Good Wednesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to U.S. legislators on the ground in the Middle East, and report on the American citizens believed to be held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Franklin Foer, Marty Baron and Rep.Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Days after Hamas’ violent assault on Israel, American universities are facing public pressure from Jewish students and alumni to more forcefully address the atrocities in Israel — and it’s having an effect, Jewish Insider Washington correspondent Gabby Deutch reports.
As we reported yesterday, thousands of Harvard alumni signed onto a letter calling for the university to unequivocally condemn the terrorist violence in Israel after more than 30 Harvard student organizations said Israel is “entirely responsible” for the deadly attacks. Harvard’s administration first issued a statement on recent events on Monday night, but campus Jewish leaders called it “weak.”
After the alumni letter went public, Harvard President Claudine Gay wrote to the university community again: “Let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas,” she said. “Let me also state, on this matter as on others, that while our students have the right to speak for themselves, no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”
Later on Tuesday, the dean of the New York University School of Law was forced to respond to a message from the president of the law school’s student body that went viral. “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life,” Ryna Workman, the president of the NYU Student Bar Association, wrote. “I will not condemn Palestinian resistance.”
NYU Law Dean Troy McKenzie responded to the comments directly. “This message was not from NYU School of Law as an institution and does not speak for the leadership of the Law School. It certainly does not express my own views, because I condemn the killing of civilians and acts of terrorism as always reprehensible,” McKenzie wrote. Rabbi David Bashevkin, who called the statement “weak,” noted that McKenzie seemed “annoyed he even has to make these remarks. Zero sensitivity to the students who received this.”
The controversy culminated when Winston & Strawn, the law firm where Workman had accepted a post-graduation offer of employment, rescinded Workman’s offer. “These comments are profoundly in conflict with Winston & Strawn’s values as a firm. Accordingly, the firm has rescinded the law student’s offer of employment,” the firm wrote in a statement posted to social media.
All of this comes as student groups affiliated with the anti-Israel organization Students for Justice in Palestine plan to hold a nationwide “Day of Resistance” on Thursday. In the face of Israel’s growing death toll, Jewish students and alumni tell JI that they don’t plan to let up their efforts against such events.
JI’s Marc Rod obtained a letterthat Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is circulating among Harvard alumni in Congress to “express our outrage and disgust” over the statement by student groups blaming Israel for the Hamas attacks and condemning the university’s response to the situation.
“Your delayed response makes it clear you are only committed to intentionally fostering an environment that allows rampant and dangerous antisemitism on Harvard’s campus,” the letter, addressed to Harvard President Claudine Gay, reads. “This heinous statement and the support it received from over thirty student organizations across Harvard University should raise immediate concerns into Harvard’s curriculum regarding the State of Israel.”
President Joe Biden, a day after giving an address in support of Israel, will join a roundtable of Jewish community leaders to speak about the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza. Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff is also expected to speak, in what will be his first public comments since the attacks began.
Meanwhile, computer technology giant Oracle has announced its unequivocal support for Israel and the IDF around the world, including in Arab countries, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports. The company operates in almost every country in the world, and put a message of support on each of its country homepages.
The Oracle website in Hamas’ patron Qatar, as well as most other Arab and Muslim countries, displays a picture of an Israeli flag with the message: “Oracle condemns the terrorist attacks against Israel and its citizens. Oracle will provide all support necessary to its employees and to the government of Israel and the country’s defense establishment.”
In addition to Oracle’s expression of support for Israel in countries that are unaccustomed or even hostile to pro-Israel messages, the company’s statement goes further than those of other tech giants. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company is going to “do everything we can to help support [teammates’] families and their safety and to assist however we can in this very difficult time” — but stopped short of explicitly saying Amazon supports Israel.
In countries that legally allow the company to do so, Oracle added a link to Magen David Adom, announcing that it will match employee contributions with no limit to the Israeli medical organization.
