Good Wednesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to the daughter of Haim Peri, one of more than 200 Israeli hostages being held captive by Hamas, and report on yesterday’s U.N. convening to discuss the hostage situation and the Israel-Hamas war. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Kathy Manning, Trey Yingst and Amos Yadlin.
As Israel’s war against Hamas continues, threats against Jewish students on campus continue to proliferate — and one prominent GOP politician is now proposing a crackdown on campus antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Students at universities across the country are set to participate this afternoon in a “national walkout” calling for an end to U.S. military support for Israel in the face of Israeli “genocide” of Palestinians. On Tuesday night, the side of the Estelle and Marvin Gelman Library at The George Washington University was illuminated with anti-Israel messages: “Glory to our martyrs,” “Divestment from Zionist genocide now” and “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Politicians seeking to respond to these events must decide whether to take action against students who support the Hamas terrorist attacks, or conclude that their rhetoric is protected free speech.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged on Tuesday to shut down the two chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at Florida public universities, arguing that their support for the Oct. 7 attacks amounts to material support for terrorism. The move — a new legal maneuver — will likely face pushback from Democrats, and potentially from conservatives who have made protecting free speech rights a banner issue.
Meanwhile, the White House is arguing that it isn’t the place of President Joe Biden to get involved in what’s happening on campuses. “I’m not going to get into what’s happening across the country at different universities,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday, when asked by a reporter if the White House views anti-Israel protests on campuses as antisemitism. “As it relates to peaceful protesting, people have the right to do that. But we’re just not going to get into blow-by-blows of what’s going on across the country.”
Pressed further by a reporter, Jean-Pierre held firm: “We’re always going to denounce antisemitism. But at the same time, people have the right to peacefully protest,” she said.
On Tuesday, the White House offered a hint of a statement touching on campus anti-Israel protests. When asked by JI whether the Biden administration views the anti-Israel protests glorifying Hamas and celebrating the massacre as antisemitic, Herbie Ziskend, the White House deputy communications director, responded with just one word: “Yes.”
gaza war: day 19
As Israel-Hamas war continues, IDF also responds to fire from Lebanon, Syria, West Bank
The IDF continued its military operation aimed at wiping out the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza overnight, as Israeli fighter jets engaged in retaliatory strikes in Lebanon and Syria and ground forces carried out counterrorism actions in the West Bank. In his daily briefing on Wednesday, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Iran was attempting to ignite the region and that Israel would continue defending its borders by sea, air and land along all its borders, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports. “Anyone trying to infiltrate Israeli territory would be eliminated,” Hagari said.
Iranian role: Hagari said Iran had assisted Hamas before the war broke out on Oct. 7, providing the group with extensive training, weapons, financing and technological knowledge. “Even now, Iran continues to help Hamas with intelligence and incitement against Israel,” he said, adding that additional terrorist proxies in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon have been operating under orders from Tehran.
Overnight: In his briefing on Wednesday, Hagari said the army had overnight killed Taysir Mubasher, the commander of the North Khan Yunis Battalion, one of Hamas’ top commanders in Gaza. “Mubasher has extensive experience in the military and as a commander, directing terror attacks,” the army said in a statement, highlighting that he was also related to Hamas’ military leader Mohammed Deif. Details from the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, noted that Mubasher was responsible for multiple terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers during the Second Intifada and the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.
Hamas operatives: The army also said that four additional Hamas operatives were killed Tuesday, including Abed Alrahman, deputy commander of the Nuseirat Battalion, who took part in the Kibbutz Be’eri massacre; Khalil Muhajez, deputy commander of the Shati Battalion; and Khalil Tatri, deputy commander of the Sheikh Radwan Battalion. In addition, on Tuesday afternoon, a Hamas cell attempting to infiltrate Israeli territory via the sea in the area of Kibbutz Zikim was taken out by Israeli naval forces. Some 10 terrorists were reportedly killed.
Noam Peri’s life-or-death mission to Washington
On Tuesday afternoon, sitting in a crowded cafeteria in the U.S. Capitol in a blazer and slacks, Noam Peri looked like any other activist on the Hill for official business — until she pulled out a stack of posters that bore the names and photos of hostages from the tight-knit communities close to the Gaza border. Peri was born and raised on Kibbutz Nir Oz, a small commune that her father Haim helped found more than five decades ago. For more than two weeks, Haim Peri has been separated from his land. He now stares not at Nir Oz’s agricultural expanses but, based on the accounts of released Israeli hostages, at the walls of tunnels underneath Gaza, where Peri, 79, is a captive of the terrorist group Hamas. In between meetings with members of Congress, where she pressed them to do everything in their power to help free the hostages in Gaza, Peri sat down with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch to talk about her family and her community.
