👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Iranian-American writer Masih Alinejad, who was the target of a suspected Iranian assassination plot over the summer. We also take a look at the latest FEC filing from the United Democracy Project and its little-known involvement in the effort to boost a top Democratic primary challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar. Also in this morning’s newsletter: Rep. Shontel Brown, David Beckham and Samantha Sutton.
President Joe Biden will take center stage this morning at the United Nations General Assembly, where he is expected to address the body around 10:30 EDT. He’ll meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss in back-to-back bilateral meetings before heading to the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference, where he will deliver remarks.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, on his first visit to the U.S. as prime minister, is also set to meet today with Truss. He will also attend a meeting with representatives from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Federations of North America and UJA-Federation of New York.
Later this afternoon, Lapid will speak at a summit hosted by United Against a Nuclear Iran. Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan and Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Shaikh Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Khalifa are also appearing at the conference.
Lapid met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in New York yesterday, the first meeting between an Israeli prime minister and the Turkish president since the two countries announced that they would restore full diplomatic relations.
The two leaders discussed the fight against terrorism in Israel and elsewhere, and Lapid thanked Erdoğan for intelligence cooperation when Iran attempted to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis on Turkish soil, according to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. Additionally, the two leaders discussed the issue of missing and captive Israelis, economic and energy cooperation and regional developments.
on the menu
The kibbutznik behind D.C.’s hottest new Israeli café
Masih Alinejad is not marching with the thousands of women on the streets of Iran this week in protest of the country’s laws surrounding the wearing of the hijab. If she were, her massive curls — brown with streaks of blonde, often styled with a yellow flower behind her ear — would give her away easily. But the Iranian-American journalist, who built her career around advocating for Iranian women who did not want to adhere to the country’s strict modesty standards, is stuck inside a safe house in the U.S. “I’m very pleased that I’m being protected. But at the same time, it’s frustrating living in hiding,” Alinejad told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in an interview last week. “It’s like being in quarantine, except there is no cure for this virus. The Islamic Republic, to me, it’s a deadly virus.”
Enemy regime: Throughout her career, Alinejad has made an enemy of the Iranian ruling regime. Her brother spent three years in prison because of his relationship to her, and now they’re barred from speaking; her sister had to denounce Alinejad publicly. In July, a man with an AK-47 was arrested outside of Alinejad’s home in Brooklyn, a year after she was targeted in a kidnapping plot believed to be orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence network.
Community voice: Since the kidnapping attempt on her last year, Alinejad has racked up more than 7.7 million followers on Instagram, with another nearly half a million on Twitter. Lately, she’s been posting videos from the streets of Iran, showing women removing their head coverings and protesters clashing with police. Nearly all of the posts are in Farsi. “The huge number of Iranian community in the West, in America, are against the Islamic Republic,” she said.
Secret channel: People in the country send her videos knowing that anyone who communicates with Alinejad could face stiff consequences, including jail time. “But anyway, people do that. People send videos to me,” said Alinejad. “I try to give them a voice. It’s unbelievable that this is a punishable crime.” The protests started after Iran’s morality police arrested a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini for allegedly violating the hijab rule, and she later died in police custody in Tehran.
Spread the word: Alinejad appears regularly on American news broadcasts. She’ll speak to most groups who want to hear what she has to say. Last month, she gave an interview to Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster. “I would love to go to Israel one day,” she said. The Jewish community was the “first victim of the Islamic Republic,” Alinejad said. “When they were oppressed, and we kept silent, we didn’t know that Islamic Republic would come after us. And now, this is a lesson for many Iranians.”
United Democracy Project spent $350,000 in Ilhan Omar race, campaign filings show
Early last month, United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with AIPAC, quietly contributed $350,000 to a separate group created to boost a top Democratic primary challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, new filings from the Federal Election Commission revealed on Tuesday. The considerable investment, which had not previously been disclosed, adds some after-the-fact intrigue to the recent House race in Minneapolis, the outcome of which was much closer than political observers had expected, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. Omar, a two-term progressive Squad member, eked out a surprisingly narrow victory over her more mainstream rival, Don Samuels, a former city councilman who lost by just 2,500 votes.