Oracle is aware that employees in some Arab countries may quit, a senior source in the company told JI, and quoted CEO Safra Catz’s statement from 2021 that “if Oracle employees don’t agree with our mission to support Israel maybe we aren’t the right company for them.” The company plans to leave its pro-Israel message on its websites until Israel wins, or until governments make them take it down.
operation iron sword
IDF carries out hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, destroying Hamas infrastructure
Israeli fighter jets struck hundreds of targets across the Gaza Strip overnight Tuesday and early on Wednesday, destroying key infrastructure sites and assets belonging to Hamas and other terrorist groups that carried out a mass terrorist attack inside Israel on Saturday, the Israeli army said in a series of statements, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Hamas targets: Among the sites hit, the army said, were the Islamic University, an important operational and military center for the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, and an aerial detection center belonging to Hamas, which included a high-quality network of cameras hidden inside solar water heaters all around the Gaza Strip used to track and monitor Israeli aircraft. In addition, the army said it destroyed two banks used by Hamas to fund terrorism, as well as an underground tunnel, two operational command centers used to direct terrorist activities and multiple compounds for training, manufacturing and storing weapons.
By sea: Also overnight, the army reported that naval forces had killed a Hamas diver attempting to infiltrate into Israel via the sea, and around the south there were reports of fighting between Israeli troops and terrorists who had managed to infiltrate the border in previous days.
In the north: On Wednesday morning, military helicopters struck sites inside Lebanese territory after a number of anti-tank missiles were launched towards IDF points along the border.
standing by israel
Biden calls out Hamas’ ‘unadulterated evil,’ vows ‘swift, decisive’ help for Israel
In a forceful and emotional address delivered on Tuesday in the White House State Dining Room, President Joe Biden detailed the atrocities committed by Hamas against innocent Israelis and vowed to help Israel avenge the vicious attacks, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Pure evil: “Our response will be swift, decisive and overwhelming,” Biden said, describing a conversation he held earlier in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There are moments in this life, and I mean this literally, when pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed in this world. The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend.” Biden connected the attacks — whose death toll passed 1,000 on Tuesday — to a millennia-old history of antisemitism, and vowed to stand by Israel’s side as well as to expand protection at Jewish institutions in America.
American update: Fourteen American citizens are now known to have been killed in the attack, Biden said. Twenty or more Americans are missing, and the U.S. confirmed that some are being held hostage by Hamas.
Hold to account: Biden did not specifically address the handful of Democratic members of Congress who have called for a cease-fire, rather than vowing to defend Israel, or comments made by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Cori Bush (D-MO) equating Hamas’ actions with previous actions taken by Israel. But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made clear where the White House stands.
‘No equivocation’: “We believe they’re wrong. We believe they’re repugnant and we believe they’re disgraceful. Our condemnation belongs squarely with terrorists who have brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped hundreds — hundreds — of Israelis. There can be no equivocation about that. There are not two sides here,” said Jean-Pierre, although she did not mention any members of Congress by name.
Commentary’s commentary: Commentary editor John Podhoretz praised Biden’s address, calling it “what might be the most powerful statement in support of Israel ever delivered by any president.”
Families of American hostages in Gaza plead for U.S. assistance
A nurse and midwife who has delivered more than 1,000 babies. A soldier who swapped weekend shifts so that he could attend his brother’s bar mitzvah. A young man attending an outdoor rave with friends. A father awaiting the birth of his third child. The families of four American citizens who believe their loved ones are being held by Hamas in Gaza gathered in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon to deliver a public, emotion-laden plea to both the Israeli and American governments, neither of which, relatives say, have provided adequate support or information about their family members, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Deploying experts: On Tuesday afternoon, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that 20 or more Americans remain unaccounted for. Following a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden said he has “directed my team to share intelligence and deploy experts from across the United States Government to consult with and advise Israeli counterparts and hostage recovery efforts. Because as president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world.”
Parting words: Rachel Polin-Goldberg, who grew up in Chicago and now lives in Jerusalem, last heard from her son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, on Saturday morning. Goldberg had turned her phone off on Friday evening as the sunset ushered in Shabbat and Simchat Torah. After a siren alerted her to a rocket attack near Jerusalem on Saturday morning, she turned on her phone, concerned about Hersh, who was attending the Tribe of Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im. “I turned my phone on, I believe, at 8:23 in the morning,” Polin-Goldberg said. “And when I turned it on, there were two texts in a row from Hirsch at 8:11. The first one said, ‘I love you’ and immediately at 8:11 also it said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And so I knew immediately wherever he was, it was a terrible situation.”
