👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Sen. Jacky Rosen about the delegation she led to Abraham Accords signatory countries, and spotlight a new effort by Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Bret Stephens, Josh Kushner, Yotam Polizer and Mia Kirshner.
Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) became the second Republican to confirm she’ll vote against removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, should House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) push the issue to a vote in the coming weeks. Two years ago, the Indiana legislator voted with a majority of Republicans in opposing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) removal from her committee assignments.
“Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process again,” Spartz said in a statement. “I will not support this charade again. Speaker McCarthy needs to stop ‘bread and circuses’ in Congress and start governing for a change.” The Indiana sophomore representative joins Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) in opposing McCarthy’s push to remove Omar from the committee.
Spartz’s defection comes amid a push from House Democrats to lobby some Republican members of the Foreign Affairs Committee — specifically Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) — to vote against Omar’s removal. Fitzpatrick and Smith were among 11 Republicans to break ranks with their party last Congress and support Greene’s removal from her committee assignments.
The House will vote again today on a resolution supporting protesters in Iran, which overwhelmingly passed in the previous congressional session. The American Jewish Committee sent a letter this morning to every House member encouraging them to support the resolution, which will be introduced by Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), the latter of whom chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Congress must seek every avenue to address the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on courageous, mostly women and children, protesters. This important resolution is a critical step,” Julie Fishman Rayman, AJC’s senior director for policy and political affairs told JI. Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein called the resolution “a good start” but said further steps are necessary.
A similar measure is expected to be reintroduced in the Senate later this week, where it is likely to again face pushback from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a staunch isolationist who was the sole Senate Republican to oppose it last Congress.
Jacky Rosen outlines Abraham Accords potential
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who returned last weekend from leading a group of fellow senators on a delegation to Abraham Accords member countries, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday that she sees opportunities for the Senate to work this year on further efforts to expand Middle East cooperation on air-defense and water resiliency projects through the Arab-Israeli agreements.
Next steps: It’s “particularly important that we continue to work and build on” the DEFEND Act — passed last year to promote regional air- and missile-defense cooperation — including providing funding for the initiative, Rosen told JI yesterday, following a press conference with other members of the delegation. Rosen noted that several members of the delegation — herself and Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — are members of the Armed Services Committee, making them well-placed to work on the project, and said they’ll be meeting with with Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) later this week to discuss the issue further. “I’m sure a lot of others are interested as well as we begin this year’s National Defense Authorization [Act] process,” she added.
Water world: Rosen further highlighted to JI possibilities for cooperative water resiliency projects in the Middle East, which she noted could also help the drought-stricken states of several of the delegation members. Several senators noted Israel’s specialty in innovative irrigation and agricultural projects. “In the Middle East, water, water, water — they don’t have it,” she said. “And so what they’ve done to improve their conservation, what they’ve done in desalinization, how they modified and improved their farming… wastewater treatment, really important. I think there’s a lot of lessons that we can learn.”
Downplaying: During the press conference, Rosen and co-lead Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) again downplayed a report that Rosen had specifically requested not to meet with controversial far-right members of the Israeli government. Rosen told JI that she and Lankford have been planning the trip for a year — well before the new government took office — and that they met with “high-level government officials” at each stop, painting the controversial ministers as “mid-level members.” Lankford added that he had never met with Israel’s finance minister — currently Bezalel Smotrich — on any of five trips to Israel. “It’s fascinating to me the media buzz on who we didn’t meet with, rather than what we actually did,” he said. “There’s, what, 117 members of the Knesset we didn’t meet with?… We’re meeting with all the key people.”
Palestinian concerns: Rosen subsequently told JI that some Arab leaders had raised questions about Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, which has created flashpoints between Israel and its Arab allies in the first weeks of the new government. “What every leader said is that they wanted to be sure that there was nothing that was going to be done that would impede both the Abraham Accords and the path to a negotiated two-state solution,” Rosen said. “We spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu and our delegation was very clear about keeping the status quo [in Palestinian affairs] and not doing anything that would sacrifice or get in the way of a negotiated two-state solution. He heard us loud and clear, we’re going to continue to… let him know how we feel.”
