” voters where Democrats have “underperformed” and recruiting “new talent” to build a “more diverse” candidate pool. “I view the job as being the architect of what the county party should be, building out its infrastructure,” Zimmerman said, pointing to a broader goal of maximizing Democratic engagement in Ohio’s second-largest county. If Ryan has any hope of prevailing, for instance, Zimmerman believes the congressman’s success will partly run through Cleveland. “It’s going to require a big vote from Cuyahoga County,” he said.
📘 Book Bite: In the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton reviews former Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new memoir of his time in the Trump administration, which has faced criticism from supporters and opponents of former President Donald Trump. “Both Democrats and Mr. Trump’s most committed supporters are criticizing this memoir without waiting to read it. For some, serving at all in the Trump administration was ignominious, a perspective both unfair and dangerous. They believe Mr. Esper should have resigned, gone public with his stories, and thereby provided instant gratification to Mr. Trump’s manifold opponents… For others, the author is disloyal to Mr. Trump, breaching trust with him and colleagues still in public life, revealing behavior and remarks thought to have been private. This criticism is simultaneously cynical and naive. Anyone who thinks life in government is private forever hasn’t learned from our history, starting with George Washington’s cabinet members anonymously assaulting each other in the press from early in his first term.” [WSJ]
👨 Ellison’s Evolution: Puck’s Theodore Schleifer examines the political evolution of Larry Ellison from “West Coast health nut social liberal” who socialized with the Clintons to, more recently, host of a fundraiser for Donald Trump. “It would be Barack Obama who sent him screeching rightward. Ellison, who grew up in a self-described ‘tough neighborhood’ on Chicago’s South Side, disliked how Obama Democrats governed cities, and he really disliked how he believed Obama approached Israel. Ellison, who was raised by his Jewish aunt, declined to get Bar Mitzvahed as a kid and wasn’t overly religious in his early life. But he began to embrace Judaism after meeting his birth mother, also Jewish, at age 48. That spurred Ellison to become a major funder of Zionist causes, developing such a strong friendship with Bibi Netanyahu that Ellison was at risk of being called to the stand in the Netanyahu corruption trial for allegedly doing various dirty works on Bibi’s behalf.” [Puck]
🇮🇷 Eye on Iran: The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian compares his experience imprisoned in Iran to that of Iranian-Swedish doctor Ahmad Reza Djalali, whom Tehran has accused of spying for Israel and sentenced to death. “When I was in the same prison Djalali is in right now, my captors regularly tried to justify my detention on the grounds that I was being put through a legal process. I used every opportunity to remind them that the only difference between what they were doing to me and what the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations do to their hostages was that they hadn’t killed me — yet. If Djalali’s case is any indication, even that distinction could soon disappear.” [WashPost]
🗣️ Partisan Pivot? In The Atlantic, criminal defense attorney Lara Bazelon voices concern over the American Civil Liberties Union’s partisan shift, in contrast to the organization’s history of fighting for free speech, regardless of the politics of that speech. “The ACLU now seems largely unable or unwilling to uphold its core values. To be fair, the organization still goes to bat for some causes that are associated with conservatives and free-speech absolutists, including the right to bear arms, of anti-Semites to protest, and of parochial schools to discriminate in hiring based on religion. And yet since Trump’s election, according to The New York Times, the organization’s annual budget has grown threefold and its lawyer staff has doubled — but only four of its attorneys specialize in free-speech issues, a number that has not changed in a decade. Instead, the ACLU has expanded its services — and filled its coffers — as it takes partisan stances or embraces dubious causes. Meanwhile, when it comes to the red-hot culture-war issues squarely within its wheelhouse, such as the right to free, albeit hateful, speech on campus, the ACLU has stayed largely on the sidelines.” [TheAtlantic]
🗺️ Déjà Vu Diplomacy: Former Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt suggests that the U.S. look back to the European policy of Ostpolitik, which forged economic ties between Germany and what was then the U.S.S.R., as an indicator of how to handle nuclear talks with Iran. “The Iranian regime lusts to dominate its neighbors and seeks to cause immeasurable suffering, damage and destruction. The Iranian regime is watching as it sees the enormous leverage Russia has from the threat of nuclear weapons which could be used against any country standing in Russia’s way. Rapprochement with the Iranian regime is, in the words of Yogi Bera, like déjà vu all over again. Ostpolitik proved to be a colossal mistake. It would be the height of arrogance for the United States and our European allies not to learn from the lessons of the past, and for us to meekly, fearfully and naively enter into a new JCPOA.” [FoxNews]
Around the Web
🏅 Justice Served: Outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was honored at the Transatlantic Bridge Awards ceremony, hosted by the E.U. mission in the U.S.
