👋 Good Monday morning!
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated on Friday as he was delivering a speech in the city of Nara, was remembered over the weekend as a “strategic genius” and “a real mensch” by his longtime friend, the Hudson Institute’s former president, Ken Weinstein, who now serves as a distinguished fellow at the think tank.
Weinstein told Jewish Insider that he first met Abe nearly 20 years ago through a mutual friend in Tokyo. “Somehow we clicked,” Weinstein said. “Abe impressed me right away with his deep knowledge of geopolitics — and his willingness to have genuine exchanges of ideas.”
Weinstein, who called Abe’s death “a national tragedy and a devastating loss for his family and those close to him,” had planned to visit Abe in Tokyo this week. The Japanese leader had appeared at a number of Hudson Institute events. “He understood the necessity of Japan shedding a passive role in world affairs in the face of the growing China challenge to make a ‘proactive contribution to peace,’” Weinstein said, noting that Abe introduced the concept at a 2013 Hudson Institute event. “His vision of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ — a strategy he announced in Kenya in 2016 — is the rare strategy of a foreign leader that became U.S. grand strategy (adopted and adapted under both Trump and Biden) as well as the grand strategies of our Quad partners, and the major European powers.”
“I’ll miss his strategic genius, but also his humor, gentle ways and deeply loyal sense of friendship,” Weinstein added. “A great leader, a real mensch, and a loyal friend.”
The last week has seen two Jewish communities in crisis, leaving many more on edge. Seven people were shot and killed in an attack on a July Fourth parade in Highland Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago with a sizable Jewish population. One Chicagoland native texted us, “No way does one choose Highland Park and not choose Jews.”
Among those killed were Jacki Sundheim, who coordinated events at North Shore Congregation Israel, and Irina Levberg McCarthy, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Russia with her family. McCarthy’s husband was also killed in the attack. The couple is survived by their 2-year-old son.
Rabbi Motti Seligson, who serves as Chabad Lubavitch’s director of media, traveled to Highland Park in the wake of the attack. “A little more than 20 years ago I ran some of the children’s educational programming in Highland Park at The Central Avenue Synagogue – Chabad, and after I heard about the shooting, I felt I should be there,” Seligson told JI. “One thing that struck me walking the streets and speaking to people of Highland Park is, while the rest of the country obsessed over the shooter, and studying his lyrics like he is Bob Dylan, they were just trying to heal.”
Seligson was on hand for a Thursday night event hosted by Chabad of Highland Park. “There was talk about gun control, though most people I spoke with looked toward deeper discussion of how someone who grew up in their neighborhood, who was their classmate or just the kid down the block could unleash such senseless horror on his own community,” he said. “Many, while still recovering from the shock and starting to confront the pain, also spoke of the people in the South Side of Chicago facing huge amounts of murders there.”
Days after the attack in Highland Park, the Jewish Federation of San Antonio received a warning from the FBI of a ”potential threat” to an area synagogue. The federation recommended the immediate cancellation of community events in response to the threat.
‘I do support BDS’: Yuh-Line Niou lays out her Middle East policy approach
Yuh-Line Niou, a New York state assemblywoman, has carved out a lane as one of the top candidates of choice for left-leaning Democrats in the crowded primary for an open House seat in New York’s redrawn 10th District, which spans parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The 38-year-old, who favors the Green New Deal and universal single-payer healthcare — among other causes championed by the party’s activist wing — is also tacking far from the mainstream on Middle East policy, most notably including support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. “I believe in the right to protest as a fundamental tenet of western democracy, so I do support BDS,” she told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Potential fallout: The statement, however carefully worded, is likely to draw scrutiny in the district and could reverberate beyond the race. But even if BDS is unpopular among federal elected officials — only a small handful of House Democrats have endorsed the movement — it remains to be seen whether Niou’s stance will diminish her chances in one of the most progressive districts in the country. National pro-Israel groups from across the political spectrum, which have been closely monitoring the race, have yet to weigh in publicly.
