👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Rep. Katie Porter about her recent trip to Israel, and report from the Harvard Arab Conference. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Gil Troy, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Elly Schlein. In celebration of the holiday of Purim this evening and tomorrow, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Wednesday morning. Purim Sameach!
On July 23, 2014, an El Al plane carrying former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touched down at Ben Gurion Airport. What on any other occasion would have been cause for little note — or, perhaps, a mention in Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff — made international news. The plane carrying the former mayor was one of a limited number of aircraft landing at Israel’s main airport following an FAA order prohibiting U.S. aircraft from landing there in response to elevated concerns about Hamas rockets being fired toward the area.
Israel at the time was several weeks into a deadly conflict with Hamas. Bloomberg was making the trip, he wrote this weekend in a New York Times op-ed, “to stand with Israel against Hamas, by highlighting the safety of travel to Israel and urging the Obama administration to reverse course.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was there to greet Bloomberg on the tarmac, the New Yorker recalled: “[Netanyahu] thanked me for my support, and I thanked him for Israel’s support of New York City and the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.”
Bloomberg, who would later mount a short-lived bid for the presidency, cited his relationship with Netanyahu, and the U.S.-Israel relationship, in this weekend’s New York Times piece headlined “Israel Is Courting Disaster,” published less than a day after protesters — estimated to be around 150,000, the largest weekly demonstration to date — gathered in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the Israeli government’s proposed reforms. “Close allies bound together by shared values stand together in times of need — not only to support each other but to reaffirm the inviolable obligations we have to defend those values. And that is why I am standing up again now,” Bloomberg wrote.
In an essay that appeared to be written as much to Netanyahu as the Times’ readership, Bloomberg extolled the ways in which Netanyahu has grown Israel’s economy, praising “the extraordinary rise in Israel’s economic standing over the last generation” as potentially being Netanyahu’s “greatest achievement.”
“It’s fair to say that no prime minister has done more to transform its economy into a global powerhouse,” Bloomberg wrote. “Yet unless he changes course, Mr. Netanyahu risks throwing all that progress — and his own hard-earned legacy — away. The economic damage could make the cost being paid by the United Kingdom for Brexit look like bubkes.” Read the full op-ed here.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken is scheduled to meet with Israeli Strategic Minister Ron Dermer this afternoon in Washington. The meeting comes as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel for meetings with top Israeli officials.
Porter describes ‘constructive exchange’ between Democratic delegation and Netanyahu
In keeping with a background in academia, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), a former law professor known for her rigorous interrogations at congressional hearings and who recently announced a run for U.S. Senate, made sure to study up before her first trip to Israel last month. To improve her understanding of the region, Porter, a Democrat from Orange County, drew in particular on her connections within the Jewish community, she said, reading Noa Tishby’s book about Israel that a friend had recommended, consulting with a rabbi whose synagogue is located in her hometown of Irvine and reaching out to local AIPAC officials for a briefing on Middle East policy, among other things. “I recognize that I am relatively new to this issue,” Portershe said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Wednesday. “I tried to take a multifaceted approach and make sure that I was getting the most I could out of this particular trip,” she explained, “which I hope will be the first of many.”
Doing her homework: The pre-visit preparations paid off, Porter recalled, when the delegation, which was sponsored by J Street, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. “It was actually funny in that there was a moment in that conversation with the prime minister where he was talking about Likud and LGBTQ members of Likud and he was saying, ‘I bet nobody knew that,’” Porter explained, referring to Netanyahu’s political party. “I raised my hand and I was like, ‘I knew! I knew!’ because I had gotten that additional briefing before I went.”
Cautious approach: The 49-year-old consumer protection advocate, who flipped a swing district in her first bid for elective office five years ago, believes that such engagement underscores a broader message she is hoping to impart as one of three Democrats now vying for an open seat in California’s closely watched Senate race. “I am respectful about how I engage and I’m careful about how I build opinions,” Porter explained. “What you see with my relationship with the Jewish American diaspora and with the pro-Israel community is very consistent with how I’ve been able to flip my district and how I would think about representing California in the Senate.”
