👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the suspected terror attack at a Tunisian Jewish festival, and cover new legislation on Capitol Hill that targets Iran’s drone and missile programs. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Noa Kirel, Natan Sharansky and Steve Schwarzman.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said yesterday evening that he “canceled” an upcoming event set to be hosted at the Capitol by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and several anti-Israel groups commemorating the “Nakba” — the term translating to “catastrophe” that Palestinians use to refer to the founding of Israel. McCarthy said he’ll host a bipartisan briefing honoring the 75th anniversary of U.S.-Israel relations in the space Tlaib had reserved instead.
It’s not clear whether Tlaib will be able to move the event to another space in the Capitol or reschedule it. McCarthy reportedly overrode Tlaib’s reservation for a space in the Capitol Visitor’s Center and will use the space for his own event instead. Neither Tlaib nor McCarthy responded to requests for comment. Members are typically able to reserve event spaces throughout the Capitol complex at will and McCarthy did not specify what authority he was exercising to cancel Tlaib’s event.
Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) said in a joint statement in response to Tlaib’s planned event, obtained by Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod, that “bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship has always been unbreakable and will remain strong for decades to come. Efforts to rewrite history and question the Jewish State’s right to exist will never succeed in Congress,” adding that “malicious narratives perpetuated by some of our colleagues do nothing but sow divisiveness and hate.”
The Department of Justice has reportedly indicted Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who fabricated much of his background and faced questions about potential campaign finance violations, on Tuesday. The exact charges Santos faces remain unclear. The indictment is likely to drive speculation over a potential special election to replace Santos into high gear, and has already brought about renewedpressure on Santos to resign.
If Santos resigns this year, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul would have 10 days to call a special election to replace him, to be held 70 to 80 days following the announcement. Candidates would be selected by party leadership. Any special election in Santos’ Long Island district, which President Joe Biden comfortably carried in 2020, would give Democrats a chance to narrow Republicans’ already-tenuous majority.
Elsewhere on the Hill, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing today on the conflict in Sudan, featuring testimony from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sarah Charles, assistant to the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.
Fired Fox News hostTucker Carlson announced yesterday that he’ll be launching a new show on Twitter. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt condemned the development, saying, “Carlson used his primetime show to spread antisemitic, racist, xenophobic and anti-LGBTQ+ hate to millions. Now, he has a new platform to promote his hateful views.” Greenblatt added, “granting a platform to someone who acts as a Pied Piper for conspiracy theorists and extremists likely will worsen” Twitter’s “problems curbing hate speech.”
Following a tense calm after Israel launched Operation Shield and Arrow, rockets were fired from Gaza into southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv area, on Wednesday.
Former President Donald Trump, who yesterday was found liable for abuse and defamation of E. Jean Carroll, will appear on a CNN town hall tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
terror in tunisia
Hours before deadly attack, coexistence on display at Tunisian Jewish festival
One of the largest modern Jewish gatherings in the Arab world was disrupted by gunfire on Tuesday, when an armed Tunisian naval guard killed four people and wounded nine others on the island of Djerba as the Jewish community celebrated an annual Lag B’Omer festival, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The festival, which includes three days of religious and cultural events, attracts more than 6,000 Jewish pilgrims — many of whom have Tunisian ancestry — from around the world, including Israel. Djerba, an island in the Mediterranean located closer to Libya’s Tripoli than Tunis, is home to what is today Tunisia’s largest Jewish community of 1,100 people.
Official word: The Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that two Jewish cousins were among those killed, one with Israeli citizenship and the other with foreign citizenship; authorities in Tunisia, which does not have formal ties with Israel, identified a French national and a Tunisian citizen among the dead. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday that the U.S. “deplores the attack in Tunisia coinciding with the annual Jewish pilgrimage that draws faithful to the El Ghriba Synagogue from around the world.”
