👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we explore the role that Arab voters could play in tomorrow’s election in Israel, and look at Rep. Elaine Luria’s fight to hold onto her congressional seat. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Adam Laxalt, Elon Musk and Robert Kraft.
With just over a week until Election Day and as the polls tighten, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) are upping their engagement with the state’s Hasidic Jewish community as they vie for the top job in Albany.
The Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition endorsed the GOP nominee on Sunday during a meeting between Zeldin and FJCC leaders, rabbis, community members and activists. Zeldin also held a rally in Borough Park where he was cheered on by hundreds of Hasidic and other Orthodox supporters.
Meanwhile, Hochul visited the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in Queens.
The 11th-hour outreach to the community was underscored in a New York Times article published with the headline “How the Hasidic Jewish Community Became a Political Force in New York,” and cites both Zeldin and Hochul’s outreach to the community. The piece notes how Zeldin is “enthusiastically courting” leaders in the Hasidic community, while Hochul “has numerous supporters” in the bloc.
Last week, the head rabbi of the Hasidic enclave of New Square, Rabbi David Twersky, received a phone call from President Joe Biden, asking for him to support embattled Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). And earlier this month, the mayors of Kaser and New Square, as well as the village administrator of Kiryas Joel, appeared onstage with Biden, Hochul and Maloney at a tech and business development event in Dutchess County, N.Y.
The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly kicked off last night in Chicago, the first time the organization has held an in-person GA since 2019. Ben Sales, eJewishPhilanthropy’s news editor, is on the scene, where today’s sessions will be dedicated to viewpoint diversity. Sign up for eJP’s Your Daily Phil and get the latest GA updates.
Laxalt campaign paid thousands to political operative linked to Twitter account that denigrated Jews, women
Until it was removed from Twitter on Thursday, an anonymous account called “LaxaltStan” — which spent much of its time denigrating Jews, women and gay and transgender people, among other groups — had emphasized that it was “NOT AFFILIATED” with Adam Laxalt, the Republican Senate nominee in Nevada. But past social media activity contradicts that assertion, linking the account to a political operative who received more than $6,500 from the Laxalt campaign in August, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
‘Go follow my main’: In a now-deleted tweet uncovered on the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine, the anonymous user behind the account identified himself as Michael Pecjak, a conservative activist from Nevada who previously served as a campaign staffer for a former Republican House candidate in Las Vegas. “Go follow my main @MichaelPecjak,” the “LaxaltStan” account declared last March, directing users to Pecjak’s personal profile.
Sudden disappearance: In a statement to JI on Thursday, Brian Freimuth, a press secretary for Laxalt, said Pecjak “was terminated in August and is not affiliated with the campaign in any way.” Freimuth did not provide a reason for the termination and did not confirm whether the campaign was aware of Pecjak’s connection to “LaxaltStan.” Pecjak did not respond to requests for comment from JI sent to his public Facebook and Instagram accounts on Thursday afternoon. Hours later, however, the “LaxaltStan” account was removed from Twitter.
Hateful tweets: In recent weeks, the “LaxaltStan” account compared abortion to the Holocaust, claimed that “Jews are not a religious sect and are a cult,” and expressed disapproval of a right-wing news publication because its top editor had once described the outlet as a “pro-Jewish website with a reputation for treating women and minorities well.” The account also said that “guns should have more rights than women,” declared that gay rights advocates are “going to hell” and suggested that nearly half of “LGBT+ individuals have a mental illness,” among other things.
Ties to extremism: Though somewhat obscure, Pecjak’s connection to the Laxalt campaign is one of the most recent instances in which the Republican Senate candidate — who helped lead the effort to overturn the presidential election results in Nevada — has been tied to far-right extremism. The Anti-Defamation League has warned that Laxalt has “pushed 2020 election conspiracies” and “is associated with the anti-government Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association,” a far-right group whose members have backed his campaign.
How the Arab vote could make or break Israel’s election
At one of the main entrances to the dusty, sprawling city of Rahat in southern Israel, among the assortment of already fading election campaign banners, hangs one displaying the stern face of Avi Maoz, leader of the far-right Noam party, a religious Jewish group. The poster, a clear anomaly in Israel’s largest Arab, predominantly Bedouin, city, might have been strung up there by mistake, or as a joke, a taunt or even a warning. Whatever the reason, the presence of the poster – set amidst those of various Arab parties and candidates – is symbolic of the confusion facing an already dejected group of Israeli voters, who may unwittingly end up being the deciding factor in the Nov. 1 election, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Low turnout: Political pundits have been warning for months that the marginalization of Arab citizens of Israel, who make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s 9.3 million population, mixed with the fact that their political leadership is bitterly divided, has left them disillusioned and adrift in an already polarized and fragmented political system. Add to that the possibility of extreme right-wing Jewish parties, such as Noam, which have done little to hide their contempt for the Arab population, ending up in the government, and the expectation is the Arabs are less likely to vote in this election, Israel’s fifth in less than four years.