Audience with Bibi: That sentiment was perhaps best exemplified by the meeting with Netanyahu, whose right-wing governing coalition is promoting a controversial judicial overhaul that has sparked mass protests across Israel. In the U.S., a growing number of Democratic leaders and advocacy groups, including J Street, have expressed opposition to the coalition’s efforts. Porter said that she herself had requested an audience with Netanyahu when, in late January, she first met with Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., for a conversation “focused on ways to enhance Israel’s outreach to the progressive community in the U.S.” and “new avenues for cooperation,” as he wrote on social media.
Positive impression: Porter described a largely constructive exchange when the group of 15 Democratic House members was welcomed by Netanyahu late last month. Not only was the prime minister “extremely generous both with his time and with his thoughts,” but the group was “really able to have an interactive dialogue with him,” she said. “I was extremely impressed with his willingness to kind of grapple with us at some of the toughest issues that Israel’s facing, everything from judicial reform — an issue that we’re having questions and discussions about right now within the Democratic Party here in the United States — to issues about the West Bank and about settlements.”
Read the full interview here.
in the room
Harvard ‘perfect example’ of pro-Palestinian activism, speakers argue at Arab Conference at Harvard
At this weekend’s marquee Arab Conference at Harvard, students and panelists spoke — and at times argued vigorously — about topics including Middle East representation in the U.S. Census, the place of democracy in the Arab world and the importance of female representation in business and leadership. But there’s “one issue that our people are united around,” former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour said in a Sunday keynote address modeled on the popular TED Talk format, “which is Palestine.” The gathering of 650 students, hosted in-person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, came months after a wave of anti-Israel activity at the Ivy League university, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports from Cambridge.
Keynote speaker: “I’m not afraid of Zionists in America. I’m not afraid of people trying to silence me, because nothing that I experience here in the United States — not cancellation, not a headline in this country — is ever going to be anything compared to what our people experience under siege and under military occupation,” said Sarsour, who left the board of the Women’s March in 2019. She has long clashed with supporters of Israel, arguing in 2017 that there is no room for Zionists within feminism. “Whatever I say, this is just coming from the heart. And the reason why that’s dangerous — and, you know, the spaces I get invited to are quite limited,” Sarsour said with a laugh, “because, you know, one of the things about people who kind of speak off the cuff and speak from the heart is we’re going to tell you the truth.” Last year, the insurance giant Geico dropped Sarsour as a diversity speaker after backlash from pro-Israel activists.
Encouraging activism against Israel: Sarsour was one of several speakers and attendees at the three-day conference, which was organized by the Harvard Arab Alumni Association and sponsored by McKinsey and Co., to praise Harvard students for their pro-Palestinian activism and call for students to further support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. “When we’re talking about this youth movement for Palestine, Harvard is a perfect example,” Mohamad Habehh, director of development at American Muslims for Palestine, said in a Sunday session. Later in his address, he called Zionism “a very stupid ideology” and pledged to “end U.S. support for Israel.” Habehh said that American Muslims for Palestine would be meeting this week with officials at the State Department to urge them to deny Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich a visa into the U.S. due to recent comments he made calling for Israel to “erase” a Palestinian village.
Panel with Tlaib: Speaking at the conference on a panel about Middle Eastern representation in the 2030 Census, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) urged students to fight back against what she called “the intimidation, the bullying, the targeting to silence you” from pro-Israel students. “Everybody wants to silence me. But I know, whoever comes after me, I’ve knocked at least a couple doors down,” Tlaib continued, so that another student “can come in, she can say ‘apartheid.’”
Lawmakers push for congressional honor for Warsaw Ghetto Uprising participants
Lawmakers are making a push to award a Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest honor, to participants in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which took place 80 years ago this year, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Origins: Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA), the bill’s lead sponsor, told JI that the inspiration for the initiative came from a trip he made to Poland last year, during which he discussed the subject with U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski and visited Warsaw’s POLIN Museum, which chronicles the history of Polish Jews. There the two men agreed, Keating said, that a gold medal would be an “extraordinary” way to commemorate the anniversary of the uprising. “The uprising was a courageous response, given the atrocities of the Nazis during that period. People just coming up, without arms, without weapons, to stand up, showing their resistance to them at terrible cost,” Keating said. “It shows, at a time of enormous brutal atrocities, how the human spirit and courage will rise up from the civilian side to resist. And I think it’s one of the most important lessons that is so relevant today.”