Beyond BDS: When it comes to U.S. military funding for Israel, Niou said she favors a bill introduced last year by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) that would place restrictions on such aid. “It’s just making sure that there’s accounting for our tax dollars,” Niou told JI. “I think that makes sure that we are not violating any human rights.” Still, Niou was unable to clarify whether she would have voted in favor of legislation to provide $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. Likewise, the first-time congressional candidate could not say whether she would support expanding the Abraham Accords. “I can get back to you on that,” Niou said, “when I win.”
Striking a balance at the Western Wall
When Israel’s government collapsed last month, sending the country to its fifth national election in less than four years, hopes for revitalizing and implementing a government-approved plan to formally establish a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem crumbled along with it. Now, the so-called “Western Wall compromise,” which also recommended non-Orthodox Jewish representation on the council that manages Judaism’s holiest place of worship, is off the table once again. This is a welcome development for Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who has served as rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy sites in Israel for some 25 years, who believes in maintaining the long-standing Orthodox customs at the sacred site. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash last week, he said it was important to “look at the whole picture” and not get caught up with “sensational headlines” on the matter.
Heart of the Jewish world: Tempers have flared at the Western Wall in recent weeks, with divisions between different Jewish streams and how they view the holy site growing ever more visible in the absence of a viable and implementable solution. Rabinowitz responded to the unrest, calling on all sides “to remove disputes and demonstrations from this sacred site and preserve the Western Wall as a holy and unifying site in the spirit of Jewish heritage and tradition.” From his office inside the newly inaugurated Western Wall Heritage Center, the rabbi acknowledged the challenges of overseeing and managing the place he calls “the heart of the Jewish world.”
Keeping calm: “I need to manage this place on a very thin tightrope so that everyone feels like this is their home,” Rabinowitz continued, noting that “there are extremist groups stoking tempers and seeking to ignite the situation” from both sides. For the most part, however, Rabinowitz contended that the area was calm despite tensions between Jewish groups and clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which does have an impact on the atmosphere at the Kotel.
Place for all Jews: “This is the biggest synagogue in the world,” the rabbi said. “Before corona[virus], 12 million people visited a year and out of those, nearly everyone, 99.9%, came here in peace… This is the closest we can get to the Temple, it’s the place where people come and open their hearts – there’s a reason it’s called the Wailing Wall.” “People should not be coming here to express their worldview,” he added, highlighting that he would not allow any Jewish group – non-Orthodox or Orthodox – to act this way. “This should be the place where all Jews find the things they have in common.”
Following Israel trip, lawmakers urge Biden to push Saudi-Israel normalization
Fresh off a recent trip to Israel, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging President Joe Biden to use his trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia this week to promote and work to expand the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states to include Saudi Arabia. Five of the participants on the American Israel Education Foundation trip spoke to Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod last week upon their return to the U.S., each urging Biden to use his upcoming visit to seek prospects for expanding the Abraham Accords.
Across the board: “There are great expectations from every political group in Israel that the president is going to come to Israel and go to Saudi Arabia as an advocate for making headway and progress,” Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) said, adding that one of his takeaways from his visit was that Israelis feel the Accords “need greater attention from the United States.”
Changing hands: The lawmakers met with newly minted Prime Minister Yair Lapid, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of the transfer of power and sat in on the Knesset session when the Bennett government was officially dissolved. “It was remarkable, at that time, within 24 hours, having those conversations and the peaceful exchange of power, [with Lapid and Bennett] literally getting up and moving from one seat and switching to the other, embracing and then moving on, which is incredible,” Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) said.
