👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Ahmed Shaheed, the former U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, about his efforts to fight antisemitism on the global stage. We also look at the response from House Democrats to comments made by Rep. Rashida Tlaib earlier this week about Israel and progressive values. Below, we look at what Israeli PM Yair Lapid told Jewish leaders in New York yesterday ahead of his U.N. speech today. Also in today’s newsletter: Amb. Susan Rice, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and David Makovsky.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid will take the dais at the United Nations General Assembly this afternoon, in his first address to the international body.
Weeks away from the country’s next election, Lapid plans to call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech, Axios first reported.
Yesterday, he met with American Jewish leaders at the offices of the UJA-Federation of New York, in an event co-hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Lapid made brief introductory remarks before dedicating most of the meeting to answering questions from the group, one attendee told JI.
“We are one family. You are my brothers and sisters. The government of Israel accepts all streams of Judaism,” Lapid told participants. “The special bond between Israel and Jews around the world is one of our top priorities, and we will show this. Israel must be, and will be, an open home for all Jews.”
One participant contrasted Lapid’s meeting with the Jewish leaders to similar gatherings with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “With Netanyahu, he would come in and basically give a U.N. speech, complete with PowerPoint,” the attendee said. “It was more a show than a dialogue and a give-and-take.” Read the full story here.
In his half-hour-long address to the General Assembly yesterday morning, President Joe Biden briefly addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “And we will continue to advocate for lasting negotiating peace between the Jewish and democratic state of Israel and the Palestinian people. The United States is committed to Israel’s security, full stop, and a negotiated two-state solution remains, in our view, the best way to ensure Israel’s security and prosperity for the future and give the Palestinians the state which — to which they are entitled — both sides to fully respect the equal rights of their citizens; both people enjoying equal measure of freedom and dignity.”
“In a kitchen sink address, Biden gave the Israeli-Palestinian issue its obligatory perfunctory two sentences,” the Carnegie Endowment’s Aaron David Miller quipped.
Elsewhere in New York, Manhattan restaurant Reserve Cut got some extra publicity this week after rapper Cardi B turned up at the kosher steakhouse for dinner with her husband, Offset.
The U.N.’s unlikely campaigner against antisemitism
For decades, Jewish activists and supporters of Israel have criticized the United Nations for singling out the Jewish state. But in recent years, an unlikely champion for Jewish concerns has emerged at the international body. Ahmed Shaheed, a Maldivian human rights activist, used his post as the U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to shine a light on antisemitism and even criticize anti-Zionism — a major shock to longtime U.N. watchers. “The United Nations itself is not a hospitable place to Jewish groups, the Human Rights Council in particular,” Shaheed acknowledged to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a wide-ranging interview last week. He called the Human Rights Council’s permanent agenda item on Israel “a big, I think, turnoff for many Jewish groups.”
Recognize change: “You’ve got to recognize when changes are being made,” Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, told Jewish Insider in June, citing a report Shaheed published earlier this year with a detailed “action plan” to fight antisemitism. Shaheed is among the thousands of activists, diplomats and world leaders gathered in Turtle Bay this week for the United Nations General Assembly. But this time, after more than a decade, he’s there as a civilian: Shaheed stepped down from his position this summer to become a professor of international human rights law at the University of Essex in the U.K.
Make it happen: “I’m not simply somebody who just watches and articulates concern. I am a doer as well,” said Shaheed. In 2019, he released a report that, for the first time, acknowledged antisemitism as a human rights concern at the U.N. Notably, the report discussed the many forms of antisemitism: from neo-Nazis, from Islamists and from people on the left who “have conflated Zionism, the self-determination movement of the Jewish people, with racism.”
Background story: Helping spearhead the global fight against antisemitism is not an obvious fit for a diplomat from the Maldives, a Muslim nation in the Indian Ocean with a population of just 540,000 spread across hundreds of islands. “I grew up in a country, which wasn’t antisemitic to begin with, but then turned antisemitic over time,” said Shaheed. He faced impeachment when, as foreign minister, he signed several cooperation agreements with Israel.
Singled out: He wants his colleagues and others in the human rights community to start having difficult conversations about Israel. “How many of us unconsciously singled out Israel,” he asked, “when you wouldn’t do that to somebody else, to something comparable? That is such an in-built culture that you pull out Israel first, I knew we totally ignore similar sort of things elsewhere. And what that means, people, don’t really fess up to.”
House Dems condemn Tlaib’s claim that progressive, pro-Israel policies incompatible
Several House Democrats on Wednesday condemned comments made earlier this week by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) arguing that support for “Israel’s apartheid government” is incompatible with “progressive values,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: Tlaib claimed during an online event on Tuesday hosted by Americans for Justice in Palestine Action and American Muslims for Palestine that “among progressives, it has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel’s apartheid government” and that “we will… not accept this idea that you are progressive, except for Palestine any longer.”