History: The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Turner (R-OH), and Keating said a Senate companion is planned, likely to be introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). A previous effort to pass the bill died in the last Congress, after accumulating a total of 49 co-sponsors in the House after being introduced at the end of September 2022. Congressional Gold Medal bills must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the members of a chamber before they can be brought up for a vote.
Remembrance: Keating said the bill is also an important and timely reminder amid rising antisemitism in the U.S. and in Europe. “It’s important to remember, unfortunately, antisemitism is not localized, and that means here too,” Keating said. “I think it’s important to remember, but I think this particular recognition is critically important today.” The bill text notes that, “genocide involves the erasure and elimination of the memory and culture of a people, and therefore the United States must work to preserve the historical record of Jewish people around the world, many of whom now live in the United States.”
Read more here.
one of a kind
What’s so unusual about a Holocaust exhibition in Dubai?
As a child, Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori was always passionate about history and antiquities, especially those showcasing the myriad of ancient civilizations that make up the Middle East. That might be why he appeared nonplussed when discussing the contents of his Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates – the only museum in the Arab world with a permanent exhibition of Holocaust and Jewish history on display, Ruth Marks Eglash reports for The Circuit.
Jews and Islam: “When I opened the museum in 2014, I did not know that it was one of the only museums in the Arab or Islamic world that had Jewish content,” Al Mansoori told The Circuit in an interview.
Eclectic collection: Al Mansoori was in Israel last week, his fourth trip to the country since the signing of the historic Abraham Accords in September 2020, to meet with friends he has made since Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized diplomatic relations and to view some of the Jewish state’s ancient treasures. Those diplomatic agreements, which also included Bahrain and later Morocco and Sudan, have served to bolster Al Mansoori’s eclectic collections and inspire his own museum, which today draws many Israeli tourists curious to see how their history, culture and religion is depicted in the Gulf nation. “The Jewish religion is part of the Middle East,” Al Mansoori said, outlining how a mix of the UAE’s traditional values, its unique location in the Gulf, as well as a leadership that encourages tolerance and coexistence, has allowed the country and its citizens to embrace all cultures and religions, in contrast to the tumultuous region that surrounds it.
☢️ Nuke Know-How: In The Atlantic, Dennis Ross suggests a series of actions for the Biden administration to undertake to address Iran’s nuclear program, arguing that U.S. intervention may be necessary to prevent an Israeli strike. “The IAEA’s discovery of the enriched materials will only confirm the deepening Israeli belief that the current approach of the U.S. and its allies will eventually result in Iran getting a bomb, and that, regardless of statements to the contrary, America and the international community are prepared to live with that outcome. Israel, however, is not. If the Biden administration wants to force the Iranians to recognize the dangerous risk they are running and convince the Israelis that it has a way to deter the Iranians from advancing their program, it must respond to the recent revelation. The Iranians, the Israelis, and others in the region will certainly be watching to see what the U.S. does.” [TheAtlantic]
🕍 Tehran Tensions: The Washington Post’s Loveday Morris and Souad Mekhennet look at the origins of a recent attack on a synagogue in Germany against a backdrop of increasing tensions between Berlin and Tehran. “The nature of the synagogue attacks has had some in the security community puzzled. The Old Synagogue in Essen, although an active Jewish cultural center, has not been used as a place of worship since it was set alight in the Nazi-inspired pogroms of 1938. ‘I’m stumped,’ said the security official. ‘The buildings were empty. What was that supposed to do? That is why we were very reluctant at the beginning to assess that there was much more behind it.’ Out of 124 known foreign plots by Iran since 1979, 12 have been in Germany, with five of those occurring in the past two years, amid a global rise in such events, said [The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Matthew] Levitt, who tracks assassination, surveillance, and abduction plots. With higher-level assassination plots foiled, Iran may turn to ‘softer targets,’ he said. ‘That’s when the plots targeting Jews come into play,’ he said.” [WashPost]