Critical vote: “Arab-Israeli voters will make or break this election,” Neri Zilber, a Tel Aviv-based journalist and advisor to Israel Policy Forum, told JI. “Their overall turnout, which is expected to be quite low – and it remains to be seen exactly how low – and how those votes will be divided between the three Arab parties will be critical. At least one Arab party is unlikely to make it over the [electoral] threshold and the two others are also in danger,” he explained. “There is also a chance, although maybe less likely, that no Arab party will make it and Arab Israelis could end up with zero representation in the Knesset, and that would be a fatal blow to the anti-Netanyahu camp.”
Netanyahu wins if…: According to polls taken Friday, only two of the three Arab parties will make it into the Knesset. Israel’s Channel 12 News estimates that both Ra’am (the United Arab List), an Islamist party headed by Mansour Abbas, and Hadash-Ta’al (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), led by Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, will draw four seats each, while Balad fails to reach the requisite 3.25 percent of the overall vote needed to pass the threshold. If proved true, or if any one of the other smaller parties fails to pass the threshold, then the outcome of Tuesday’s vote could change drastically. In that scenario, Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the right-wing parties that support him, would get the boost they need to return to power and even establish a long-term stable government.
middle of the road
Elaine Luria’s tightrope walk down the center lane
When Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) made her opening statement during this summer’s Jan. 6 committee hearings, she seemed respectful, demure and soft-spoken, even as she twisted the knife. It was all very “Virginia,” so to speak: polite and deferential while getting directly to the point, which in this case was that former President Donald Trump acted selfishly and to the detriment of the safety of Americans by refusing to sufficiently respond to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. “Objectively, Elaine Lauria is a nice person. She’s not a flawed person. She’s a Navy vet,” said Bruce Meyer, who has lived in Virginia Beach since he was 13 and has been involved in local Republican politics almost as long. But in an election year that looks increasingly difficult for Democrats, nice might not be enough to win Luria a third term in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which she flipped from red to blue in 2018, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Head-to-head: The race is one of the most closely watched campaigns in the nation; a recent poll found Luria and her opponent, fellow Navy veteran and Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans, tied. Republicans need to win only five seats to return the House of Representatives to GOP control, and they view this district in southeastern Virginia as a prime pickup opportunity. “It really is a flip of a coin,” said Ben Melusky, an assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
Temperature check: Luria, who is Jewish, has cultivated an image of herself as a political moderate willing to occasionally break with Democratic Party leadership in Washington. But she faces a tough test in Kiggans, a nurse practitioner who is also running toward the center in a campaign focused on economic issues. In conversations with JI, Jewish voters in the district and nearby Norfolk — a Democratic stronghold that was removed from the district during redistricting, making the seat lean more Republican — shared their perspectives on the race. While they tended to agree on Luria’s likeability, Jewish Republicans argue that voting with Democrats means Luria will not be a check on the party in power.
Party player: “She’s certainly not a far-left extremist,” Ian Cummings, a Republican activist in Norfolk, said of Luria. “But I certainly believe that she is a regular party-line Democrat, fairly, you know, borderline liberal.”
Israel element: Luria is viewed as a staunch pro-Israel advocate, and AIPAC has strongly encouraged its members to support her. Art Sandler, an AIPAC activist in Norfolk, supported the Republican incumbent in 2018 — the pro-Israel lobby encourages members to support “friendly incumbents” who are pro-Israel — but is now a vocal Luria fan. “We need moderate Democrats to be supportive of Israel. We need Democrats like Elaine who stand up to the far left of the Democratic Party, which Elaine does regularly,” he said.
Twenty House progressives argue against Israel’s inclusion in Visa Waiver Program
Twenty House progressives argued in a new letter late last week that Israel remains ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program, and urged the Biden administration to “address… discriminatory restrictions” on U.S. citizens traveling to the West Bank, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
You’ve got mail: The lawmakers, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken last week to highlight restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to the West Bank and arguing against Israel’s inclusion in the program.
Pushback: “It is incumbent on Israel as a key U.S. ally and beneficiary of significant aid to treat U.S. citizens with dignity and respect regardless of race, religion and ethnicity and it is especially pertinent at this time,” in light of the VWP discussions, the letter reads. “Israel has consistently refused to extend fair treatment to U.S. Palestinian-American visitors attempting to travel through Israeli controlled entry points.” The letter states that facilitating travel between the U.S. and Israel “is an admirable goal” but argues that “the strengthening of this critical relationship cannot be at the expense of American grandparents who simply wish to visit their grandchildren, or at the expense of those Americans who conduct… lawful activity in territories controlled by Israel.”