Read the full story here.
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Antisemitism newsletter highlights subtext in unobvious anti-Jewish posts
In the lead item of a new newsletter about antisemitism on social media is a screenshot of a tweet that reads, “Anthony Fauci is 84. Klaus Schwab is 84. George Soros is 94. Nancy Pelosi is 82. [Mitch] McConnell is 80. Joe Biden is 80. Imagine how much better off we’d be if they were all in nursing homes.” At first glance, there’s little if anything about the tweet that’s explicitly antisemitic. Though Soros, the progressive megadonor, is a frequent target of antisemitic conspiracy theories, he’s the only Jew on the list, which states the public figures’ ages — not their religions or ethnic backgrounds. (Fauci, in fact, is 82.) Presenting and explaining those tweets, and how they and other trending topics might further antisemitic sentiment online, is the raison d’etre of the weekly newsletter, called “From the Command Center,” and published by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS), an organization founded in 2019 by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales reports.
Subtext: A paragraph in the newsletter suggests that the tweet, which has been viewed 3.4 million times, advances the idea that the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “is controlled by a secretive cabal of Jewish bankers and politicians who use the organization to further their own interests. Conspiracy theorists considered the absences of Klaus Schwab, the founder of WEF, George Soros, and Bill Gates as suspicious…” The author of the tweet goes by the name “End Wokeness” and has more than 500,000 followers. Their posts contain anti-vaccine rhetoric as well as conspiracy theories about Gates. Alongside that tweet in the newsletter are screenshots of other tweets, including a poll by Twitter CEO Elon Musk asking whether users think “The World Economic Forum should control the world.”
Shining a light: “We want to draw attention to conversations that are happening that include antisemitic tropes and antisemitic commentary, that might not be entirely obvious just from scrolling Twitter or reading Instagram,” the foundation’s executive director, Matthew Berger, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “We want to raise awareness of conversations that are happening that people might not know about just from looking at their own feed.”
Crowded space: The newsletter’s first edition was sent on Friday to a list of 900 readers, largely professionals and lay leaders in the Jewish community, whom Berger sees as the newsletter’s target audience. In tracking online antisemitism, FCAS is entering an increasingly crowded space. The Anti-Defamation League has long tracked offline antisemitic incidents and regularly releases reports regarding hate on social platforms. The Network Contagion Research Institute tracks and forecasts the direction of hate and disinformation online, recently publishing research showing that spikes in physical attacks on Jews and LGBTQ people correlate with increases in hate speech on Twitter.
Urgent need: Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said the need to track online hate has grown more urgent. “The reality is, to get a full picture of what antisemitism is like and what many in the Jewish community are experiencing, you have to look beyond merely what happens on the ground in communities,” he said. “You need to look at the public discussion, statements by influencers, the language that’s circulating in online spaces.” As opposed to forecasting trends or monitoring platform compliance, the FCAS newsletter aims to give readers a snapshot of what has been happening over the past week — though Berger said the group hopes to do more real-time tracking in the future.
IsraAid’s Yotam Polizer announced as Charles Bronfman Prize recipient
IsraAid CEO Yotam Polizer, this year’s Charles Bronfman Prize recipient, is driven, in part, by what he calls “working with people from other cultures — active anthropology.” Recalling his role as part of the team that rescued a Nepali woman who had survived for five days under the rubble of the 2015 earthquake northwest of Kathmandu, Polizer credited his extensive work in the mountainous country — but also connected the operation’s success to an experience he had far closer to home, eJewish Philanthropy’s Ben Sales reports.
Life lessons: At the time, Polizer had been working for IsraAid, the nonprofit Israeli refugee aid organization, for four years; prior to that, he worked for three years in Nepal for Tevel b’Tzedek, an organization that brings Jews to do development work in the country. When he returned in 2015 he came with deep familiarity, and a knowledge of the language. He also brought with him a lesson he had learned earlier in life, as an Israel Defense Forces soldier with an atypical job: teaching youth leadership in a Bedouin community in Israel’s Negev Desert. Although at the time he was based in his home country, serving in its army, the experience taught him the importance of educating oneself about a place’s people and culture before jumping in to help.