Going deep: Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) who signed onto a letter in May calling on the administration to halt the evictions of 1,000 Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta region of the West Bank, said that after the trip he has a “much more granular understanding” of the “geographic and political reality of the settlements.” Auchincloss criticized “settlements that are illegal under Israeli law” as an “aggravating force” that could also harm the goal of advancing Arab-Israeli relations, but added that many current Israeli settlements would likely have to be incorporated into Israel’s borders under a final-status agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
UNRWA-produced education materials contain antisemitic content, watchdog group documents
New educational materials produced by the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees include content promoting terrorism, denying Israel’s existence and spreading antisemitism, according to a new watchdog report published on Thursday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), a London- and Ramat Gan, Israel-based group that monitors the content of educational materials distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), discovered the content after UNRWA had said that all such material had been removed from self-produced materials.
Terror troubles: The new materials, labeled as having been produced by UNRWA staff in Gaza for use in the 2021-2022 school year, include self-study booklets as well as social studies exams. The “material contains texts that glorify waging war and sacrificing one’s life and blood to liberate the ‘motherland,’” according to the report.
Targeted: The material also includes repeated descriptions of Jews as “inherently treacherous and hostile to Islam and Muslims” and “impure,” and accuses them of attempting to murder the Prophet Mohammad and “defiling” the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The materials also ignore the existence of Israel, labeling cities and sites within Israel as Palestinian; refer to Israel as “the Zionist Enemy,” “the Zionist Occupation” and “the Zionist Entity”; and describe Israel as a “colonial entity created by European colonialism to divide the Arab world.”
Behind the curtain: UNRWA has said it would share all of its self-produced educational materials on a public web platform, but these materials were not available online, according to the report. “After a similar scandal last year, UNRWA promised that all offending material produced by them would be removed. It seems that UNRWA has interpreted this as removal from the website where it can be scrutinized, rather than removal from actual classrooms,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said. “UNRWA was again made aware of our concerns just two months ago.”
✈️ The New Middle East: In The Washington Post, President Joe Biden previews his agenda for his upcoming trip to the Middle East. “On Friday, I will also be the first president to fly from Israel to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. That travel will also be a small symbol of the budding relations and steps toward normalization between Israel and the Arab world, which my administration is working to deepen and expand. In Jiddah, leaders from across the region will gather, pointing to the possibility of a more stable and integrated Middle East, with the United States playing a vital leadership role… Still, compared to 18 months ago, the region is less pressurized and more integrated. Former rivals have reestablished relations. Joint infrastructure projects are forging new partnerships. Iraq, which had long been a source of proxy conflicts and regional rivalries, now serves as a platform for diplomacy, including between Saudi Arabia and Iran.” [WashPost]
🤝 Breaking the Coalition Mold: In The New York Times, Shmuel Rosner suggests that the coalition government formed by former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and current PM Yair Lapid changed the Israeli status quo — and perhaps the future of Israeli politics — by including an Arab party in its governing coalition. “Raam’s inclusion in that coalition was audacious and eventually fatal, but the precedent it has set is critical. Whether Mr. Netanyahu and the right-religious bloc win the next election or another near tie forces Israel to accept another awkward political arrangement, the option of Arab participation is on the table: One Arab party has shown itself ready and willing to have an active and constructive role in governing Israel. We’ve already seen what can come out of such cooperation: a new political reality of surprising political alliances that forces both Jews and Arabs to consider the coalition’s successes and reconsider their previously long-held positions.” [NYTimes]
🌐 Turtle Bay Turnover: In The Atlantic, Uri Friedman proposes an overhaul of the United Nations Security Council, so that the body may more effectively address issues of global concern. “We live in an age of global intervulnerability to existential threats — and thus a period when it may be warranted to transfer some power (in the form, say, of a veto-override option at the United Nations) from the five top powers circa 1945 to the consensus of the majority of countries affected by the challenges associated with climate change, pandemics, and nuclear conflict. In supporting an effort like this, the U.S. government could contend that it isn’t afraid of (and is in fact supportive of) the global consensus on the world’s defining challenges. And it could ask a related question: If Russia and China are opposed to such a change, what does that say about their disregard for the rest of the world? This could open a new front in the battle of ideas between Moscow and Beijing on one side, and Washington and its allies on the other.” [TheAtlantic]
🖼️ Art Show: In The Circuit, Rebecca Anne Proctor visits an art exhibition at Ithra, in eastern Saudi Arabia. “Organized by Venetia Porter, curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle Eastern art at the British Museum, the exhibition runs through Sept. 30 at Ithra, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, which was built by the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco in the eastern city of Dhahran. The works on display, which range from paintings and collages to sculptures and film, document places from a variety of locations that carry emotional connections for each artist. ‘They interface between art and documentation,’ Porter told The Circuit during a visit to Ithra. ‘There’s a strong Iraqi-Saudi connection in the show, but then I also wanted to bring in the work of Pakistani artists Imran Kurashi and Aisha Khalid — their makan is further away but connected.’” [TheCircuit]
Around the Web
🗳️ Coming From Behind: A new poll shows former Maryland state attorney Glenn Ivey ahead of former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) by five percentage points in the state’s 4th Congressional District, a reversal from an early May poll that showed Edwards leading by 13 points.
