👋 Good Monday morning!
A 4,000-word article on the online targeting of Women’s March leadership by Russian trolls, published Sunday morning in the New York Times, spotlights Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, a co-founder of the organization whom the New York Times describes as having “troubled pro-Israel politicians in New York” over “her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
The article, which attributes the challenges facing Women’s March leaders to online attacks and Russian interference — rather than internal disarray and support for controversial figures including Rev. Louis Farrakhan — stops short of mentioning numerous instances in which Sarsour has been accused of trafficking in antisemitic tropes, or that as recently as April, insurance giant Geico canceled an event at which Sarsour was scheduled to speak after an uproar over her inclusion, going so far as to say the company “does not condone hatred of any kind, and we do not stand for or with anyone who does.”
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a high-profile Sarsour ally, used the article as an opportunity to defend the activist on Twitter, saying that it was “probably too much to ask” of Jewish leaders to “rethink their words toward her.” The City editor Harry Siegel pointed out that a Brooklyn rabbi had told the paper that she had defended Sarsour in the past, but she found, the Times reported, “each time, that a new firestorm would arise, often resulting from something inflammatory and ‘ultimately indefensible’ Ms. Sarsour had said.”
The Times piece comes on the heels of a story published in the Gray Lady last Thursday that focused on anger from anti-Israel organizations and activists over the casting of Shira Haas in an upcoming Marvel film as a former Mossad agent. In its opening paragraphs, the article cites the Institute for Middle East Understanding, which has published on its Medium page essays titled “No President Biden, Israel Cannot be ‘Jewish and Democratic’” and “Israel is Destroying My Entire Community and the World is Doing Nothing to Stop It.”
The coverage of the new Marvel character, named Sabra, is in contrast with how the Times in 2013 celebrated the creation of a Muslim character: “Marvel Comics’ newest superhero is a shape-changing teenage Muslim girl from New Jersey” read a tweet from the Times’ official account.
The last Israeli ambassador to have an audience with the queen
New diplomats arriving in the United Kingdom are required to present their credentials to the reigning monarch. Mark Regev, the last Israeli envoy to present his credentials in person to Queen Elizabeth II, who died last Thursday at 96 after a 70-year reign and whose funeral is today, felt pressure to make the most of his short time with her, he told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash. “I needed to decide what I wanted to talk to her about,” recalled Regev, who headed Israel’s embassy in London from June 2016 through 2020. When his replacement, Tzipi Hotovely assumed the role, she presented her credentials remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Family history: Regev decided that he would relay to the queen the story of his late father, a Jewish citizen of Germany during World War II. “The whole family was going through a very difficult time, they were in a very precarious situation as Jews in Germany,” Regev related to JI. “Then one night, the RAF Bomber Command flies over and bombs the place where they’re living to kingdom come and in the fire and death, chaos and confusion, the family managed to escape — they literally ripped off their Jewish stars, and went into hiding.” During his audience with the queen, Regev, whose family later emigrated to Australia, emphasized how British soldiers, who have in the past been criticized for bombing civilian populations in Nazi-occupied Europe, had saved them during the war.
Personal touch: While the queen responded as the consummate professional, Regev said, later that evening the foreign office official who had accompanied the royal matriarch during the credentialing’s ceremony told him that she was in fact quite moved by his personal tale. “Who knows if he was just being nice to me,” quipped Regev. “But maybe she did actually appreciate hearing the Regev family story.”
Truss talk: Regev also said the British-Israel ties were solid and strengthening, especially with the installation of new U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss. “As ambassador, your role is to advance the bilateral relationship between Israel and the country where you’re posted,” he explained. “Ultimately, the trajectory of British-Israel relations has been very good over the last years; we’ve been constantly moving in the right direction.” By the time he had left the U.K., Regev said, “Truss was already foreign secretary, and she was the best foreign secretary for Israel there has ever been. Whenever I met her at events she always expressed herself as a friend of Israel.”
taking to task
Tensions flare at international antisemitism task force hearing
A hearing convened by a multinational group of lawmakers to question representatives of Meta, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok about the proliferation of antisemitism on their platforms grew heated on Friday, as lawmakers accused the tech companies of providing “insulting,” “frustrating” and “pandering” answers on their efforts to counter antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Tough questions: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a co-chair of the task force, opened the questioning with a back-and-forth debate with Neil Potts, the vice president of public policy, trust and safety for Meta, over his company’s slow response times to addressing antisemitic content and its algorithmic amplification of hateful content. She next questioned Michele Austin, the director of public policy for the United States and Canada for Twitter, about why Twitter does not have a specific policy against Holocaust denial; Austin declined to commit to developing such a policy, responding that she would “take that [feedback] back” to the company, while insisting that they had “actioned Holocaust denial tweets consistently.”