Practicing humility: Polizer was IsraAid’s second employee, after founder Shachar Zahavi. Now, the organization has a budget of approximately $20 million and 320 employees spread across 14 countries. And this year, Polizer is being honored for his and the group’s work as the 2023 laureate of the Charles Bronfman Prize — a $100,000 award launched in 2004 and given to a humanitarian activist younger than 50. “I had to build trust with the local community, and I think that’s something that we really do apply a lot in IsraAid,” Polizer, who is now the aid organization’s CEO, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “Yes, we’re coming as outsiders. Yes. we’re coming to help… But the key is to come with a lot of humility — and not just by saying it but actually practicing humility in the sense that [you’re] showing real interest in culture and in local people’s lives.”
Leaps and bounds: Polizer will be presented with the prize at a ceremony in May in New York City. He said he plans to donate part of the money to IsraAid’s operations, though he hasn’t decided which specific area yet. “Yotam was chosen because IsraAid is not a government operation, it’s an entrepreneurial philanthropy,” said Charles Bronfman, in whose name the prize was founded by his children and their spouses. In the time since Polizer was hired, Bronfman added, “it’s made huge strides, increased its budget God knows how many times, and has done God’s work… He’s spearheaded an organization that now is usually the first in a country or an area, like Ukraine, that’s in humanitarian trouble.”
In Ukraine: Now, a major focus of the group is the Ukraine crisis. IsraAid now has more than 30 people on the ground inside Ukraine and another dozen or so in the neighboring countries of Moldova and Romania. In addition, Polizer told eJP the crisis had spurred more Israeli donations to IsraAid than it had received during the previous two decades combined — a sum of more than $2 million. IsraAid has committed to being in Ukraine for five years. “You can’t isolate the Ukraine crisis,” Polizer said. “The crisis in Ukraine impacts the food crisis in Africa, where we also operate and not enough people know about… For some people, we believe that the Ukraine crisis opened their heads and hearts for vulnerable communities and refugees around the world, while for others, they only focus on Ukraine and nothing else.”
🌍 Eye on Europe: In Politico, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who is traveling to Brussels this week, proposes closer ties between Europe and Israel to take on both geopolitical challenges and rising antisemitism. “I have every confidence that the best days of European-Israeli cooperation are still ahead of us. From cybersecurity to climate technology, culture to trade and so much more, the opportunities are truly endless for Israel and EU nations to work to advance their common values, and make our world safe from the forces that oppose all we hold dear. History will look back at this moment and ask whether Europe took decisive action to safeguard its prosperity in this moment of crisis. Did it actively foster the forces of stability and progress in the Middle East, investing in the emerging alliance that is determined to usher in a new age of cooperation and tolerance? Did it take uncompromising action to stamp out anti-Semitism in all its forms, fortifying its democracies against this destructive hatred?” [Politico]
⚖️ By Hook or by Crook: In a New York Times essay titled “A Tale of Two Jewish Leaders,” columnist Bret Stephens compares the actions of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, days after both fired high-ranking ministers — Zelensky over suspicions of bribery, and Netanyahu after a High Court ruling determined that his health and interior minister was not eligible to serve. “What a contrast. Amid a desperate war of national survival, Zelensky is waging a campaign to kick the crooks out of government. And in a desperate bid to remain in office, Netanyahu is waging a campaign to keep the crooks in…. After Israel’s last election, I wrote that it was wrong to say that Israel faced impending fascism. I still think that’s right: Israel’s civil society remains powerfully motivated, its military leaders remain committed to democratic norms, and even Netanyahu had to bow to the court by firing Deri. Other democracies have survived far worse leaders, including, quite recently, ours. But if Israel is to persevere, it also must maintain the moral respect of its honest friends. Too bad for it that, today, the Jewish people’s greatest leader resides in Kyiv rather than Jerusalem.” [NYTimes]
💣 Stockpile Suggestion: Bloomberg columnist James Stavridis, formerly the commander of U.S. European Command, suggests that more American weapons from its stockpile in Israel be sent to Ukraine, so that the cache can be replaced with upgraded munitions. “In other words, this is a win-win-win situation: The Ukrainians get much-needed but unsophisticated munitions for the brute-force war they are fighting; the US provides real combat power to Kyiv; and the Israelis have an opportunity to rebuild the stockpile in a manner better tailored to the exigencies of 21st century war. This is particularly timely as the Abraham Accords — which normalized relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and some other Islamic nations — continue to gain traction. Israel is cooperating militarily with the Arab states in missile defense, sophisticated early detection and warning systems, sharing of intelligence and cybersecurity. The Arabs will not object to a refurbished WSRA-I with the tools needed to deter and, if necessary, defeat Iran.” [Bloomberg]