Secret spending: Shortly after the Aug. 9 election, Samuels expressed frustration that pro-Israel groups had not supported his campaign against Omar, who is among the most outspoken critics of Israel in the House. But days before the primary, UDP routed $350,000 to a newly launched super PAC, Make a Difference MN-05, which had registered with the FEC just a week earlier. The pro-Samuels group spent $625,000 during the primary, including on TV ads highlighting differences over public safety. Tuesday’s filing shows that UDP’s cash infusion supported more than half of that spending.By contributing money to a separate group rather than investing in the race through independent expenditures from its own account, UDP was not required to disclose its spending until after the primary had concluded. Patrick Dorton, a spokesperson for UDP, declined to comment on the group’s strategy
New strategy: In the Aug. 23 primary to represent New York’s significantly redrawn 10th Congressional District, UDP contributed the same amount— $350,000 — to a separate super PAC opposing Yuh-Line Niou, a Democratic state assemblymember who had expressed support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The group, New York Progressive, was launched in the final weeks of the race and spent more than $400,000 on a series of digital ads and direct mailers casting Niou as “dangerous,” “reckless” and “too extreme for our community.” She lost by a thin margin to Dan Goldman, a former Trump impeachment prosecutor who prevailed with 26% of the vote.
Under fire: But even as UDP has enjoyed a relatively successful run for a newly created super PAC, it has also faced blowback for an aggressive approach that came under scrutiny this summer. The group has been criticized for running attack ads against far-left candidates that make no mention of Israel, while its association with an AIPAC-affiliated political action committee that endorsed several Republican incumbents who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results has stirred additional controversy.
Read the full story here.
on the hill
House passes Shontel Brown bill honoring Ohio Holocaust memorial
The House passed legislation on Monday recognizing the Kol Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial in Ohio — one of the oldest Holocaust memorials in the U.S. — as a national memorial site. The Kol Israel memorial, located in the Cleveland suburb of Bedford Heights, would be the first Holocaust memorial to receive the designation, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Never again: “I thought it was important as we continue to see antisemitism on the rise both nationally and internationally… that we actually reaffirm, emphasize the sentiment to never forget,” freshman Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH), who sponsored the legislation, told Jewish Insider on Tuesday, pointing to recent comments by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi questioning the Holocaust. “It was my goal to ensure that this memorial gets the recognition it deserves.” The memorial is in Brown’s district. Making the memorial a national memorial would “heighten its importance to people so that they recognize the historical significance of this treasure that we’re so blessed to have in the 11th Congressional District,” Brown continued.
Buckeye bipartisanship: In the House, the legislation, which passed by a voice vote, was introduced with several other members of the Ohio delegation: Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Tim Ryan (D-OH), David Joyce (R-OH), Mike Carey (R-OH) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). The Senate companion legislation was introduced by Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The House legislation now has 29 total co-sponsors, and the Senate legislation companion was approved in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July.
Community perspective: Mark Frank, the former chair of the Kol Israel Foundation and chair of the committee that pursued the national memorial recognition, noted to JI that the congressional designation would afford the memorial further protections — including making vandalizing it a federal felony — as well as potentially increasing attention to and awareness of the site beyond the local community. “Looking at today’s climate, increasing antisemitism, Holocaust denial, recognition as a national memorial would affirm the horrible history of the Holocaust,” Frank told JI.
Moving fast: Andrew Mizsak, a lobbyist and member of the Kol Israel Foundation board who has acted as a liaison between the board and the Ohio congressional delegation, said he received positive responses from Rep. Brown, Joyce, Sen. Brown and Portman’s offices when he first approached the lawmakers about the possibility of the legislation. “This was like warp speed and then some,” Mizsak told JI. “To get this type of designation, normally it takes a couple of years… Five months from introduction in the House to passage in the House is simply amazing.”
Bonus: On Tuesday, the House passed a resolution introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) that encourages the European Union to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The E.U. designates only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist entity, but not its political wing. The resolution was approved in a package with other pieces of legislation by a 361 to 69 vote.
State’s Samantha Sutton honored as ‘emerging leaders’ finalist at Sammies
If the Oscars are Hollywood’s biggest night, then the “Sammies,” the Partnership for Public Service’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals gala, are where the government’s federal employees from around the country come to honor the accomplishments of their peers. During this year’s ceremony, held last night in Washington, D.C., a handful of winners were chosen from a pool of around 30 finalists. One such finalist was Samantha Sutton, a political adviser at the United States Mission to the United Nations and former chief of staff to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides who was chosen alongside three other “emerging leader” hopefuls — the award category for early career employees under 35 who have already made significant contributions to the public good during their short tenure, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports.