On the ground: The festival in Djerba is “a symbol of what was here in the past, and what is possible in the future,” said Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, speaking to JI before Tuesday’s attack; Lipstadt attended the event with U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Joey Hood hours before the shooting. The festival is, she said, “an example of potential coexistence, or a sign of the coexistence that once was in these countries and could possibly be again, a sign of the end of or stopping of demonization of Jews.” That Lipstadt chose to attend the festival “is a strong message to the Jews of Tunisia that they are not alone and that the American authorities ensure respect for human rights and respect for freedom of worship in Tunisia,” said Elie Trabelsi, whose father oversees the Ghriba festival.
Read the full story here.
Bipartisan HFAC bill targets Iran missile, drone program ahead of U.N. embargo’s expiration
Democratic and Republican leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced a bill on Tuesday that takes aim at Iran’s production and exports of missiles and drones, with an eye toward the soon-to-expire United Nations restrictions on Iran’s missile program, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The U.N. Security Council placed restrictions on Iran’s sale, purchase and transfer of ballistic missiles and drones in 2015, in connection with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached between world powers and Iran, but those limits are set to expire in October.
Legislative goals: The Fight and Combat Rampant Iranian Missile Exports (Fight CRIME) Act levies additional sanctions on Iran and asks the administration to outline a strategy to prevent the U.N. restrictions from expiring. It is sponsored by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the chair and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Dean Phillips (D-MN), the chair and ranking member of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia subcommittee.
New sanctions: The bill would impose sanctions on any individuals involved with Iran’s missile program — including helping Iran acquire or deploy missile and drone technology; providing technology or components for missiles to Iran; participating in joint missile or drone development; training Iran-aligned individuals in missile or drone deployment; storing or transporting Iranian missiles or drones; or importing or exporting missile or drone technology into or out of Iran.
Other provisions: The Fight Crime Act would direct the administration to submit to Congress a strategy on how it plans to ensure the renewal of the U.N. embargo and/or deter the sale and transfer of missile technology absent the renewal. The strategy would include information on how the end of the embargo would impact Iranian weapons proliferation and the benefits Iran would receive from the expiration of the restrictions.
Lawmakers introduce first-ever bipartisan and bicameral resolution honoring Jewish American Heritage Month
Senate and House members announced on Tuesday that they are introducing resolutions honoring the accomplishments of Jewish Americans and calling out antisemitism in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, which is observed each May, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Sponsorship: According to a statement from the sponsors, the resolution is the first time such legislation has been introduced in a bicameral and bipartisan fashion. It is being sponsored by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rick Scott (R-FL), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and David Kustoff (R-TN).
History lesson: The resolution honors the “the rich history of Jewish people in the United States and the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to society in the United States” and recounts the growth and accomplishments of the Jewish community in the United States since 1654, such as Jews who have won Nobel Prizes and served on the Supreme Court.
On the rise: The legislation also highlights the recent surge in antisemitism, citing rising rates of antisemitic incidents and hate crimes, along with polling showing that Jews see themselves as increasingly under threat. The bill also cites a rising lack of awareness about the Holocaust.
New regional pact places women’s rights, diplomacy at the fore
When French human rights artist and academic Guila Clara Kessous watched the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on the White House lawn in September 2020, she noticed there was something conspicuously missing: women. Last week, Kessous, together with prominent women from each of the Abraham Accords countries, as well as from Morocco, which also normalized ties with Israel in 2020, launched the Sarah and Hajar Accords, an initiative named for the biblical wives of Abraham that aims to spark deeper dialogue between the countries on women’s issues, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
At the table: “I’ve been working on this since the Abraham Accords was first signed,” Kessous, who is a UNESCO Artist for Peace, told JI in an interview. “This was very important for me for two main reasons: first, to show that women’s rights have to be addressed as a separate issue and not just as one of many issues. The second,” she continued, “is because feminist diplomacy, or rather that women chosen by their governments to represent them in the Sarah and Hajar Accords, can become a role model to inspire young women to become diplomats and to join the negotiation table.”