Antisemitism accusation: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) accused Tlaib of antisemitism. “The outrageous progressive litmus test on Israel by [Tlaib] is nothing short of antisemitic,” Wasserman Schultz said on Twitter. “Proud progressives do support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Suggesting otherwise is shameful and dangerous.” A spokesperson for Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) told JI that she agrees with Wasserman Schultz that the comments are antisemitic.
Inside the House: Tlaib was also called out by other House progressives. “There’s nothing progressive about advocating for the end of Israel as a Jewish State,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said.
Pushback: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the most senior Jewish lawmaker in the House, likewise called out Tlaib in a tweet, while noting that he has been critical of “some of the policies and actions of democratically-elected Israeli governments over time.” “I fundamentally reject the notion that one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and be a progressive,” Nadler said. “I would happily put my progressive record and credentials up against anyone’s. It is both wrong and self-defeating for progressive leaders to abide such an offensive litmus [test].”
Republicans make bid to block Iran deal implementation, citing assassination attempts
Congressional Republicans are making a renewed attempt to subvert Iran nuclear negotiations and prevent implementation of a potential nuclear deal with a new bill that would block the Biden administration from withdrawing any sanctions on Iran in light of recent attempts to kill U.S. citizens, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Assassination agenda: The Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides (PUNISH) Act, if passed, would prevent the withdrawal of U.S. sanctions on Iran until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that Iran had not supported any attempts to kill U.S. citizens or Iranians living in the U.S. for at least five years. Iran has recently targeted multiple former Trump administration officials, dissident journalist Masih Alinejad and author Salman Rushdie for assassination, in addition to proxy attacks targeting U.S. military sites in the Middle East. The bill would effectively prevent the implementation of a nuclear deal for the foreseeable future.
Locked in: “The Biden administration’s foolish and fanciful pursuit of peace through appeasement must be stopped,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, told reporters on Wednesday. The legislation would codify the Trump administration’s maximum pressure sanctions on Iran, as well as codify the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Foreign Terrorist Organization designation. It specifically blocks the president from waiving any of the sanctions. The conditions regarding targeting of U.S. citizens would apply to citizens both within and outside the U.S.
Reaching out: The bill has Republican sponsors — 25 in the Senate and around 20 in the House, but Ernst and Waltz told reporters that there has been bipartisan interest in the legislation. Ernst said that there are “a number of Democrats that are extremely concerned” about the talks, and that she’s hopeful some might sign on. Waltz said he’s in “active discussions” with several Democrats, particularly those who have publicly voiced concerns about the talks.
Bonus: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declined to say on Wednesday whether she’d allow a floor vote on an Iran nuclear deal, should one be reached. “We have so much we’re doing before that,” Pelosi told JI yesterday. “I support the president, I support a nuclear agreement with Iran.”
✋ Comparison’s Sake: In the wake of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s comments about the Holocaust, The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg shares what he describes as “a handy five-point guide explaining how not to talk about the Holocaust” — among them, limiting comparisons to the Holocaust. “The truth is, some things do warrant comparison to the Holocaust. Personally, I can think of no more relevant frame for understanding China’s heinous treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population. But just because some things can be likened to the Holocaust doesn’t mean they should be. The reason is sadly simple: When you compare something terrible to the Holocaust, the argument inevitably becomes about the comparison rather than the terrible thing you intended to decry. Instead of raising awareness about an atrocity, you end up distracting from it.” [TheAtlantic]
🕺 Animating the Dems:Politico’s Christopher Cadelago spotlights Wide Angle Research, a nonprofit firm that used unorthodox research practices to devise a new ad strategy — namely, producing ads using cartoons, rather than actors — that is hoping to gain widespread use among Democratic candidates and causes. “[Executive Director Ineke] Mushovic said with traditional political ads, people would often put up a barrier and, ultimately, it becomes hard to move them. ‘They would say, “That’s an actor. That’s fake. I don’t like that person’s voice.” And that creates this kind of overarching objection,’ she said. ‘But now, because it’s a cartoon format, people didn’t throw up that barrier. It’s obvious that those aren’t real people. And they allowed their imaginations to be engaged,’ Mushovic added. ‘It let them really start to wrestle with the question of could this be real in the future?’” [Politico]
⚖️ Too Close to Call: David Makovsky, Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, analyzes the factors that could tip the scales in the close race between the two rival blocs in the upcoming Israeli election, which could end — again — in a deadlock. “The Change Coalition’s party lineup remains largely intact, with members united by a fear that democratic norms will erode if Netanyahu’s Likud Party wins. Likud representatives in the Knesset have openly stated that should Netanyahu return to power, they will fire the current attorney-general, alter the manner in which that post is filled, and pass a law deferring their leader’s corruption trial until after he exits politics… Meanwhile, Likud’s alliance with the national-religious and ultraorthodox camps has been airtight since 2009 and should bear fruit at the polls given that 62 percent of Israeli Jewish voters identify with the right. At the same time, the right-wing coalition has yet to achieve a majority in parliament due to ongoing public uneasiness about Netanyahu’s corruption charges and erosion of democratic norms — sentiments that can be found among large segments of the non-religious center-right and even some national-religious voters.” [WINEP]
Around the Web
🗳️ Split Support: Sheryl Bartos — who is married to former GOP Senate candidate Jeff Bartos, now co-chair of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s Senate campaign — co-hosted a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro yesterday.