📉 Morningstar Musings: In the New York Post, Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior advisor and Jewish Insider podcast host Rich Goldberg proposes a series of steps to address concerns over financial services firm Morningstar’s ratings of companies that operate in Israel amid a broader debate over environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings. “Federal and state officials should step up to the plate. States with anti-boycott laws should put Morningstar on their prohibited-investment lists. House Republicans set to investigate the ESG industry should hold hearings on how the Israel-boycott movement found a new home inside ESG — with questions directed to Morningstar’s competitors to determine the extent of the industry’s anti-Israel practices. State attorneys general should likewise widen their probe. Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Labor ESG rulemaking should be reviewed to address anti-Israel boycotts disguised as ESG. Investors have a right to know about this kind of risk exposure — and retirement funds shouldn’t be used for anti-Semitic boycott campaigns.” [NYPost]
🎓 Campus Beat: In the Wall Street Journal, the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Dominic Green reacts to Harvard’s reversal of its decision not to offer a fellowship to former Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth. “If there is a crisis of free speech on campus today, Mr. Roth isn’t its victim. If anything, he and Human Rights Watch are among its instigators. The only voices that are systemically silenced or absent on campus today are conservatives in general, and pro-Israel voices in particular. The academic hunt for supporters of Israel is an attack on America’s free market of ideas reminiscent of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Student supporters of the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) disrupt pro-Israel speakers on the rare occasions they come to campus. Rather than encourage open debate, faculty incite its foreclosure. Administrators turn a blind eye to an organized campaign of calumny against Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state, which frequently spills into physical violence against Jewish students.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
👋 Bowing Out: Sarah Margon, the Biden administration’s pick to be assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, withdrew her name from consideration a year and a half after her initial nomination, which has been met with pushback from Republicans over her past tweets regarding Israel and Iran.
🗺️ Mapping Their Futures: The Washington Postlooks at the challenging electoral map facing Senate Democrats in 2024, as a number of members, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) remain undecided about reelection plans.
🗳️ Porter’s Play: McClatchy’s David Lightman considers the challenges and advantages Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), the first candidate to enter the 2024 California Senate race, will have as she moves to succeed — or replace — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
✋ Antisemitism Vote: The Republican National Committee is set to vote on a resolution condemning antisemitism, the artist Ye and far-right provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Nick Fuentes, the latter of whom was reinstated on Twitter yesterday after being banned from the platform in July 2021.
🦘 Down Under Dilemma: Australia’s education minister suggested that Ye, who is reportedly planning a trip to the country, may have difficulty obtaining an Australian visa due to his history of making antisemitic comments.
🔢 Data Dump: ABC News is considering cutting Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight website when the data journalist’s contract ends this summer.
🔑 New Landlord: The Surfside, Fla., apartment that has been rented by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner since January 2021 was sold to an unnamed owner for $17 million.
↩️ Backtracking: Rupert Murdoch withdrew his proposal to reunite Fox Corp and News Corp, a move that Adam Katz, the chief investment officer of activist investment firm Irenic Capital hailed as “the right decision,” adding that “News Corp has an opportunity to create substantial value for its owners.”
Scaling Up: Lazard is growing its venture capital branch in a move that includes the hiring of six specialist bankers split between L.A. and Austin, Texas, part of what the company’s CEO of Financial Advisory Peter Orszag called “an overall strategy which is to make sure that Lazard is not just the mega-cap, buyside M&A work but has a variety of different verticals including a significant private capital effort.”