Unregulated: “I think we’re all starting to see — anyone watching this — why we’re eventually going to have to regulate the way that this content is handled, as opposed to just leaving it to you, the companies, to make sure you’re complying with standards that really aren’t very transparent,” Wasserman Schultz said partway through the proceedings. She added later that the companies must do a better job of enforcing their own internal policies if they hope to avoid further government regulation. At multiple points during the hearing, the social media representatives were questioned on whether they viewed anti-Zionism as inherently antisemitic, or as hate speech in its own right. They largely avoided the question, much to the “frustration” of Wasserman Schultz.
Flimsy answers: Canadian Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, who co-chairs the task force, pressed the executives on whether it would be acceptable on their platforms to say that “Jews are white nationalists who support apartheid” — expecting, he said, that they would be able to say easily that such a statement would not be allowed. The executives each declined to answer definitively. “Not even the word Jew in that context is necessarily something that you can tell us as executives of companies that you can take down — that’s pretty disturbing,” Housefather responded.
Internet influencer: Noa Tishby, Israel’s antisemitism envoy, speaking on a panel that preceded the task force hearing, blasted model Bella Hadid for her social media posts targeting Israel. “It has an impact. She is, in effect, to an audience of tens of millions, calling for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. But nobody is going to cancel Bella Hadid. No social media platform is going to suspend her.”
UAE rabbi weds before 1,500 guests as Abraham Accords enter third year
Capping his role in helping to bring Jewish life, kosher food and joyful Hasidic spirit to the United Arab Emirates, Rabbi Levi Duchman married Lea Hadad before some 1,500 guests invited to the ceremony in the Emirati capital on Wednesday. Guests flew in from around the world to celebrate with Duchman, a Brooklyn-born, 29-year-old representative of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, and Hadad, the 27-year-old daughter of the chief Chabad rabbi in Brussels, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for The Circuit.
More synagogues: The wedding at the Hilton Yas Island hotel on the evening of Sept. 14 was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in which the UAE and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel, the following day. Duchman’s synagogue is one of several that have sprung up since the agreements were signed. Previously, a single synagogue operated inconspicuously in a Dubai residential neighborhood to serve the area’s small Jewish population.
Royals and rabbis: While there have been Jewish weddings in the UAE since the Abraham Accords were signed – many of them performed by Duchman – none of them was close to the scale of Wednesday’s nuptials. Guests came from at least 33 countries, including the U.S., Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Nigeria. There were members of the royal court and officials from the UAE government. Rabbis arrived from Iran, Russia, Turkey, Nigeria, Singapore and New York, with more than 20 resident ambassadors present. Emaar Properties founder Mohamed Alabbar, builder of the 162-story Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, was sighted at the wedding, as was Terry Kane, CEO of Meta Middle East, and Manuel Rabaté, director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Fruit of the Accords: “This was one of the most magnificent Jewish events that we have ever had in the UAE,” Saoud Saqer Bin Hamoodah, an Emirati aerospace consultant who works with Israelis and attended the wedding, told The Circuit. “This is one of the fruits of the Abraham Accords that we are harvesting now.”
as seen on tv
Raisi rails against Israel, Abraham Accords signatories in ‘60 Minutes’ interview
Ahead of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s appearance at the United Nations General Assembly this week, “60 Minutes” anchor Lesley Stahl traveled to Tehran to meet with Raisi and question him about Iranian domestic and foreign policy.
Will Raisi meet with President Joe Biden while he’s in the U.S.?: “No. I don’t think that such a meeting would happen. I don’t believe having a meeting or a talk with him will be beneficial.”
Raisi casts doubt on whether the Holocaust happened: “Look… Historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians. There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”
On Israel’s right to exist: “You see, the people of Palestine are the reality. This is the right of the people of Palestine who were forced to leave their houses and motherland. The Americans are supporting this false regime there to take root and to be established there.”
