👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Jewish activists who played a key part in the “Save Darfur” movement about the current situation in Sudan, and report on Morningstar’s removal of “controversy ratings” attached to companies operating in Israel and the West Bank. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Ben Judah, Rufus Gifford and Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman.
The streets of Tel Aviv and other cities across Israel were once again filled with spontaneous demonstrations last night following the news that Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed had resigned from the police force, citing political interference by members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. The move preempted Eshed’s transfer to a different position, which was seen as a demotion, and came after National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir criticized Eshed’s handling of the anti-judicial reform protests.
In a press conference last night, Eshed said he “could not live up to the expectations of the ministerial echelon, which included the breaking rules and process and a clear interference in the professional decision-making… I could have easily used disproportionate force and filled the ER at Ichilov [Medical Center] at the end of every demonstration in Tel Aviv. We could have cleared Ayalon [Highway] within minutes at the terrible cost of cracking heads and breaking bones, at the cost of breaking the pact between police and the citizenry.”
Ben-Gvir responded to Eshed’s speech,saying it “proved that a political commissioner in uniform served in the Israel Police. I wish him great success in his future as a candidate in the next elections in a leftist party.”
Police arrested a driver who drove through a group of protesters on the Ayalon highway, injuring one man.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday that Israeli-Russian academic Elizabeth Tsurkov is being held hostage in Iraq by the Iranian-backed Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah group. Tsurkov had been missing for several months after traveling to Iraq to work on her doctorate and academic research for Princeton University, the statement said.
Despite the militia’s link to Iran, the Israeli PMO statement noted that “Elizabeth Tsurkov is still alive and we hold Iraq responsible for her safety and wellbeing,” and added that “The matter is being handled by the relevant parties in the State of Israel out of concern for Elizabeth Tsurkov’s security and well-being.”
The trajectory of several key Senate races grew clearer this week, as leading candidates begin to post their second-quarter fundraising tallies ahead of the July 15 deadline. The reports, covering money raised from April 1 to June 30, are useful guides to which candidates are showcasing momentum heading into the political homestretch.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), running for Senate in California, announced he raised a whopping $8.1 million for the race — the most money raised in the second quarter of a non-election year by any Democratic Senate candidate in history, according to his campaign. He ended June with $29.5 million in his campaign account.
Schiff, who led the first impeachment against former President Donald Trump, turned his censure by House Republicans last month into campaign cash. Schiff is using his high-profile fights against Trump and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as a selling point in a hotly contested primary against Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) announced he raised over $4 million in the second quarter as he prepares for the likelihood of a competitive challenge by GOP businessman David McCormick. That’s Casey’s highest quarterly fundraising total in his career, leaving him with over $6 million in cash on hand. Casey, who underwent treatment for prostate cancer earlier this year, only raised $440,000 in the last fundraising quarter.
McCormick, a top GOP recruit who nearly won the Republican nomination for Senate last year, would be able to self-finance some of his campaign.
And in Maryland, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a first-time Democratic congressional candidate, raised a solid $1.6 million since entering the Senate race in May. She’s facing Rep. David Trone (D-MD), one of the wealthiest members of Congress, in the primary. Trone is already spending his money on campaign ads.
One other notable fundraising haul: Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), running against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), raised $6.2 million in the first two months of the race. That means he’ll likely have the resources against Cruz, but remains a clear underdog in a state where Republicans still predominate. (Cruz hasn’t released his fundraising haul yet.)
spotlight on sudan
‘It’s all happening again’: 20 years after genocide in Darfur, ethnic violence returns
When the political situation in Sudan deteriorated in April, global human rights advocates looked on with alarm. Two warring military leaders had sparked an armed conflict after talks to create a civilian government fell apart. The violence quickly reached Darfur, an impoverished region now experiencing ethnic violence that, to some, felt eerily familiar: Nearly two decades ago, Jewish activists led a global movement to stop a genocide there. Now, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., again warns of a “dire risk of genocide” in Darfur, where do the leaders of the Save Darfur movement stand? Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch spoke to activists and atrocity-prevention experts to find out.