First steps: While the new accord is just a framework at this stage, Kessous has recruited prominent officials and leaders from each of the Abraham Accords countries. Former Israeli Knesset Member Ruth Wasserman Lande, who co-founded the first Knesset Caucus for the promotion of the Abraham Accords, will work with Kessous.
🇷🇺 Reflections on Russia: Natan Sharansky, a former refusenik who was imprisoned by the Soviet Union for nine years, pens an op-ed for The Washington Post contrasting the repression he endured to that experienced under Russian President Vladimir Putin today. “The Helsinki Group remained a thorn in Moscow’s side until the U.S.S.R.’s final days. It united diverse opposition movements beneath a single banner and spurred the creation of satellite human-rights-monitoring groups around the world. The U.S. Congress used the documents of our groups as the basis for hearings about compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The group’s creation thus marked a turning point, at which dissidents began to speak with one voice against the regime, and Western powers began to see us as their allies in the fight against it. Now, nearly half a century later, with Moscow’s barbaric aggression against Ukraine, Russia has experienced a quick return to almost Stalinist-era levels of repression. New laws have made it impossible for the free press and human rights organizations to operate. Some outlets have closed voluntarily, while others, including the Helsinki Group and Memorial — which only last year was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize — have been forcibly shut down. Prison sentences for criticizing the regime are becoming increasingly common and harsh.” [WashPost]
🌐 Tehran’s Tricks: In The Wall Street Journal, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh outline how Iran is exploiting changing geopolitics to advance its nuclear program. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it crystal clear that Vladimir Putin doesn’t care for a world order led by Europe and the U.S. China, too, has retreated from being ‘a responsible stakeholder’ in a liberal trading system. Instead it is trying to construct its own version of an East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, much of it designed to give Beijing dominion over Taiwan. This revisionist alliance has ended Iran’s strategic loneliness. Russia, China and Iran all want to diminish American power. They recognize that they need to help each other militarily and economically to achieve common goals. This is why the Islamic Republic has supplied drone technology and artillery shells to Russia for use in a conflict that, at first glance, has no revolutionary Islamic interests. It is becoming increasingly hard to believe that Russia, which appears ready to deliver advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighters and more sophisticated air-defense systems to Iran, is averse to sharing nuclear expertise and technology with the clerical regime — assuming Tehran is lacking something in its nuclear engineering.” [WSJ]
🧕 Hairy Moment: In the Associated Press, Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell spotlight a growing trend in Iran of women choosing to forgo wearing a hijab, in defiance of the law. “Authorities have made legal threats and closed down some businesses serving women not wearing the hijab. Police and volunteers issue verbal warnings in subways, airports and other public places. Text messages have targeted drivers who had women without head covering in their vehicles. However, analysts in Iran warn that the government could reignite dissent if it pushes too hard. The protests erupted at a difficult time for the Islamic Republic, currently struggling with economic woes brought on by its standoff with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program. Some women said they’ve had enough — no matter the consequence. They say they are fighting for more freedom in Iran and a better future for their daughters.” [AP]
Around the Web
👋 Back at Work: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) returned to Capitol Hill yesterday, following an extended absence as the California legislator recovered from shingles.
🏃♂️ Candidates to Watch: Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez is expected to announce his entry into Texas’ 2024 Senate race, joining a Democratic field that includes Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a Democrat, announced she’s entering the Senate race to succeed Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). Former Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) is planning to announce his entry into North Carolina’s gubernatorial race later this month.
✋ Taking His Time: Blackstone co-founder Steve Schwarzman is holding off on donating to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce a presidential bid, after a meeting between the two.
🗓️ Mark Your Calendar: OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is slated to testify before lawmakers on Capitol Hill next week.
🏡 Country Cottage: The New York Timesspotlights the Connecticut home that had been owned by Leonard Bernstein and serves as the set for portions of an upcoming biopic about the composer.