More missing Americans: A mother and daughter from Illinois who were in Israel visiting family are believed to have been captured by Hamas.
americans on the ground
‘We can’t just show sympathy, we actually have to show support,’ Democratic congressman says after visit to Israel
Following meetings in Israel on Tuesday with a range of Israeli officials, as well as the family members of an Israeli being held hostage by Hamas, Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) emphasized that Israel will need tangible, long-term support from the U.S. and Congress as its efforts to respond to Hamas’ massive terrorist attack move forward, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Quotable: “There’s a number of ways in which we can show our support. It starts with our solidarity. That solidarity is going to be strengthened when people continue to hear about this bloodthirsty assault on Israel,” Panetta told JI in an interview from Jordan. “But then moving forward, we can’t just show sympathy, we actually have to show support. And it’s got to be through legitimate actions, like funding supplemental packages.”
Still kicking: Panetta also said that, despite the attacks, normalization efforts in the region are alive and well. Panetta said that he is still “hopeful” because Israeli leaders said they are having conversations with Arab leaders about the attack, and receiving “moral support.” While some Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, have put out public statements condemning Israel and avoiding criticism of Hamas, Panetta suggested that those statements aren’t reflective of the sentiments being expressed privately.
War of words: Marty Baron weighs in on media coverage of terrorism against Israel
Martin Baron, the former longtime editor of The Washington Post and the author of a new memoir about his tenure atop the paper, has a personal connection to the war between Israel and Hamas now dominating the international news cycle. The 68-year-old newspaper veteran, who left the Post in 2021, is the son of Israeli immigrants and has several relatives living in the Jewish state, some of whom he has spoken with since Hamas’ attack — which he characterized as an “unprovoked” act of “state terrorism” in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Monday.
‘Stronger connection’: “I feel a stronger connection than I think most people would,” said Baron, whose family members were not directly affected by the attack in southern Israel. “But over time, of course, I’ve been in the role of being a journalist, and I view that as being independent. I’ve always viewed it that way. So, do I have a higher level of interest given my family history? Almost certainly. But as a journalist, I always try to maintain journalistic independence.”
Emphasizing objectivity: Baron’s fierce commitment to objectivity is prevalent throughout his recently published book, Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post, released last week. In a phone conversation with JI from Seattle, where he was promoting the memoir, Baron discussed the war in Israel and weighed in on some emerging journalistic debates surrounding mainstream media coverage of the conflict, among other issues he often faced as a top editor at several leading national newspapers.
‘Moral compass’: “I’ve been involved in Middle East coverage for a long period of time,” Baron told JI. “Wherever I was, we were constantly criticized. But I can tell you, I’ve been criticized both by supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestinians. I’ve been criticized on the same stories from both ends. That’s the nature of being in charge of that kind of coverage, and you have to expect that. The best you can do is have a moral compass yourself, feel that you’re covering the story from all the appropriate angles, and that’s probably the best you can do.”
In Washington, a massive show of support for Israel on Capitol Hill
Legislators in Washington introduced a number of resolutions and issued statements in support of aid to Israel and support for both the Israeli and American Jewish communities in response to Hamas’ large-scale terror attack in Israel that began on Saturday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Coming together: Nearly every member of the House signed onto a resolution, led by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Greg Meeks (D-NY), expressing support for Israel and condemning the attacks. More than 93% of the House — 409 members — signed the resolution.
Digging deeper: Notably, the signatories include members who have been critical of Israel, including Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Andre Carson (D-IN), who voted against supplemental Iron Dome funding in 2021, and Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), who voted against a resolution earlier this year commemorating Israel’s founding and the Abraham Accords.