💰 Dems For Liz: The New York Times spotlights the Democratic donors — among them, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Seth Klarman — who have donated to Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) reelection campaign, citing her efforts to hold Trump administration officials responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, 2021.
🇸🇦 Coming Soon: In Foreign Policy, Aaron David Miller and Steve Simon look ahead to President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East.
🏥 Hospital Help: President Joe Biden is expected to announce $100 million in funding for Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem during his trip to the region.
🏦 SoftBank Shake-up: Rajeev Misra will step back from the top role at SoftBank, the latest in a series of transitions at the company that include Ron Fisher, who recently stepped back from the company’s board.
💱 Money Matters: The Wall Street Journal looks at the opportunities for some — including FTX founder Sam Bankman-Friend — amid a global crypto crash that saw a number of companies go belly-up in an unstable environment.
📱 Spyware Defense: Apple plans to launch a feature on its newest phones called “Lockdown Mode,” to be deployed by users who believe they’ve been subject to a spyware attack.
🍨 Ice Cream Wars: Ben & Jerry’s is suing its parent company Unilever over the recent agreement between the U.K. conglomerate and an Israeli ice cream manufactuer to continue selling Ben & Jerry’s products, a year after the Vermont-based ice cream company said it would no longer sell its products in what it referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
🎭 Exit Stage Right: Beanie Feldstein announced she is leaving the Broadway production of “Funny Girl” two months earlier than planned.
📘 For the Books: The Wall Street Journal interviews Joshua Cohen, whose novel The Netanyahus won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
👨 Prisoner Swap: Belgian lawmakers moved closer to agreeing to a prisoner swap that would repatriate Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was sentenced to two decades in prison for his role in planning an attack on a political rally in neighboring France.
🎖️ Medals for His Mettle: A 97-year-old WWII veteran who escaped capture by German soldiers and fought alongside the French Resistance was awarded the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Prisoner of War Medal for his service.
🇩🇪 Survivor Honored: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier honored Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer, the sole survivor from her family who would go on to speak about her wartime experiences, with Germany’s Walther Rathenau Prize for outstanding lifetime achievement in foreign policy.
⚖️ Adoption Ruling: A Tennessee court dismissed a case brought by a Jewish couple that was not allowed to go through foster parent training through a Christian charity that receives public funding.
🙏 Full-Court Press: Politico looks at the efforts of the evangelical group Faith and Action to court conservative Supreme Court justices while pushing issues of interest to the group.
🌎 Hate Spreading: The heads of the FBI and MI15 said that domestic neo-Nazi terror threats in the U.S. and U.K. have taken on an international component, as assailants and would-be attackers derive inspiration and ideas from each other.
🕵️ Spy Saga: A New York Times report revealed that an American defense contractor sought to purchase Israel’s NSO Group, which produces the controversial Pegasus spyware.
😡 Behind the Scenes: Both Israeli and Palestinian officials privately raised concerns over the statement released by the U.S. over the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, which said that Abu Akleh was likely unintentionally killed by Israeli fire.