📽️ Coming Soon: A new trailer for the upcoming film “Oppenheimer,” which will be screened in theaters starting July 21, was released on Monday.
🎓 Campus Beat: Inside Higher Edreports on the downward trend of Jewish students enrolling in Ivy League universities.
💎 Steamrolling Ahead: Christie’s is moving forward with the auction of $151 million worth of jewels that had belonged to the widow of a German businessman who made his fortune buying companies from Jews at the onset of WWII, despite calls by American and European Jewish groups to call off the auction.
🦄 Eurovision Fever: Israeli singer Noa Kirel advanced to the Eurovision finals, which will be held on Saturday night, with her pop song “Unicorn.”
🥖 Bonjour: Carrefour, the French supermarket chain, opened 50 stores in Israel yesterday, with the goal of opening 30-50 more by the end of the year.
🎭 Playwright Pulitzer: The New York Timesinterviewed playwright Sanaz Toossi following the announcement that her play, “English,” which takes place in her mother’s hometown of Karaj, Iran, won the Pulitzer Prize in drama.
🇮🇷 Death Sentence: The U.N. said that Iran has executed more than 200 people since the beginning of the year.
🇹🇷 Turkey Talk: Turkish politician Kemal Kilicdaroglu pledged to build closer ties between Ankara and NATO if he defeats Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sunday’s election.
Pic of the Day
Brian Cohen received the Kraft Center and Columbia/Barnard Hillel’s Annual Gershom Mendes Seixas Award on Tuesday night in New York City. Robert Kraft presented the award to Cohen, the Lavine Family Executive Director at Columbia/Barnard Hillel, comparing him to former Patriots QB Tom Brady. Dara Marans Shapiro received the center’s Young Leadership Award.
Israeli rock musician, Aviv Geffen turns 50…
Shopping center developer and former U.S. ambassador to both Australia and Italy, Melvin Floyd “Mel” Sembler turns 93… Scion of a Hasidic dynasty and leader of the Beth Jehudah congregation in Milwaukee, Rabbi Michel Twerski… and his twin brother, who is a professor at Brooklyn Law School, following a career as dean at Hofstra University School of Law, Aaron Twerski, both turn 84… Real estate developer and principal owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Stephen M. Ross turns 83… Leading Democratic pollster and political strategist, Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg turns 78… British actress, Dame Maureen Lipman turns 77… Israeli businessman and philanthropist, Leon Recanati turns 75… Senior counsel at Nixon Peabody, Richard Goldstein turns 74… Founder and CEO of OPTI Connectivity, Edward Brill… CEO of Medical Reimbursement Data Management in Chapel Hill, N.C., Robert Jameson… American-born Israeli singer, songwriter and music producer, Yehudah Katz turns 72… Claims examiner at Chubb Insurance, David Beck… Anchor for SportsCenter and other programs on ESPN since 1979, Chris “Boomer” Berman turns 68… Former NBA player whose career spanned 18 seasons on seven teams, Danny Schayes turns 64… U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) turns 64… Reform rabbi living in Israel, Susan Silverman turns 60… Brazilian businessman Ricardo Samuel Goldstein turns 57… Special education teacher, Neil Winchel… Attorney general of Colorado, Philip Jacob Weiser turns 55… Senior rabbi of Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Brian Strauss turns 51… Editor-in-chief of Fleishigs kosher food magazine, Shifra Klein… Video games reporter at Bloomberg News, Jason Schreier turns 36… Manager of government affairs at the American Forest & Paper Association, Fara Klein Sonderling… Associate director of communications in the D.C. office of Pew Research Center, Rachel Weisel Drian… National correspondent for New York Magazine, Gabriel Debenedetti… Editorial director at The Record by Recorded Future, Adam Janofsky… Actress, Halston Sage turns 30… Scriptwriter and actress, Cazzie Laurel David turns 29… Mollie Harrison… Freelance journalist, Melanie Lidman…
BIRTHWEEK (was Monday): Keren Hajioff…