Inhuman attack: No one in Israel has been untouched by the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7. But for the current and former residents of Nir Oz, the assault was more akin to a pogrom — a genocidal massacre that left a quarter of the kibbutz’s 400 members either dead or kidnapped. Nir Oz’s survivors have been uprooted and relocated to Eilat, several hours south; when many of them returned to the kibbutz last week for funerals, under the guard of a battalion of soldiers, they came under fire from Hamas fighters in Gaza.
Good news: Peri did not even know if her father was alive or dead until Monday, when Yocheved Lifshitz, an elderly hostage who was released this week, shared that Haim was still alive. “She was my teacher in kindergarten. She taught us how to swim,” Peri, who no longer lives on the kibbutz, said of Lifshitz. “She was able to tell her son yesterday that she knows my father is alive. She was with him.”
‘Be our voice’: “We are asking them to be our voice here,” Peri said of Congress, after a meeting with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA). “There are many countries that Israel is not in contact with that the U.S. can help pressure, and this is what we need. We can’t do it without the United States and the global leadership.” Her three-day visit to Washington will also include meetings with senior State Department officials and Jewish leaders.
turtle bay talk
Blinken, Cohen urge support for Israel at divided United Nations
Warning of dire consequences for the West if Hamas is not destroyed, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen addressed the United Nations Security Council Ministerial in Manhattan on Tuesday, seeking support from the divided 15-member council in persuading Hamas to release the more than 200 hostages still held captive in Gaza, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen and Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel report. Several family members of the people being held hostage accompanied Cohen to the U.N.
Cohen’s speech: “Hamas are the new Nazis,” said Cohen, who played for the assembly a recording on his phone of the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre in Israel and also recited names and ages of some of the kidnapped children “What is the proportionate response for killing babies?” he continued, “the response is total destruction of Hamas. [It’s] not only our right but our duty. Today Hamas hits Israel, tomorrow it will be at everyone’s doorstep. Their dream is the world, exactly like the Nazis.”
Guterres fallout: Following the meeting, Cohen announced he would no longer meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who in his opening remarks made the claim that “the attacks by Hamas didn’t happen in a vacuum,” but were rather sparked by “56 years of suffocating occupation.” Guterres added, “The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” For the most part, his speech focused firmly on the plight of those living in Gaza, with little mention of Israel or its citizens.
Top Foreign Affairs lawmakers hopeful Iran, Hezbollah deterred from joining war
Following a classified briefing on Iran yesterday, the top leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee conveyed measured optimism about U.S. and Israeli deterrence of Iran and Hezbollah, but also warned that the situation is volatile and still developing, and escalation remains a distinct possibility, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Looking ahead: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believes that the administration’s deployment of carrier strike groups to the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf has provided deterrence, and that “the hope” is that Iran and Hezbollah will stay out of the conflict. “Once the ground phase begins in Gaza, that’s what we’ll be watching very closely, is how effective it is, how Iran is reacting to this and whether they will authorize their proxies to light up,” McCaul told JI.
Everything they can: Ranking Member Greg Meeks (D-NY) told JI he was not “comfortable” with the situation in the Middle East, but praised the administration’s efforts. “I would not say that I’m comfortable. I’m saying that we are doing — the administration 24/7 is doing everything that it can to deter,” Meeks said. “Whether it is successful or not in the long run? I can’t, I don’t know. But they are doing and sending and having dialogue to make sure that — to the best of their ability — to deter them from engaging in the fight.”
Testing boundaries: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said he expects that Iran, Hezbollah and its proxies are going to continue to “step over the line, one step at a time,” testing the U.S. and Israel’s boundaries and coming “as close to the cliff as possible,” which brings risks of unintended escalation. “They can miscalculate the kinetic effect of what they do. They can miscalculate Israeli response to their kinetic action. And when you decide to play on the edge of the cliff, you may fall off,” Sherman said. “So there’s certainly a possibility of a two-front war. I don’t think Iran wants one, but I think they want the bravado.”
Senate side: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who voted against the original Iran nuclear deal, said his views on the deal and efforts to revive it are unchanged. “My position on the JCPOA is clear,” Schumer said at a Democratic leadership press conference yesterday. “It didn’t have enough to deter Iran from funding terrorism and I still believe that.”
Many House Democrats decline to directly criticize Rep. Tlaib after she doubles down on Gaza hospital blast misinformation
Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) refusal to retract discredited accusations that Israel was responsible for an explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza were met on Tuesday with mixed reactions from some of her Democratic colleagues, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Tlaib’s latest: In a statement on Monday, Tlaib said that she “cannot uncritically accept Israel’s denials of responsibility as fact” and that “the Israeli and United States governments have long, documented histories of misleading the public about wars and war crimes… and cannot clear themselves of responsibility without an independent international investigation.”