Other side: Senators and House members from both parties have written to the administration to urge officials to work toward including Israel in the program. “Israel’s participation in this program would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen national security at each of our borders, and increase opportunities for people-to-people exchange, which bolsters our already unique bilateral relationship,” nearly 60 bipartisan House members said in a letter last year urging the administration to “expediently” admit Israel to the program.
Recent developments: Israeli authorities confirmed last week that they would permanently open the Allenby crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24 hours a day starting in early November. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides praised the move as “good for Palestinians, good for Israel, good for America.”
😟 Angst Over Antisemitism: The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank highlights concerns among American Jews amid a rising in antisemitism. “On the holiest night of the Jewish year earlier this month, my rabbi looked up from his Kol Nidre sermon — a homily about protecting America’s liberal democracy — and posed a question that wasn’t in his prepared text: ‘How many people in the last few years have been at a dining room conversation where the conversation has turned to where might we move? How many of us?’ He was talking about the unthinkable: that Jews might need to flee the United States. In the congregation, many hands — most? — went up.” [WashPost]
🔁 Breaking the Loop: In The New Yorker, Bernard Avishai explores the possible outcomes of Israel’s general election tomorrow, and the challenges facing rivals Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the country votes in its fifth election in less than four years. “’Comparing little Israel to the U.S. may be misguided, but imagine that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee two years from now, on trial for various felonies, running neck and neck with the Democrats, and saying that he’ll appoint the leader of the Oath Keepers or Marjorie Taylor Greene to his cabinet — and just as B.L.M. protests are returning,’ Yoram Peri, an emeritus professor of Israeli politics at both Tel Aviv University and the University of Maryland, told me. ‘Imagine appointing Franklin Graham as Secretary of Education, or Treasury. Or Jim Jordan as Attorney General — imagine he’s promising to get all charges against Trump dropped and then ignore other judicial decisions.'” [New Yorker]
➡️ Far-Right Frenzy: Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer considers the relationship between Diaspora Jewry and Israel if the country’s next government includes far-right leaders among its ranks. “Ninety-five percent of all Israelis immigrated here from countries with no tradition of democracy. The expectation that far-right fascism wouldn’t grow here or gain positions of power was wholly unrealistic. Why should Israel be immune when someone like Donald Trump can become president of the United States, 41.5 percent of French citizens vote for Marine Le Pen and Italy elects a far-right prime minister in Giorgia Meloni? Yes, it will be a tragedy for Israel if this time next week [Itamar] Ben-Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich are headed for power. But it won’t cut us off from the world, and certainly not from the Jews. Instead of issuing hysterical predictions, liberal Jews in Israel and the Diaspora need to start thinking seriously about how to deal with this new situation. Because this is the world we live in now, and it’s not just Israel.” [Haaretz]
🗞️ Media Matters: The Washington Post‘s media critic Erik Wemple reflects, “875 days too late,” that the media erred in its critique of then-New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet for running an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) calling for military intervention amid Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, and should have instead defended him in the name of journalism. “To date, the lesson from the set-to — that publishing a senator arguing that federal troops could be deployed against rioters is unacceptable — will forever circumscribe what issues opinion sections are allowed to address. It’s also long past time to ask why more people who claim to uphold journalism and free expression — including, um, the Erik Wemple Blog — didn’t speak out then in Bennet’s defense… The paper had published an opinion by a U.S. senator (and possible presidential candidate) advocating a lawful act by the president. That’s not to say it would have been a good idea: Elizabeth Goitein, an expert on national security law at the Brennan Center for Justice, says that invoking the Insurrection Act amid the Black Lives Matter protests would have been ‘inappropriate’ because local authorities had a handle on the instances of unrest taking place ‘at the margins,’ but that a deployment ‘likely would have fallen within the capacious bounds of this poorly drafted statute.'” [WashPost]
🚀 In Defense: In Newsweek, Bradley Bowman defends Israel’s reluctance to provide missile-defense systems to Ukraine, considering that Israel doesn’t have any to spare. “[H]ezbollah, Tehran’s terror proxy in Lebanon, has about 150,000 surface-to-surface rockets and missiles and an estimated 2,000 unmanned aerial vehicles. Most of the rockets and missiles are relatively rudimentary systems. A small but growing number of them, however, are precision-guided munitions, which are more effective in hitting their desired targets, requiring a greater expenditure of missile interceptors. That combination of a growing quantity and increasing capability is a genuine nightmare for Israel. Indeed, if Hezbollah were to launch an estimated 1,500 rockets and missiles per day, existing Israeli missile defenses could be overwhelmed. Despite efforts to build additional missile defense capability and capacity, Israel has a long way to go before it has enough missile defenses to deal with a war of this magnitude. To make matters worse, some in Israel worry Russia could capture an Iron Dome system sent to Ukraine and then provide the system and its information to Iran. Tehran and its terror proxies would undoubtedly then use the information to develop capabilities to circumvent Iron Dome’s defenses, reducing its effectiveness and increasing the ability of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to kill Israelis in future conflicts.” [Newsweek]
Around the Web
📡 Tech Support: A bipartisan group of 13 lawmakers wrote to the leaders of major technology companies on Thursday, urging them to provide more services to dissident Iranians protesting against the regime in Tehran.