😟 Pennsylvania Problems: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a longtime friend of Dr. Mehmet Oz, toldRolling Stone that the GOP Senate candidate was “unrecognizable” to him and described the campaign as a “tragedy for the Jewish people” due to Oz’s position on Turkey.
💰 Badger State Bucks: Republicans in Wisconsin outspent Democrats by $1.6 million in recent weeks in the heated Senate race between Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
🪧 Defaced: Vandals drew a swastika on a campaign sign supporting former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) on Staten Island.
🏥 Reupped: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was reappointed to be the World Health Organization’s global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases and injuries, the third time he’s been named to the role.
🏀 Suns Set: Robert Sarver plans to sell both his NBA and WNBA teams in Phoenix, after an investigation found that he had mistreated employees. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger, Amazon founder and ex-CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder and former CEO Larry Ellison and Washington Wizards minority governor Laurene Powell Jobs are reportedly candidates for buying the franchises.
🎞️ Coming Soon: Leviathan Productions, a new television and film company founded by Ben Cosgrove and Josh Foer, will produce content on Jewish folklore, literature and history.
🔐 Hard Landing: Kittyhawk, the air taxi company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, is closing.
🥬 Green Field: Israel will host the first international conference on global food security and climate technologies in October; attendees will include Bahrain and Morocco as well as Jordan, Cyprus and Malta.
🏢 Location, Location, Location: U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss is considering moving the British Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, she told her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid yesterday.
🕵️ Comrades-in-Arms: Ukraine has asked Israel to share intelligence on Iranian military support for Russia in the ongoing war, Israeli officials told Axios‘ Barak Ravid.
📵 Blocked: Iran has restricted access to Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining international social media platforms accessible in the country, amid protests over the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the country’s morality police.
💲Drone Deal: A Turkish defense company sold 20 armed drones to the UAE earlier this month, and is leaving open the possibility of selling additional drones to the Gulf nation.
🕯️ Remembering: Allan M. Siegal, longtime assistant managing editor of The New York Times, died at 82. Philosopher Saul Kripke, a professor at the City University of New York, which houses a center dedicated to preserving his works, died at 81. Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg, who in his later years spoke extensively about his wartime experiences, died at 96.
Pic of the Day
Relatives of victims of the 1972 Olympic attacks take part in a wreath-laying ceremony yesterday in Tel Aviv marking the 50th anniversary of the attacks on the Israeli Olympic team during the Summer Olympics in Munich.
Chief political analyst at CNN, Gloria Borger turns 70…
Brooklyn resident, Jay Kanter… Former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, now a consultant at the L.A.-based Diane and Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, John Fishel… Professor of journalism at Columbia University and a former reporter for The New York Times, Ari L. Goldman turns 73… Former publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. turns 71… Clarinetist who performs klezmer, jazz, classical music and avant-garde improvisation, David Krakauer turns 66… Former U.S. ambassador to Romania, Adrian Zuckerman turns 66… Nobel Prize laureate, astrophysicist and professor of physics at UC-Berkeley, Saul Perlmutter turns 63… President of Israel, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog turns 62… Director of development at the Los Angeles Conservancy, Elizabeth “Liz” Leshin… Editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg turns 57… Former member of the Knesset for Likud, Osnat Hila Mark turns 55… CEO of Terravet Real Estate Solutions, Daniel Eisenstadt… Founder and CEO at P3 Media, Adam Ciralsky turns 51… Arlington, Va., resident, Karen Elyse Simpson… Writer-at-large for The New York Times, she is the author of Chasing Hillary, Amy Chozick… Actress best known for her role as Quinn Perkins in the ABC political drama series “Scandal,” Katie Lowes turns 40… Hungarian politician who served as a member of the European Parliament, Csanád Szegedi turns 40… Deputy editor of Tablet magazine and host of “Unorthodox,” its weekly podcast, Stephanie Taylor Butnick… Entertainment reporter, journalist, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Baruch Yehudah Shemtov turns 35… Partner at Winning Tuesday, Jared Sichel… Associate director for combating antisemitism at AJC Global, Alyssa Weiner Sandler…