Direct response: Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a prominent pro-Israel Jewish Democrat, told JI that it’s “appalling that a member of Congress does not trust her own government intelligence.” Manning continued, “I think what that says is she doesn’t like the answer that she’s getting and so she will reject it. I think it’s irresponsible and I think it foments antisemitism.” Manning led a task force meeting yesterday with a bipartisan group of 20 lawmakers, American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch and Israeli antisemitism envoy Michal Cotler-Wunsh about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, the current situation in Israel and Gaza and rising antisemitism around the world. Read more here.
Trump comparison: Multiple lawmakers referenced a 2018 press conference with former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, when Trump accepted Russia’s denials that it had interfered in the 2016 presidential election over the assessments of U.S. intelligence agencies. Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) told JI, “[M]ost of us were shocked at Trump saying we didn’t trust U.S. intelligence. And so it’s concerning, yes.” He added, “I’d say that colleague is misinformed.”
tar heel trouble
N.C. lieutenant governor quoted Hitler in recently unearthed social media posts
In a series of previously unreported social media posts, Mark Robinson, the lieutenant governor of North Carolina and a leading Republican candidate for governor, shared a quotation attributed to Adolf Hitler, compared the toppling of a Confederate statue to Kristallnacht and frequently minimized the legacy of the Holocaust while decrying the threat of communism, among other inflammatory remarks, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Incendiary analogy: In 2018, after protestors pulled down the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Robinson took to Facebook to allege that the demonstrators were “no better than the Brown Shirts who terrorized Jewish neighborhoods on ‘the Night of the Broken Glass’ during the Nazi rise to power in Germany,” alluding to Kristallnacht, the 1938 pogrom widely viewed as a precursor to the Holocaust.
Minimizing the Holocaust: Elsewhere, Robinson repeatedly voiced alarm over the legacy of communism, which he characterized as a far greater threat than Nazism — in keeping with previously reported comments in which he expressed the same sentiment. “Folks always talk about killing ‘baby Hitler’ to spare humanity from extreme misery,” he wrote in 2017. “But if you really wanna do humanity a favor go back and kill ‘baby Friedrich Engels’ and ‘toddler Karl Marx.’”
GOP pushback: The newly unearthed comments could add to mounting concerns among GOP activists in North Carolina who are worried that Robinson’s history of invoking antisemitic conspiracy theories and casting doubt on the Holocaust will hurt his chances to win the general election in a key battleground state next year — especially at a time when rising antisemitism is receiving closer attention after the Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel.
Trust and Verify: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens reflects on the history of misinformation — including inflated death tolls — propagated by Palestinian officials. “I’ll leave the media criticism to others. But Western audiences will never grasp the nature of the current conflict until they internalize one central fact. In Israel, as in every other democracy, political and military officials sometimes lie — but journalists hold them to account, tell the stories they want to tell, and don’t live in fear of midnight knocks on the door. The Palestinian territories, by contrast, are republics of fear — fear of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and of Hamas in Gaza. Palestinians are neither more nor less honest than people elsewhere. But, as in any tyrannical or fanatical regime, those who stray from the approved line put themselves at serious risk. This is a truth that only rarely slips out — but when it does, it’s revealing.” [NYTimes]
Cairo’s Choices: For CNN, The Washington Institute for Near-East Peace’s Ghaith al-Omari and David Schenker consider why Egypt is refusing to both take in Palestinians fleeing Gaza and to play a larger role in reconciling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It’s understandable if Washington, which provides Egypt with over $1 billion per year in military assistance, is frustrated that Cairo isn’t allowing American citizens and other nationals to exit Gaza via the crossing, as Egypt has seemingly made their departure contingent on the entry of aid. It’s also understandable if humanitarian groups are frustrated that Egypt won’t open its border for a humanitarian corridor to let out hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Gazans who are trying to take refuge in the south of the Gaza Strip, which Rafah sits on, as the most intense fighting rages in the north. But Egypt’s positions reflect serious, and legitimate, concerns. First and foremost is the fear of a massive refugee flow if the crossing were opened. A decade after the Syrian civil war started, Egypt claims to host 9 million refugees from different countries, with no horizon of repatriation for most in sight. For Egypt, a deluge of Palestinian refugees would not only pose humanitarian and economic challenges — Egypt is currently experiencing a devastating economic crisis — but also security and political ones.” [CNN]
Strategy Session: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius suggests Israel clarify its principal objectives in its war against Hamas. “Israel’s biggest idea in this war — its overriding mission — is to destroy the military and governing power of Hamas. That’s surely a correct goal; most Arab analysts recognize the menace of Hamas as clearly as the Israelis do, although they might not say it out loud. But there are other big ideas, too, starting with the need to avoid unwise actions that expand the war, arouse international opposition and leave Israel more vulnerable. In light of these complex objectives, Israeli commanders are struggling with how to shape the campaign to destroy Hamas. They don’t want to win the kinetic war on the ground but lose the information war for public support. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged at the United Nations that Israel consider ‘humanitarian pauses’ to help get food, water and medicine to Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.” [WashPost]
Doha’s Dealings: In The Free Press, Eli Lake looks at how officials in Qatar have spent years working to establish relations with American universities through large endowments and financial gifts. “In the last 25 years the universities have justified these joint ventures with Qatar as a way to liberalize an autocratic society and bring American soft power to the Middle East. Indeed, Qatari officials have themselves given lip service to this goal. In 2015, Hunter R. Rawlings III, who was Cornell’s president when it opened its medical school in ‘education city,’ told The Washington Post: ‘Part of our thinking was, most American involvement in the Middle East has to do with guns and oil. This project seems to have to do with medicine and education. It’s such a different message. Why don’t we try it?’ The reality, though, is much different. Many of these schools have had to compromise their values on their campuses in Doha.” [FreePress]
Around the Web
War Diplomacy: President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman spoke on Tuesday, discussing diplomatic efforts to “prevent the [Israel-Hamas] conflict from expanding,” according to a White House readout.