Biden’s Zionism: The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer examines President Joe Biden’s history with the Jewish state, and the origins of his support for Israel. “Biden’s Zionism has shaped how his administration will frame the moment politically. Despite Israel’s recent slide away from democracy — and despite the rising criticism of the Jewish state within his own party — Biden remains a true believer, who doesn’t haven’t any qualms linking its struggle for existence to a global struggle against barbarism. That’s part of the reasons that his aides have discussed rhetorically linking Israel’s war to the Ukrainian cause — and to the defense of Taiwan…. Any president would express robust support for Israel in the aftermath of the Hamas attack. But the question is how those feelings of solidarity survive through the slog of war. Biden’s aides say that his spiritual commitment to Zionism means that he’s going to be an exceedingly generous ally in those ugly moments, although it’s not hard to foresee how those moments, especially if they entail a confrontation with Iran, will test the solidarity with Israel he so dearly professes.” [TheAtlantic]
The Left’s Narrative: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens considers how the rhetoric used by the political and activist left to describe Israel has contributed to creating the climate that resulted in Saturday’s massacre in southern Israel. “I’m talking about the bien-pensant for whom anti-Zionism — not just legitimate opposition to various aspects of Israeli policy, but the denial of Israel’s right to exist in any form — is a respectable political position, rather than simply an updated form of antisemitism. I’m talking about United Nations rapporteurs and once-great human-rights organizations who traffic in the lie that Israel deliberately created an ‘open-air prison’ in Gaza, never mind that Gaza shares a border with Egypt, or that Israel vacated the territory nearly 20 years ago only to be repaid by endless assaults from above and below the ground. I’m talking about the university presidents who stand for free speech when it comes to antisemitism but become notably censorious when it comes to other forms of controversial speech. I’m talking about the political leaders who repeatedly promise solidarity with Israel only to quickly demand restraint when Israel seeks to destroy the infrastructure by which Hamas maintains its war machine. I’m talking about narratives that seem calibrated to create the outrageous impression that Israeli soldiers deliberately kill Palestinian children. I’m talking about the people whose fury at the Israeli government never seems to abate but who barely pause to observe that Hamas is a dictatorship of religious zealots or that President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority is a fulminating antisemite.” [NYTimes]
Peace Talk Paradox:The Wall Street Journal’s Elliot Kaufman lays out the challenges that Israel faces on the international stage amid calls for a cease-fire and calm. “How can it be, Israelis have begun to ask, that they allowed a genocidal terrorist group to reign for so long in Gaza, the fiefdom next door? There was no mystery about Hamas’s intentions. It seeks to kill Israel’s Jews any way it can. Crazy as it now seems, Israelis learned to live with that. They took a series of defensive measures: a blockade to keep weapons out, a missile-defense system to shoot down cheap rockets, and, when those rockets got out of hand, brief campaigns of targeted strikes to quiet Hamas down. But Hamas never had to worry about Israel sweeping it from power. To force out Hamas, Israel might have had to govern Gaza itself, and the usual suspects in the safe Western democracies — diplomats, reporters, human-rights groups and prize-seeking politicians — would have screamed bloody murder. Our cautious eminences would have deemed it ‘bad for peace.’ But as the Jewish tradition teaches, whoever is kind to the cruel will end up being cruel to the kind.” [WSJ]
Going Into Gaza: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius raises concerns about the level of sophistication of the Hamas terrorists behind the weekend attack. “The Gaza operation poses two agonizing challenges, which tragically seem to be in conflict. First, Israel must restore deterrence against its enemies — in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Iran — after Saturday’s devastating surprise attack. At the same time, it must minimize civilian casualties and save the lives of as many hostages as it can. This seems like a macabre mission impossible. We can’t know how Israeli commanders will organize their assault. But public comments suggest that the priority is the safety of Israel itself, rather than individuals. ‘The most important thing is that we teach the other side that there is no way that they can do this without us changing the reality,’ Gen. Dan Goldfuss, a paratroop commander, said on Tuesday. ‘What other surprises do they have?’ asks a former U.S. official. ‘For them to have planned this well, this long, there has to be another step to this.’ Hamas must have anticipated that Israel would attack Gaza in revenge for the ghastly attack, he argues. What defenses did they prepare?” [WashPost]
Strategy Session: Al-Monitor’s Ben Caspit observes the options facing the Israeli government as it weighs a ground operation in Gaza, while noting that Hamas was unprepared for the amount of hostages it ultimately took. “Hamas is also stunned. ‘Their success surprised them, too,’ a diplomatic source in the region told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. ‘They hoped to kill some Israelis, embarrass the IDF and return to Gaza with two or three kidnapped Israelis. Instead, they roamed inside Israel for more than a day, killing over a thousand Israelis and getting stuck with something like 200 abductees,’ the source said. ‘They are very worried. With two abductees, they could have negotiated with Israel for permission to build a seaport and freedom for hundreds of prisoners held in Israeli jails. With more than 100 abductees, they will face the entire Israeli army inside Gaza. That’s the tragedy of their success’ the diplomatic source added.” [AlMonitor]
Around the Web
Pairing Problems: Discussions around pairing supplemental aid to Israel with additional funding for Ukraine — a plan reportedly floated by the Biden administration to congressional leaders — is most likely moribund, given that it seems to be unpopular among a broad swath of Republican lawmakers, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On the Ground: The first U.S. plane with additional military support arrived in southern Israel.