💬 The Pogrom Parallel: In the Wall Street Journal, Gil Troy pushes back against the use of the word “pogrom” to describe last week’s attacks by Jewish settlers on the Palestinian town of Huwara. “Pogroms came from the center of Eastern European society, while the anti-Palestinian violence came from the margins of Israeli society. Meanwhile, anti-Jewish violence comes from the Palestinian mainstream. Palestinian leaders openly call for the destruction of the Jewish state and sponsor ‘martyr’s funds’ to pay the families of those that carry out attacks against Israel. Palestinians celebrated the murder of the Yaniv brothers, Hillel, 21, and Yagel, 19, by joyously distributing sweets. By contrast, the Hurawa riots outraged most Israelis. Yair Fink, a liberal and Orthodox Israeli politician, raised more than $300,000 for Hurawa’s victims overnight. No Cossacks ran post-pogrom charity drives for Jews.” [WSJ]
⚖️ Striking a Balance: In ‘UnHerd,’ The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov weighs in on the current state of affairs in the Knesset. “The vast majority of parties in the Knesset say the court’s power to strike down laws should be more limited, but not wholly eliminated. They also broadly agree that the Knesset should be able to re-pass laws that the court struck down, but are arguing over timing, context, permanence, and how big a special majority should do it. These are not debates about democracy or dictatorship. The discussion is, in fact, about the proper balance between different elements of a democracy. If politicians can work together to strengthen Israeli democracy, as both sides say they want to do, they could reach a compromise. But to do so, they’ll have to stop demonising each other.” [UnHerd]
👨👩👧👦 All in the Family: The New York Times’ Jason Farago spotlights the Sassoon family, the subject of a new exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum. “For more than a century, they have been stamped with the dumb misnomer ‘Rothschilds of the East.’ The Sassoons claimed descent from the line of King David, and enjoyed great prominence in Baghdad until the 19th century. Yet their family narrative diverges in more important ways from those of Ashkenazi dynasties of finance and industry: the Rothschilds and the Reinachs, the Lehmans and the Guggenheims. The Sassoons were merchants, not bankers, and the Jewish Museum show stresses how closely their wealth — in cash, in art — grew and waned with that of the British Empire. They spoke Judeo-Arabic and Hindustani before they spoke English. They circulated, first in desperation and later in high style, among four of the world’s great commercial and cultural capitals: Baghdad, Bombay (today Mumbai), Shanghai and London. They dealt in spices, pearls and also hard drugs; the Sassoon epic is one part ‘Buddenbrooks,’ one part ‘Scarface.’” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
📺 Emhoff on Air: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart discussed Emhoff’s efforts to address both global and domestic antisemitism.
🗳️ Backup: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, is being floated as the party’s potential “SOS” presidential candidate, should President Joe Biden not mount a reelection bid.
✋ Bowing Out: Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024, citing his effort to avoid “another multicar pileup that could potentially help [former President Donald] Trump recapture the nomination.”
✡️ Community Outreach: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) visited the Hasidic village of New Square, N.Y., with Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) and attended a fundraiser for the freshman legislator in nearby Monsey.
🥾 Booted: Far-right provocateur Nick Fuentes was removed from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference gathering in Maryland on Friday, with organizers citing his “hateful racist rhetoric and actions” as being inconsistent with the group’s mission.
📰 Media Matter: Semafor’s Jay Solomon launched his Global Security Newsletter.
🌊 For Sale: William Lauder listed two waterfront properties in Palm Beach, Fla., for a combined $200 million.
👨⚖️ Prison Time: A Staten Island man was sentenced to 18 months in jail for carrying out a series of attacks on Jewish people.
🏫 Concerned Father: In the Montgomery Perspective, former American Jewish Congress head Joel Rubin, who serves as vice mayor of Chevy Chase, Md., argues that the Montgomery County Public School system is not adequately addressing antisemitism among its students.
🇮🇹 Time to Schlein: The New York Timesspotlights Elly Schlein, whose father is an American Jewish academic and who recently was elected head of Italy’s Democratic party.
🛫 Good to Go: El Al found a crew to man Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Italy later this week, after at first struggling to find a cabin crew and co-pilot for the flight.
🛒 SPARing Partner: Shufersal and Amit Zeev signed an agreement with Dutch retailer SPAR to open a chain of stores in Israel.
🇭🇺 Staying Put: Hungarian President Katalin Novak said there had been no decision on moving the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite a report in the Israeli press last week.
🤝 Trade Deal: Turkey and the United Arab Emirates agreed to a trade deal that projects $40 billion in trade between the two countries over the next five years.
🇸🇦🇦🇪 Gulf Tensions: The Wall Street Journalexplores tensions between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia amid shifting regional dynamics.
☢️ Nuke Cooperation: Iran pledged to work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency following a trip to the Islamic republic by IAEA head Rafael Grossi.