On Arab countries signing onto the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel: “If a state shakes hands with the Zionist regime, then they are also an accomplice to their crimes. And they are stabbing the very idea of Palestine in the back.”
Watch the full interview here.
Bonus: United Against Nuclear Iran Policy Director Jason Brodsky noted the contrast between Raisi’s interview and the recent visit to Yad Vashem by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who laid a wreath at the museum’s Hall of Remembrance.
💱 Tale of Two Economies: Bloomberg’s Gwen Ackerman spotlights Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivay, who turned to politics in 2019 after a career in the military, where she was the first woman to hold the rank of major general. “Born in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Ramla to a mother from Iraq and a father from Romania, Barbivay grew up poor in Afula, a northern city once home to three large transit camps for newcomers. It’s since seen waves of immigrants from Ethiopia and former Soviet republics. As economy minister, she calls it an ‘existential need’ to better prepare the less affluent parts of the population –— including Arab women and Orthodox Jewish men –— for the workforce, and to bring jobs and investment to where they live. ‘When I look at the two economies, I see the economy minister’s job to increase productivity and start the engine of growth,’ she said. ‘We need to set targets. We need to get to the periphery.’” [Bloomberg]
🗳️ Ra’am-ifications: In the Financial Times, James Shotter visits the streets of Nazareth to get a sense from residents of how the Arab Ra’am party’s ground-breaking decision to participate in the current Israeli coalition could impact the upcoming election. “Ra’am’s decision to break ranks deeply divided Palestinian opinion — both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories it captured in 1967, with critics arguing the move helped legitimise Israel’s occupation. ‘We have Jewish Zionists, and Christian Zionists, and now we also have Muslim Zionists,’ said one Palestinian official. However, [Ra’am leader Mansour] Abbas’s backers argue that, given the remote prospect of a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the institutionalised discrimination that Palestinian citizens face in Israel, joining the government was worthwhile as it was a chance to push policies that would improve their daily lives. ‘The Zionists want us to be invisible all the time. The question is how we change this situation to be visible in the public sphere,’ said Rassem Khamaisi, an urban planner and professor at the University of Haifa. ‘Now [following Ra’am’s decision to enter government] we are in the salon of the Israelis in Tel Aviv. No one can ignore us.’” [FT]
👭 Twentieth-Century Heroines: In the New York Post, Isabel Vincent spotlights sisters Ida and Louise Cook, honored by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations for saving some 29 families from the Nazis, the subject of Vincent’s book, Overture of Hope: Two Sisters’ Daring Plan that Saved Opera’s Jewish Stars from the Third Reich. “‘We built ourselves a reputation,’ Louise Cook told two US reporters after the war. ‘The men in customs used to chuckle, ‘Here come those two verruckt (crazy) English ladies. They are only poor office workers and they spend their money to come here to listen to German opera.’’ When they returned to London after a weekend at the opera in Munich, Vienna, or Berlin, they did so laden with the glittering jewels, Swiss watches and furs belonging to refugees who would otherwise have had to surrender their valuables to the Nazis upon their exit from the Reich. They wore gold pendants and plastered diamond brooches on their Marks & Spencer dresses, gambling that the expensive jewelry would surely look fake. They hammed up their roles as ‘a couple of nervous British spinsters’ but their plain, practical exteriors hid romantic souls — real-life heroines in the 20th century’s darkest opera.” [NYPost]
🖼️ Art History: The Associated Press’ Maysoon Kahn highlights a new law obligating museums in New York that exhibit Nazi-looted art to display placards explaining the history of the stolen items. “New York [State] Sen. Anna M. Kaplan, who sponsored the legislation, said the new law is partly about educating younger people unfamiliar with the Holocaust. ‘Because the survivors of the Holocaust are a generation that is dying out, this becomes much more important,’ said [Wesley] Fisher, of the Claims Conference. ‘The object become[s] much more important. The idea that students and general public should go through museums to understand where these items come from, is important.'” [AP]
💊 Medical Matters: In The Hill, U.S. Israel Education Association founder and Executive Director Heather Johnston, who appeared on JI’s “Limited Liability Podcast” last week, weighs in on how the Abraham Accords can help the U.S. get better access to vital medications. “Although there have been drug and medical device shortages in the past, since the U.S. began tracking the issue in 2001, COVID-19 laid bare the alarming vulnerability to America’s pharmaceutical supply chain and its overdependence on China. The good news is that the global pandemic, combined with diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East, presents a unique opportunity for the United States to ‘nearshore’ some of its pharmaceutical operations to Abraham Accords nations — specifically Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.” [TheHill]
Around the Web
👩 Envoy to the Emirates: President Joe Biden announced the nomination of Martina Anna Tkadlec Strong to be ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
🍨 Food Fight: The co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s accused parent company Unilever of breaking an acquisition clause that gives the ice cream company independent control of its social mission, the latest clash in their fight over Unilever’s recent sale of its Israeli operation to a local manufacturer.