💼 Rough Report: A report compiled by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) concluded that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Biden administration’s nominee to be ambassador to India, “likely knew or should have known” that one of his top aides was sexually harassing numerous individuals.
🇹🇷 Turkey Trouble: Senate Republicans are dismissing concerns over Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz’s ties to Turkey following attacks from Oz’s Republican competitors over his dual citizenship. Senate Democrats indicated they could pick up the line of attack should Oz win the GOP primary.
🫓 History Repeats: The New York Times’ Cora Engelbrecht reflects on her grandparents’ escape from Ukraine during World War II and her own recent trip to Poland, where she celebrated Passover with a group of Ukrainian Jewish refugees.
🍷 Wine Time: Michael Dorf will expand his City Winery brand to Pittsburgh, with plans to open a branch this fall.
🎬 Star Power: Lior Raz will star in the new Apple anthology “The Crowded Room,” which is being executive produced and written by Akiva Goldsman.
🇪🇸 Adios: The Spanish government ousted its intelligence services minister over her department’s use of the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus spyware.
✈️ Unfriendly Skies: Nine people aboard a taxiing plane at Ben-Gurion Airport were arrested for using the iPhone AirDrop feature to send images of crashing planes to passengers on a Turkey-bound flight.
🙇♂️ Airline Apology: Lufthansa apologized for barring a group of Orthodox Jewish passengers from boarding a flight in Frankfurt last week, after some in the group had refused to wear masks on the previous flight.
✍️ Remembering: Tevi Troy reflects on the life of neoconservative writer and activist Midge Decter, who died earlier this week.
Pic of the Day
King Abdullah II of Jordan (center) stands with (L-R) Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) following a meeting yesterday at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Israeli actress, she appeared in 30 episodes of “Shtisel” and played the lead role in the Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox,” Shira Haas turns 27…
Israeli optical and kinetic artist and sculptor Yaacov Agam turns 94… Retired judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, author of a memoir about his survival in Nazi concentration camps, Thomas Buergenthal turns 88… Sociologist and author, Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. turns 77… Israeli social activist focused on issues of women’s and human rights, Iris Stern Levi turns 69… Treasurer and receiver-general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Deborah Goldberg turns 68… Past president and then chairman of AIPAC, Morton Zvi Fridman, MD turns 64… Copy chief at Random House and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer turns 64… Brian Mullen turns 63… Howard M. Pollack turns 57… CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, William Albert “Bill” Ackman turns 56… Senior fellow and a Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute, Michael Pregent turns 54… Member of the California State Senate, Scott Wiener turns 52… EVP of development and digital at World Wrestling Entertainment, Jamie Horowitz turns 46… Filmmaker and podcast host, Dan Trachtenberg turns 41… Senior manager of strategic initiatives and engagement in the Office of the President at Carnegie Mellon University, Pamela Eichenbaum… Senior cost analyst at the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Michael Jeremy Alexander… PR and brand manager for overseas resource development at Leket Israel, Shira Woolf… Staff writer at Time Magazine, Olivia B. Waxman… Associate in paid search at Wavemaker, James Frichner… Paralympic track and field athlete, Ezra Frech turns 17….