On the ground: The Save Darfur campaign drew widespread support from within the American Jewish community: Rabbis spoke about the genocide from the pulpit, while students solicited donations for relief efforts. In Washington, advocates lobbied Congress to address the genocide, and thousands of activists turned out for a 2006 rally on the National Mall, with speakers that included Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Green rubber bracelets that said “Save Darfur” became a fixture at synagogues.
Different era: Today, reports of ethnic violence in Darfur may have a harder time getting through to people in a world that is awash with stories of humanitarian crises in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Burma, Xinjiang and more. In part, that’s due to Jewish activists focusing their energy elsewhere — including in the U.S., where antisemitism is on the rise and domestic issues have drawn the attention of American Jews. But it’s also because the Save Darfur movement succeeded in dramatically reshaping and reinvigorating the human rights field of atrocity prevention.
Ben Judah upends the myths about Europe
In his day job at the Atlantic Council, a prominent foreign policy think tank based in Washington, D.C., Ben Judah, the British-French author and journalist, is widely recognized as a leading expert on all things Europe. In his recently published book, This Is Europe: The Way We Live Now, he embraces a different mode, abjuring political analysis in favor of a novelistic approach to illuminating — rather than simply explaining — a rapidly changing continent through the lens of its inhabitants. In conversation with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel last week, Judah discussed his reporting process, how his own family’s immigration narrative informs the book, the challenges facing Europe’s Jews amid rising antisemitism and — in a possible hint at a future project — his hope to eventually write a similar book on Jerusalem, where he once briefly studied as a yeshiva student.
Through their eyes: The book, Judah’s third, is an impressionistic series of deeply personal profiles told through the eyes of his subjects, many of whom are refugees seeking new opportunities, to varying degrees of success and personal fulfillment, in all corners of Europe. Even as he acknowledges that there are “no politics” in the book, however, Judah, 35, still views his latest work — a five-year project — as exploring what he described as “a deeply political question.”
Jewish inspiration: In composing the book, Judah also drew on a long-standing appreciation for Jewish texts — namely the Talmud, which informed his effort to triangulate a portrait of Europe with contrasting narratives. “I was very influenced by the principles of Talmud, where one of the key principles is that everything has to be looked at from another point of view again and again and again,” he explained. “With this book, we see the same phenomenon from two or three different points of view.”
Morningstar removes controversy ratings on 19 companies doing business in Israel and West Bank
Financial services firm Morningstar has removed “controversy ratings” the company had assigned to 19 companies doing business in Israel and the West Bank following a year of controversy and accusations that the firm had employed anti-Israel bias in its environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings system, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
New development: “After months of negotiations and discussions with Morningstar about its assumptions, sources and language, we appreciate that a significant number of companies unfairly rated for their work with Israel have had these black marks lifted,” Elana Broitman, the senior vice president for public affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, told JI. “Our work is not yet done, however, and we look forward to further progress and Morningstar’s selection of experts to advise on these matters.”
View from inside: “Following questions about whether some of Sustainalytics’ ESG research reflected biases, we engaged with organizations to understand the concerns and underwent a thorough, independent review of our research on the sensitive area of human rights. That process, while long, was a substantive and productive one that we’re grateful to have taken. We wrapped up all of the enhancements to our research on June 30, pending review by the independent, external experts,” Morningstar spokesperson Sarah Wirth said. “Among the changes we’ve made, we have enhanced our approach to using sources, clarified the human rights guidance that underpins aspects of our research, unified oversight of our methodologies, and improved the language we use.”
‘Brothers in Yoga’ looks to give Israeli combat veterans tools to overcome trauma
About seven months ago, Gil Vivante – a successful mechanical engineer who had worked at a number of large and small tech companies following his military service – realized that he had to take a break. The post-traumatic stress disorder that he had been grappling with off and on for some 15 years had returned, mostly triggered by stress from work. He hadn’t slept for weeks. He was constantly on alert and on edge. He wasn’t functioning at home with his family or at work. He and his wife knew that this situation couldn’t continue. He began undergoing traditional psychological and psychiatric treatments. He also started to do yoga. “I was in a WhatsApp group for veterans of the 890th Battalion… and one of the guys posted something about ‘Brothers in Yoga’ – so that’s how I got to them,” Vivante told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross. “We did our retreat in the Jerusalem hills, and that’s how I started my internal journey.”