A decade of service: For Sutton, a State Department employee for close to a decade, her policy work in the Middle East under the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations earned her a spot on such a prestigious list. Now the lead negotiator and advisor at the U.S. mission on issues related to Israel, Iran, Lebanon, the Palestinians and other parts of the Middle East, Sutton has held a number of positions during her tenure at the State Department. Most recently Sutton was seconded to Nides’ team to be his chief of staff during his first nine months in office — a position she returned from last week.
Cross-administration: “I think it has been challenging,” Sutton said of navigating Middle Eastern policy under different administrations. “It’s an American national security interest, you know, the security of Israel is closely linked to the security of the United States and what we push for in our own foreign policy. And that’s something that is consistent across administrations, but the level to which we show that support and the actions we take certainly fluctuated greatly, and I think it was certainly challenging at times.”
👨 Lapid in the Limelight: The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg interviews Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid as the interim leader looks ahead to the November elections while trying to navigate changing relationships in the region. “Lapid says that newly established diplomatic relations with several Arab countries — a by-product of the Abraham Accords, brokered mainly by the United Arab Emirates — increase the chance for a settlement with the Palestinians. ‘Tomorrow I’m having dinner with my friend Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed’ — the Emirati foreign minister — ‘and he’s going to talk to me about the Palestinians, and I’m going to listen to him more, not less, because he’s my friend, someone I’ve learned to appreciate and do business with.’ Lapid is hoping that the pace of ‘normalization’ with Arab- and Muslim-majority states increases before the November 1 election, and though he wouldn’t answer specifics, it’s widely believed in the Israeli government that Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, is considering establishing diplomatic ties.” [TheAtlantic]
💻 Cyber Space:Haaretz’s Omer Benjakob looks at the Greece-based, Israeli-owned surveillance firm Intellexa, run by former Unit 81 head Tal Dilian, which has met with success even as similar Israel-based companies have faced challenges surrounded the sharing of technology and institutional know-how. “Despite its Israeli ownership and the fact many of its executives and key staff members live in Israel, Intellexa is not considered an Israeli company. The firms within the Intellexa umbrella are registered in countries like Ireland, France, Hungary, North Macedonia, Greece and the British Virgin Islands. Industry sources say the firm has had sales representatives in Indonesia, Dubai, Paris — and Tel Aviv. It seems that Athens has been the center of its activities in recent years, while Dilian himself lives predominantly in Cyprus. This complex web of firms, sources say, makes regulating the firm’s activity close to impossible and poses a new and unique challenge to regulators — both in Israel and Europe.” [Haaretz]
🕍 Community Concerns: In Commentary, Moshe Krakowski reflects on recent portrayals of the Haredi community in secular media, from news outlets to literature to television. “Haredi society is complex, vibrant, flawed, and deeply human — as all communities are. Above all else, Haredi society is just that: a society. It’s not a fanatical cult where people sit in divine contemplation all day thinking about the Torah and Talmud. It’s not a hyper-controlled autocracy where people have to follow the rabbis or else their lives are ruined. Overall, it’s not a particularly poor community, or a particularly wealthy one — and it’s certainly not on the verge of collapse, as many non-Haredim both predict and hope. Its education system doesn’t look anything like modern public schools, but contra the hyperbolic claims presented in the Times, it is very effective at preparing students for life — just not the life secularists think these students should have.” [Commentary]
💣 Ominous Warning: The Washington Post’s Shira Rubin spotlights growing tensions in the West Bank, and specifically in Jenin, where violence has escalated in recent months, as a new generation of Palestinians engages in conflict. “Israeli officials fear that the black-market AK-47s, pistols, Kalashnikovs and M16s on display in the Jenin refugee camp will be directed at Israelis during the Jewish holidays that begin next week, as they brace for a new chapter of violent Palestinian resistance. Expectations of the passing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — the deeply unpopular, heavy-smoking 86-year-old autocrat who is believed to be in ill health — have already sparked a bloodier social order in this occupied city. In Abbas’s wake, ‘there will be fauda’ — ‘chaos’ in Arabic — said Mohammad Sabbagh, head of the People’s Services Committee of the Jenin refugee camp. ‘This is the beginning,’ he said.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
❌ Backtrack: The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), is canceling nearly $10 million in ad buys supporting Republican Blake Masters in the Arizona Senate race.