American Hostages: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called on President Joe Biden to “make clear to Hamas and its terror sponsors in Tehran that there will be hell to pay if Hamas decides to execute” the Americans being held hostage in Gaza.
Emotional Interview: White House spokesperson John Kirby choked up while describing images coming out of Israel in a live interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Border Report: The Washington Postvisits the Israeli border tour of Kfar Aza, which came under attack by Hamas terrorists.
Harboring Hamas: In The National, David Lepeska writes that Turkey is likely to face intense scrutiny from the West due to its deep ties with Hamas.
Fox Funding: Fox Corp. announced a $1 million donation to the United Jewish Appeal’s Israel Emergency Fund.
Dem Denunciation: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) denounced an anti-Israel rally in New York’s Times Square that had been promoted by the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, saying that the “bigotry and callousness expressed in Times Square on Sunday were unacceptable and harmful in this devastating moment.”
Sanctions Alert: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to increase sanctions against Iranian businesses and to block Iranian companies from operating in the state.
Mounting Evidence: The New York Times reports on evidence, including security camera footage, cellphone videos and eyewitness accounts, that are helping officials in Israel piece together the extent of Hamas’ attacks.
Digital Diligence: Researchers identified a coordinated network of 67 X user accounts that are disseminating false information about Israel and Gaza, with more than a million views across the accounts.
Grounded: Air Canada removed from service a pilot who made social media posts calling Israel a “terrorist state” that should “burn in hell”; the pilot remains employed by the airline.
Timed Terror: The New York Times’ Tom Friedman suggested that Hamas’ attack on southern Israel was timed in part to intercede in Israeli-Saudi normalization efforts.
Muscle in Brussels: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise trip to NATO headquarters, where he denounced both Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin as terrorists.
Startup Support: Heroic Ventures’ Michael Fertik said the Israel-Hamas war should not be a barrier to VCs looking to invest in Israeli startups.
Manhattan Memorial: A memorial to the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory will be dedicated today near New York’s Washington Square Park.
Lake’s Launch: Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a Republican, launched her campaign for U.S. Senate in the Grand Canyon State.
Santos Saga: Federal prosecutors announced 10 additional counts of fraud charges against Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who is pledging not to resign.
In the Race: Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) entered the race in New York’s 3rd Congressional District to unseat Santos.
Day in Court: Caroline Ellison, the ex-girlfriend and former employee of Sam Bankman-Fried, took the stand for four hours in the FTX founder’s trial, saying that Bankman-Fried instructed her to commit financial crimes.
On the Market: The Washington, D.C., home that belonged to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was listed for $4 million.
Sentence Carried Out: A Jewish man on death row in Texas was executed following efforts by Jewish groups to commute his sentence.
Remembering: Florence Fisher, who was adopted shortly after her birth and who dedicated the second half of her life to helping other adoptees find their birth parents, died at 95.
Pic of the Day
People lay candles on the bank of the Danube River, alongside a memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust, during a rally in support of Israel in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday night.
Israeli ambassador to Germany, he has also been Israel’s ambassador to both the U.K. and the U.N., Ron Prosor turns 65…
Professor emeritus of history at UCLA, winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and the Israel Prize, he won a MacArthur Genius fellowship in 1999, Saul Friedländer turns 91… Former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted then VPOTUS Spiro T. Agnew in 1974, he is the author of four novels, Ronald S. Liebman turns 80… Israeli novelist and documentary filmmaker, Amos Gitai turns 73… U.S. senator (D-WA), Patty Murray turns 73… Senior circuit judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Barry G. Silverman turns 72… Past president of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., Helane Goldstein turns 70… NYC-based philanthropist, Shari L. Aronson… Former EVP at JFNA, now CEO at the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation, Mark Gurvis turns 64… Owner of Sababa Travel, Sharon Rockman… Los Angeles-based real estate agent, Peter Turman… President and CEO of NYC-based real estate firm Tishman Speyer, Rob Speyer turns 54… Chief commercial officer at Tysons Corner, Va.-based 10Pearls, Asher Epstein… Chief executive at the U.K.-based Anglo-Israel Association, Joshua London turns 48… Member of the Council of the District of Columbia, Brianne Nadeau turns 43… Political journalist, opinion commentator and satirist, he is the host of an eponymous podcast, Jamie Weinstein turns 40… Actress and model, Michelle Trachtenberg turns 38… Michael Dickson…