Giving the tools: Neta Margalith developed the idea for Brothers in Yoga soon after she returned to Israel in 2020 after spending several years abroad — in the United States, the Bahamas and India — in yoga ashrams. As she began studying trauma-sensitive yoga, a specific variety of the practice that is specifically geared toward treating complex trauma and PTSD, Margalith said inspiration struck. “One day, I just decided that this is what I want to do. I didn’t know how, I didn’t have proper training, but there was just this understanding that there are tens of thousands of people who aren’t being helped and who don’t have the tools that they need,” she told eJP.
The body is key: “One of the ways in which people become combat soldiers is through physical exercise… In that training, we treat our bodies differently. We learn to suppress certain feelings, we learn to use the body as a tool, to ignore certain sensations [like pain or fatigue],” Alon Weltman, a psychologist studying the effects of yoga on PTSD in combat veterans, said. “Yoga allows you to do the opposite with the body. You pay attention to your body and don’t just use it.” Weltman stressed that yoga is not a “standalone” treatment for PTSD, but said that it can complement other therapies or allow people to seek additional treatment.
🕍 Wartime Rabbi:The New York Times’ Cassandra Vinograd spotlights Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, who gained international attention when a video of him coming under fire in southern Ukraine went viral. “Rabbi Azman, 57, sprang into action when Russia invaded in February 2022, working to help evacuate Jewish Ukrainians and recording appeals for help and a halt to the war. The bed that is still set up in his office at Kyiv’s Brodsky synagogue is a testament to the intensity of those early days, he said. The rabbi initially worked even through Shabbat, the traditional day of rest, and started filming video messages that went far and wide. His role as chief rabbi has particular resonance in a war that President Vladimir V. Putin has falsely claimed is about ‘denazifying’ Ukraine, a country whose current president is Jewish and whose Jewish community has historically suffered persecution.” [NYTimes]
🌐 Power Dynamics: In Foreign Policy, Jeremy Hodge considers how the relationship between the Wagner Group and Russian President Vladimir Putin following the Wagner rebellion will affect the power balance vis-a-vis Iran in Syria, where both Wagner troops and Russian soldiers are stationed. “Currently, Wagner mercenaries and their network of contractors at oil and gas sites across Syria are one of several core components of what’s left of Russia’s bare-bones occupation. Supported in part by an independent and sustainable revenue stream, they have so far proved largely resistant to Iran’s overtures. However, should another pillar in Putin’s regime fall, that could change, with Wagner’s Syrian mercenaries following the same path as many other former Russian proxies… Should Russia lose the loyalty of Syrian mercenaries guarding the country’s energy infrastructure, Moscow would no longer be able to guarantee that it could continue coercing Assad to allow the Kremlin to use Syrian territory to threaten NATO and expand throughout Africa.” [FP]
🪖 Military Matters: The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner questions whether Israel’s recent military operation in the Palestinian of Jenin is likely to have resulted in any lasting achievements. “Israeli analysts said the military chalked up a tactical success in Jenin, scouring the crowded, built-up refugee camp that the Israeli authorities have described as a haven for militants and that, before the raid, had become a no-go zone for Palestinian security forces and, increasingly, for Israeli forces… But the episode lacked any deeper strategy and could even spur more violence and revenge attacks, analysts said. ‘It doesn’t mean we’ve done what we’ve done, we’re out and that’s it,’ said Itamar Yaar, a former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council and a colonel in the reserves. ‘The operation was relatively short and limited,’ he said. ‘That means we might see similar activities’ in the Jenin camp, though perhaps on a smaller scale, he added, ‘even tomorrow.’” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🎙️ Across the Pond: The BBC apologized for on-air comments made by anchor Anjana Gadgil to former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in which Gadgil suggested that Israeli forces were “happy to kill children.”