📗 Written Revelations: In his book released yesterday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as an “activist” who was venerated in the press after his death.
🎊 Book Scene: Spotted at the Council for a Secure America’s private lunch at the Harmonie Club in New York to celebrate Pompeo’s book: Victoria Coates, Malcolm Hoenlein, Fred Zeidman, Larry Kudlow, John Fund, Arthur Stark, Amb. Ned Siegel, Michael Davis, Josh Landes, Henry Hager, Mimi Perlman, Tom Fagadau, Gerry Platt, Julio Messer, Jane Weitzman, Max Blankfeld, Jon Gold, Christian Kanady, Jared Chaplin, Jeff Wilson, Blu Hulsey, Matt Most, David Rontal, Salo Zelermyer, John Jovanovic, Diana Chance, Eric Rechtschaffen, Johanna Guttman, Betty Ehrenberg and Brian Hackler.
💰 Cash Reward: The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the JCRC of Greater Washington are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the individuals responsible for two incidents of antisemitic vandalism in Maryland’s Montgomery County late last year.
🎉 Farewell Fete: Former Israeli Ambassador to France Yael German, who resigned from the role last month, celebrated her time in the posting at a goodbye party last night in Paris.
🇮🇱🇯🇴 Surprise Visit: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday that he had met with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman on Tuesday; during the meeting, Netanyahu reportedly committed to maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem.
🏦 It’s the Economy: Netanyahu met with the governor of the Bank of Israel following the resignation of one of the bank’s six Monetary Committee members, who stepped down in protest of the new government.
🍽️ Taste of Turkey: Turkish celebrity chef Gökçe Nusret, known as “Salt Bae,” is planning to open a restaurant in Tel Aviv’s ToHA tower.
🪦 Preserving History: The BBC spotlights the caretakers of the Gaza War Cemetery, the final resting place of nearly 3,700 soldiers killed in battle in Gaza during the two World Wars.
⬇️ Budget Cuts: The head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said that the agency’s funding from Arab states — which dropped from 25% of its budget in 2018 to 4% last year — shouldn’t be impeded by Israel’s growing relations in the Arab world.
🕯️ Remembering: Victor S. Navasky, an influential liberal journalist who ran The Nation, died at 90.
Pic of the Day
A groundbreaking ceremony was held yesterday for the Mini Miracles Education Center, a new Jewish education center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Toronto-born movie and television actress, she had a recurring guest role on the Fox TV series “24,” Mia Kirshner turns 48…
Israeli activist and author, whose fiction and non-fiction books have been translated into more than 30 languages, David Grossman turns 69… Editor-in-chief of The National Memo, Joe Conason (family name was Cohen) turns 69… Dean of the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi turns 68… SVP and senior portfolio manager in the Los Angeles office of Morgan Stanley, Robert N. Newman… Stage, film, and television actress and television director, Dinah Beth Manoff turns 67… Los Angeles resident, Helene S. Ross… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, Michael Glantz… Chief investigative reporter and senior national correspondent for CBS News, Jim Axelrod turns 60… Former member of Knesset for Yesh Atid, he also served as Minister of Education, Shai Moshe Piron turns 58… Founding partner of merchant bank Finback Investment Partners, John Leachman Oliver III… Member of the Canadian Parliament from Montreal since 2015, he won 12 medals in swimming at the 2013 and 2017 Maccabiah Games, Anthony Housefather turns 52… Author of multiple novels, she is a writer-in-residence in Jewish Studies at Stanford University, Maya Arad turns 52… National political reporter at The Washington Post covering campaigns, Congress and the White House, Michael Scherer… Director of finance and operations at JQY, David Newman… President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky turns 45… Benjamin L. Newton… VP of executive communications for the National Association of Manufacturers, Mark Isaacson… Member of the Arizona House of Representatives until earlier this month, Daniel Hernández Jr. turns 33… Actress, writer and director, Pauline Hope Chalamet turns 31… Senior policy analyst at JINSA, Ari Cicurel…