🙊 Concerning Comments: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) told a group of activists convened by Americans for Justice in Palestine Action that “it becomes clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel’s apartheid government.”
🗳️ Ballot Bluster: New York state Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who last month lost the Democratic primary in the state’s 10th Congressional District to attorney Dan Goldman, encouraged supporters to show Goldman “what his millions buy” — a reference to Goldman’s largely self-funded campaign — by writing in her name on the ballot in November.
✡️ I Do, Jewishly: Six Jewish couples who wed decades ago in non-religious ceremonies in the Former Soviet Union were married in simultaneous ceremonies that were held in accordance with Jewish law.
👑 Family and Country: Soccer star David Beckham spent 12 hours waiting in line to pay respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II, a move he said was inspired by his Jewish grandfather, who was a supporter of the monarchy.
🛑 Berlin Bust: The mayor of Berlin withdrew support from an event honoring a U.N. official spearheading the Commission of Inquiry into last year’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, leading to the ceremony’s cancellation.
🚓 Suspected Terror Attack: Israeli authorities found the body of a Palestinian man suspected of having killed an 84-year-old Jewish woman in Holon hours earlier.
💵 Breathe Easy: Google has acquired Israeli startup BreezoMeter, which monitors air pollution, in a deal estimated to be worth over $200 million.
🏺Ancient Findings: Archeologists in Israel found traces of opium on pieces of pottery dating back 3,500 years, an indication that the hallucinogen was used in burial rituals.
⚠️ Travel Warning: Israel plans to oppose a decision by travel agency Booking[dot]com to add safety warnings to listings in the West Bank.
👰🤵 Newlyweds: White House Jewish Liaison Shelley Greenspan and Reuben Smith-Vaughan, head of public policy for Latin America at Amazon, were married on Sunday in Washington, D.C. The weekend of celebrations included taking in a Nationals-Marlins game at Nats Park with wedding guests in the lead-up to the Sunday nuptials at the Salamander Hotel. Attendees were given custom-made yarmulkes that featured images of Washington’s most famous sites.
Pic of the Day
A beekeeper in northern Israel prepares honey at an apiary in Moshav Sde Eliezer this week ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
One of the highest-grossing Hollywood box office producers of all time, Jerry Bruckheimer turns 79… President of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Mark B. Sisisky turns 72… Chair of the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Cheryl Fishbein… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Yisrael Katz turns 67… International president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Debbi Kaner Goldich… Owner of Total Wine & More, the largest alcohol retailer in the U.S., he is now a member of the House of Representatives (D-MD), David Trone turns 67… Professor of political science at Tel Aviv University and professor emeritus at Georgetown, Yossi Shain turns 66… One-half the renowned filmmaking team of the Coen Brothers, Ethan Jesse Coen turns 65… Attorney, author, conservative talk show host, Mark R. Levin turns 65… Retired managing director of equity trading at Goldman Sachs, Andrew Berman… Co-founder of the private investment firm Centerbridge Partners, Jeffrey Aronson turns 64… Russian businessman who fell out of favor with President Putin, now living in Israel, Leonid Nevzlin turns 63… Janet Bunting… SVP at polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Anna Greenberg, Ph.D…. Emmy Award-winning talk show host, actress and producer, Ricki Lake turns 54… Guitarist and music producer in Israel, Nachman Fahrner turns 50… Managing editor of the New York Jewish Week, Lisa Keys… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, from District 16 in Montgomery County, Marc Alan Korman turns 41… Assistant professor of radiology at Duke, he is an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Dr. Benjamin M. Wildman-Tobriner turns 38… Managing director at Scott Circle Events, Sienna Girgenti… COO of TAMID Group, Nathan Gilson… Dual Master’s candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Divinity School, Mia Appelbaum… Rap musician, known professionally as Token, Benjamin David Goldberg turns 24… Senior director at FTI Consulting, Scott Frankel…