☕ Last Cup: The Wall Street Journalinterviews Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as the executive nears the end of his third go at leading the international coffee chain.
✋ On Pause: Yeshiva University instructed student groups to pause activities as a case involving whether students can form an LGBTQ club at the school winds its way through the legal system.
⚱️ Grave Delay: The Washington City Paper spotlights the effort to disperse the remains of political commentator Mark Plotkin, who died three years ago and whose ashes remain in limbo as friends, including a former Washington councilmember, weigh what to do with them.
💵 Settled: Scooter Braun will pay $20 million to his ex-wife, Yael Cohen, and will provide $60,000 a month in child support as part of the former couple’s divorce settlement.
👑 King of All: During a reception with U.K. faith leaders, King Charles III told the group — which included Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who was able to attend after Buckingham Palace changed the time of the event to avoid a clash with Shabbat — that he has a “duty to protect the diversity of our country.”
🇨🇱🇮🇱 Back On: Chile’s Foreign Ministry rescheduled a meeting to accept the credentials of Israeli Ambassador Gil Artzyeli, after having postponed it in light of the death of a Palestinian teenager during an IDF operation in the West Bank on Thursday.
🏨 Vacation Destination: In The Circuit, Ruth Marks Eglash explores the history of Elma Arts Complex and Luxury Hotel on Israel’s Mt. Carmel.
🛫 Tentative Travel: Israel issued a travel warning today for Israelis and Jews, at risk of potential terror attacks by Iran and Islamic State, ahead of the upcoming High Holidays.
🇨🇾 Mediterranean Mediation: Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar is in Cyprus for continued discussions over the Yishai gas fields.
🇹🇷 Recep-tive: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to meet this week in New York, where both are speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, the first meeting between the leaders of Israel and Turkey in more than a decade.
🪖 Drone Damage: Ukrainian military officials warned that Iranian drones used by Russia are posing new threats to the embattled country’s efforts to push back against Russian aggression.
🏺 Rare Find: Israeli archaeologists uncovered a burial cave in the Palmachim National Park from the time of Pharaoh Ramses II, containing dozens of intact objects.
🕯️ Remembering: Maximilian Lerner, an Austrian Jewish immigrant to the U.S. who was one of the famed “Ritchie Boys” critical to U.S. intelligence efforts during WWII, died at 98.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, joined by First Lady Michal Herzog, sign the condolence book for Queen Elizabeth II at Lancaster House ahead of her funeral today in London.
Producer of over 40 films in his career, David Elliot Hoberman turns 70…
Professor of Jewish history and literature at Yeshiva University, he is the only son of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Haym Soloveitchik turns 85… Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Jeffrey Colman Salloway turns 81… Professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law and director of the Innocence Project, Barry Scheck turns 73… Distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, after a 28-year Pentagon career as a Middle East expert, Harold Rhode turns 73… Writing instructor at Montana State University Billings, Bruce Alpert… Stockton, Calif.-based physician at The Pacific Sleep Disorders Center, Dr. Ronald Kass…. Senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, David J. Wolpe turns 64… Boston-based attorney focused upon Section 529 college savings plans, Mark A. Chapleau… Bow-tie-clad field reporter for Fox Major League Baseball, Ken Rosenthal turns 60… U.S. senator, Tim Scott (R-SC) turns 57… Executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Ronald Halber… Author of seven popular business books, Mike Michalowicz… Founder and managing director at Two Lanterns Venture Partners, he is also the founder of MassChallenge, John Harthorne… VP at Antenna Group, Neal Urwitz… Former MLB player for nine seasons, he was on Team Israel for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Danny Valencia turns 38… Public affairs director at Elliott Management, Joe Kristol… NFL placekicker, he played on the Rams and Titans in 2020, Sam Slovan turns 25…