📱 Meta Move: Meta launched Threads, seen as a rival to Twitter, with 10 million users signing up in the first seven hours, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
➡️ Gifford’s Going: White House Chief of Protocol Rufus Gifford is expected to leave the administration at the end of the month to join the Biden reelection campaign, in a role overseeing outreach to Democratic donors.
🗳️ Mondaire’s In: Former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) announced his entry into the primary in New York’s 17th Congressional District, after a failed bid in the state’s redrawn 10th District last cycle.
🏃♂️ Rosen Challenger: Nevada Republican Sam Brown, an Army veteran who ran for Senate last year, is likely to announce a bid to challenge Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in the Silver State.
💔 Parting Ways: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, announced in a New York Times sit-down that they are separating after 29 years of marriage.
🐘 Bailey vs. Bost: Former Illinois gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey is mounting a primary challenge against Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) in the state’s 12th Congressional District.
🍽️ Dinner Crew: Former CNN executives Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust were spotted having dinner with fired anchor Don Lemon on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
💻 Pulled Offline: GQtook down an article critical of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav shortly after its publication on Monday, reportedly following a complaint from Zaslav’s camp.
💲 Kushner’s Cash: Jared Kushner’s Affinity Partners made its first investment in a European company, backing Munich-based fitness technology company EGYM.
🕵️ Cracking the Case: The Secret Service is looking into how a small amount of cocaine came to be discovered in the White House.
📚 Book Review: In The New York Times, Charlotte Shane reviewsThe Madam and the Spymaster: The Secret History of the Most Famous Brothel in Wartime Berlin, by journalists Nigel Jones, Urs Brunner and Julia Schrammel.
💍 Criticism of Christie’s: Jewish organizations are rejecting attempts by Christie’s to donate some proceeds, following the auction house’s decision to move forward in selling jewelry that belonged to the wife of a German businessman who profited from Nazi-era policies against Jews.
🕍 Buried History: Construction workers in Munich found rubble from the city’s main synagogue that was destroyed on orders from Adolf Hitler in 1938.
🙏 Parental Plea: The families of four Israelis being held in Gaza met with U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk and International Red Cross officials in Geneva.
🚀 Back and Forth: Two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon toward Israel this morning, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes in the area.
⚖️ Court Call: The U.K., Canada, Sweden and Ukraine are bringing a case against Iran at the International Court of Justice over the 2020 downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, shortly after its takeoff from Tehran.
🚢 Tanker Trouble: A U.S. defense official said the Navy intervened to stop Iranian naval ships from seizing two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
🛢️ Shared Interests: Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to jointly utilize oil and gas fields that they share.
Pic of the Day
Former NBA players Mark West and Eddie Johnson at the United Hatzalah emergency medical services organization’s headquarters in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, in a visit organized by Athletes for Israel.
Israeli cryptographer, he is a co-inventor of the RSA algorithm and one of the inventors of differential cryptanalysis, Adi Shamir turns 71…
Chairman of NYC-based GFP Real Estate, Jeffrey Robert Gural turns 81… 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush turns 77… Former member of the Knesset for the National Religious Party, Yitzhak Levy turns 76… Former president of AIPAC, Marshall Aaron Brachman… Journalist, pundit and author, known for writing Kausfiles, Robert Michael “Mickey” Kaus turns 72… Member of the Knesset for the Noam party, he is a deputy minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Avigdor “Avi” Maoz turns 67… Founder of Kehilas Pnei Menachem, Rabbi Shaul Alter turns 66… Professor of Bible at JTS and a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Benjamin D. Sommer turns 59… Partner at SKDK, Jill Zuckman… CEO of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Beth Kean…Board chair of the Beau Biden Foundation, Hallie Olivere Biden turns 50… Stand-up comedian, writer and actor, Mark Moshe Kasher turns 44… British actress, Louisa Clein turns 44… Founder of Tumblr, David Karp turns 37… Israeli freestyle wrestler, Ilana Kratysh turns 33… Chief of staff for Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), Shira Siegel… Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Columbia University, Josh Lipson… Jeannie Gerzon… Maryland Del.-elect, he is being sworn in today in Annapolis, Ryan Spiegel…