🇷🇺 Arms Anxiety: Russia is hesitating to purchase long-range ballistic missiles from Iran out of concern that Western countries will supply Ukraine with similar weapons that could reach into Russian territory.
🕯️ Remembering: Disability rights activist Judith “Judy” Heumann died at 75.
Pic of the Day
Static’s new song Tachanunim. The song has racked up more than 1 million views since going live last week.
Israeli fashion model, Esti Ginzburg turns 33…
Centenarian known as “Philadelphia Phil,” the founder of a successful advertising agency, he achieved fame during the Eagles 2018 run to a Super Bowl championship, Philip Basser turns 105… Former chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States for 18 years, Alan Greenspan turns 97… Writer, lecturer and professor emeritus of Jewish communal service at HUC-JIR Los Angeles, Steven Windmueller turns 81… Actor and director, he directed “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men,” Rob Reiner turns 76… Television personality, author and libertarian pundit, John Stossel turns 76… Musical theatre lyricist and composer, Stephen Schwartz turns 75… Member of the New York State Senate, Shelley Mayer turns 71… Actor, comedian and sports show host, Tom Arnold turns 64… Aliza Tendler… Senior marketing manager at Momentum, Judy Victor… Head of innovation communication at Bloomberg LP, Chaim Haas turns 48… Senior director for business development and client services at NYC-based Jewish Communal Fund, Michelle Lebowits… Former football quarterback who played on six NFL teams, he is a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Sage Rosenfels turns 45… Israeli journalist and author of the book Revolt: The Worldwide Uprising Against Globalization, Nadav Asher Eyal turns 44… Managing director at Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based investment firm, he was the body man and then deputy chief of staff for former President George W. Bush, Blake L. Gottesman turns 43… Fourth-generation developer, owner, and operator of commercial real estate throughout the Eastern U.S., Daniel Klein turns 42… Natalie Lazaroff… Artist Tova Suissa… Founder of FTX known as SBF, Sam Bankman-Fried turns 31… Associate at Williams & Connolly, Riley Clafton… Sandra Brown… Nelson Katz…
TUESDAY: Nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Times since 1984, Suzanne Bregman Fields, Ph.D. turns 87… President emeritus of the California Institute of Technology, he is the 1975 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine, David Baltimore turns 85… Former bureau chief for the AP in Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, London and Tokyo, president of the National Press Club in 2014, Myron Belkind turns 83… Former chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner turns 81… Geneticist and 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine, Michael Rosbash turns 79… Retired media executive, she was a member of the first co-ed class at Yale College in 1969, Ruth Barbara Jarmul… Chairman and general trust counsel of Fiduciary Trust International, Gail Ehrlich Cohen… Award-winning freelance journalist, author and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Anne Farris Rosen turns 67… British barrister and a member of the House of Lords, he is the long-time chair of the British Legal Friends of Hebrew University, Lord David Philip Pannick turns 67… Executive director of Academic Exchange, Rabbi Nachum Braverman turns 65… Democratic political strategist, now the director of finance at Four Directions, Lewis H. Cohen… Professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and the author or editor of several books about Baruch Spinoza, Yitzhak Yohanan Melamed turns 55… Academy Award-winning actress, Rachel Weisz turns 53… Assistant news director for D.C.’s NBC4 News and an adjunct professor of journalism at American U, Matt Glassman… Brooklyn-based political consultant and attorney, Michael Tobman… Member of Israel’s diplomatic corps since 2010, he has been the spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel in Washington since 2018, Elad Strohmayer turns 42… Television news anchor and author of four bestselling finance guides, Nicole Lapin turns 39… Israeli actress and singer, Ester Rada turns 38… Author, popular science writer, spaceflight historian, YouTuber and podcaster, best known for writing Breaking the Chains of Gravity, Amy Shira Teitel turns 37… Climate deals reporter at Axios Pro, Alan Neuhauser… Attorney in Reno, Nevada, Sasha Ahuva Farahi… Digital marketing manager at Angel City FC, Rachel Zuckerman… Digital engagement director at AIPAC, Cory Meyer… Comedian, actress, and screenwriter, known professionally as Sarah Squirm, Sarah Sherman turns 30… Executive director of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields… Jake Hirth… Yaakov Spira…