🚫 Sanctioned: The Treasury Department announced sanctions against the 15 Khordad Foundation, an Iran-based group that issued a bounty on writer Salman Rushdie, who survived an assassination attempt earlier this year.
📱 Musk’s Moves: Shortly after finalizing his purchase of Twitter, Elon Musk tweeted that the company will form a content moderation panel, and said that no major decisions or account reinstatements would occur before the panel’s launch. On Sunday, Musk tweeted and then deleted a conspiracy theory about the assault on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
💻 Antisemitic Campaign: A coordinated online campaign to spread antisemitic memes and images was launched on Friday after Elon Musk took ownership of Twitter.
💲 High Stakes: Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company announced the rollover of its existing Twitter shares, valued at $1.89 billion, to the Musk-owned Twitter.
💙 Competing for Love: The wife of Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, Doug Mastriano, said they “probably love Israel more than a lot of Jews do,” during a campaign stop on Saturday.
🗳️ Pennsylvania Politics: The United Democracy Project spent nearly $80,000 opposing Democrat Summer Lee in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. The group had backed Lee’s primary opponent, Steve Irwin, during the primary.
🏢 Second-Chance Startups: Andreessen Horowitz invested in Andy Rubin’s new hardware company Simple Things, two months after the venture capital firm put $350 million behind WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s latest startup.
💵 Crypto Cash-In: Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and CEO of crypto exchange FTX, looks set to cash in up to $100 million from Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.
🕵️ DoJ Team: Federal prosecutor David Raskin has joined the Justice Department’s investigation into the documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
🏀 Fouled: Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving defended having shared antisemitic content on social media despite statements from NBA officials, including Nets owner Joe Tsai, regarding the point guard’s controversial posts.
✡️ Tackling Antisemitism: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sponsored an ad broadcast during NFL game broadcasts on Sunday, calling on fans to “Stand Up To Jewish Hate.”
🇧🇷 Brazilian Bombshell: Brazil’s former leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made a comeback as he beat far-right incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro in the country’s presidential election.
🕯️ Remembering: Roz Wyman, the youngest member ever elected to the Los Angeles City Council, died at 92. Press agent Sy Presten died at 98. Gallerist Margo Feiden died at 77. Literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, who helped expose Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, died at 87. Poet and National Book Award winner Gerald Stern died at 97. Seymour Press, who performed in and later assembled orchestras in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows for more than 60 years, died at 98. Musician Robert Gordon died at 75.
Song of the Day
Yuval’s Dayan’s new single, “There Will Be Someone Who Will Love You Like That.”
Staff writer for The New Yorker, her 1998 book was made into the award-winning movie “Adaptation,” Susan Orlean turns 67…
Actor with a lengthy career in film, television and theater, Ron Rifkin turns 83… British historian, born in Baghdad, emeritus professor of International Relations at Oxford, Avraham “Avi” Shlaim turns 77… CEO of Feld Entertainment, which operates the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice, Kenneth Feld turns 74… Author, historian and writer-at-large for the U.K.-based Prospect Magazine, Sam Tanenhaus turns 67… Owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and professional soccer team Real Mallorca, Robert Sarver turns 61… Managing partner of Arel Capital, a private equity real estate firm based in NYC, Richard G. Leibovitch turns 59… PAC director at AIPAC, Marilyn Rosenthal… British lawyer who has previously served as CEO of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and COO of World ORT, Marc Jonathan “Jon” Benjamin turns 58… Former MLB pitcher, Steven Allen Rosenberg turns 58… Founding partner at Lanx Management, former president of AIPAC and past chairman of the Orthodox Union, Howard E. (Tzvi) Friedman turns 57… Director of development for Foundation for Jewish Camp, he describes his role as a “gelt-shlepper,” Corey Cutler… Chief brand and innovation officer of Ralph Lauren, David Lauren turns 51… Film and television director and producer, Ruben Fleischer turns 48… Professor, attorney, author, political columnist and poet, Seth Abramson turns 46… Member of the California State Assembly, Marc Berman turns 42… Actor Eddie Kaye Thomas turns 42… CEO at Climate Club, he is the founder of Pencils of Promise, Adam Braun… Rabbi-in-residence at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (N.Y.), she is the founder of Midrash Manicures, combining Jewish education and creative nail art, Yael Buechler… General manager at Returnmates, Spencer Herbst… Director of institutional advancement at Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, Masha Shollar… Wheelchair basketball player and social media personality, Peter Berry turns 21…