✍️ Visa Waiver Progress: The U.S. and Israel inked an agreement tied to Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program; the Knesset must now pass several pieces of legislation to move Israel closer to inclusion in the program.
🇱🇧 Drone Dilemma: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati criticized Hezbollah for flying several drones over Israel’s Karish gas field, located in the Mediterranean.
🚀 No-go on Iron Dome: Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, which protects against low-altitude, low-impact rockets, would be largely ineffective at protecting Ukraine against air attacks.
☢️ Nuke Enrichment: Iran announced that it is enriching uranium to 20%, using its most advanced centrifuges, at its Fordow facility.
💼 Transitions: Doron Almog was formally elected to lead The Jewish Agency for Israel, ending a yearlong search to find a successor to now-President Isaac Herzog. Elaine Dezenski joined the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as a senior director and will head its Center on Economic and Financial Power.
🕯️ Remembering: Philanthropist Lily Safra died at 87. Actor James Caan died at 82. Hank Goldberg, who covered the NFL for ESPN for two decades, died on his 82nd birthday. Actor Joe Turkel died at 94. Dr. Joyce Lashof, a former dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, died at 96. Artist Harvey Dinnerstein, who painted moments and prominent figures from the Civil Rights Movement, died at 94. Bruce Katz, who pioneered the walking shoe, died at 75. Comic actor Larry Storch died at 96.
Pic of the Day
Author Bari Weiss attends the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, last week.
Founder and CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Daniel L. Doctoroff turns 64…
Investment banker, civil servant and political advisor, Stephen Berger turns 83… Developmental psychologist, selected in the 1981 inaugural class of MacArthur genius fellows, Howard Gardner turns 79… Member of the UK’s House of Lords, he was PM Tony Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East for nine years, Baron Michael Abraham Levy turns 78… U.S. senator (D-MA), Ed Markey turns 76… EVP of the Milken Family Foundation and past chair of the board of trustees of JFNA, Richard V. Sandler turns 74… Journalist covering classical music, he is the author of Genius & Anxiety: How Jews Changed the World, 1847-1947, Norman Lebrecht turns 74… Founder in 1992 of Schnur Associates, Zeesy Schnur… West Orange, N.J., resident, Jeffrey Maas… Singer-songwriter, known by his stage name “RebbeSoul,” Bruce Burger turns 65… Los Angeles-based Group EVP of Public Relations for Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel, Laurie Goldberg… Radiation oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvey Jay Mamon, MD, Ph.D…. Managing member at Samuel Capital Management, Barry Mannis… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Yaron Mazuz turns 60… Former commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, now in the IDF Reserves, Major General Shlomo “Sami” Turgeman turns 58… Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum turns 56…
Associate domestic tax counsel at Bristol Myers Squibb, Adina Tamar Spiro Wagman… Deputy editor of The City, Alyssa A. Katz… Senior program and community engagement director at the Los Angeles-based Smidt Foundation, Lindsey Caren Kozberg… Consultant focused upon social impact strategies, Joshua D. Wachs… Actor, podcaster and lead singer of the band Sun Spin, Michael Owen Rosenbaum turns 50… Ukrainian-born computer scientist and internet entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of Affirm, Max Levchin turns 47… Founder and CEO of Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands, Craig Karmazin turns 47… Principal at Civitas Public Affairs Group, Celine Mizrahi… Chabad rabbi at Washington University in St. Louis, Rabbi Hershey Novack… Comedian, podcaster and political commentator, Katie Halper turns 41… Screenwriter known for “The Green Hornet,” “50/50” and “Bad Sports,” Theodore Beren Bressman… Professional ice hockey forward over 19 seasons in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Jacob Micflikier turns 38… Associate director of legislative affairs at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Anne Sokolov… and her twin sister, a co-founder at Social Goods, Kate Sokolov… Retired offensive guard in the NFL for eight seasons, his Hebrew name is Gedalia Yitzhak, Geoff Schwartz turns 36… Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, Matthew J. Rosenbaum… Bryan Stone…