American Airlift: U.S. officials have discussed contingency plans for a mass evacuation of Americans from the Middle East if the Israel-Hamas war widens.
French Connection: After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the existing global coalition fighting ISIS to expand its purview to include Hamas.
Hamlet on the Hudson: Westchester County Executive George Latimer is still considering mounting a primary challenge to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), but is unlikely to make a decision in the next several weeks.
Invisible Ink: The Writers Guild of America West acknowledged that its lack of a statement over the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks “has caused pain within our membership,” but defended the decision by saying the attacks were “outside the purview of a U.S. labor union representing writers to comment on it.”
Crimson Concerns: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and hedge fund manager Seth Klarman were among five Harvard Business School alumni who criticized the university for failing to respond to concerns from Jewish students about safety on campus.
Pressing the Press: Secretary of State Tony Blinken told American Jewish leaders that he asked the prime minister of Qatar to tone down the language used by the state-owned Al Jazeera in its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.
Getting it Right: Vanity Fairspotlights Fox News’ Tel Aviv-based correspondent Trey Yingst, who was one of the first journalists to cover the Oct. 7 attacks on the ground.
Gun Runs: The Wall Street Journal reports on an elaborate arms-dealing network backed by Iran that has flooded the West Bank with weapons.
Political Failure: Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin told Politico that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s focus on reforming the country’s judiciary distracted from national security efforts.
Expel Hamas: For Fox News, former Jerusalem Post editor Yaakov Katz spotlights Qatar’s role in protecting and funding Hamas while benefiting from the United States’ security guarantees.
Notes on a Vandal: Commentary’s Seth Mandel opines on the motivations of the individuals who rip down posters of the Israelis taken hostage by Hamas.
Generational Trauma: Reuters interviewed Israeli Holocaust survivors about how they are coping with the Oct. 7 attacks that for some have brought flashbacks and revived memories of their wartime experiences in Europe.
Seeking Startups: A new effort backed by venture capital professionals seeks to connect Israeli entrepreneurs with global investors amid economic uncertainty in Israel.
Saudi Summit: More than 6,000 investors, business leaders and economic policy gurus gathered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the Future Investment Initiative, The Circuit reports.
Troop Trouble: CENTCOM confirmed that two dozen American military personnel sustained minor injuries in drone attacks on American bases in Syria and Iraq earlier this month.
Houthi Havoc: Semafor looks at the increasing threat to Israeli and American interests posed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
No Peace: A Tunisian parliament committee passed a draft law making normalization of relations with Israel criminal, amid anti-Israel protests in the North African nation.
Remembering: Mathematician Joseph Cohn, who conducted groundbreaking research in the field of calculus, died at 91. Memoirist Eva Kollisch, who was a leader in the field of feminist studies, died at 98.
Pic of the Day
A woman collects toys from a donation center in Tel Aviv’s Expo Center set up for families who have been forced to flee their homes following the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.
Musician, known professionally by the mononym “Grandson,” Jordan Edward Benjamin turns 30…
Senior U.S. District Court judge based in Brooklyn, appointed by President Reagan, Judge Edward R. Korman turns 81… Chief policy and strategy officer of Oscar Insurance, following stints as a Supreme Court clerk, White House counsel, chancellor of the NYC schools and EVP at News Corporation, Joel Klein turns 77… Board chair of the Israel Policy Forum until earlier this year and board member of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, Susie Gelman… President of Dallas-based SPR Ventures, he serves on the boards of Texas Capital Bancshares and Cinemark, Steven Rosenberg… Acting deputy secretary of state since July, her family name was Nudelman, Victoria Jane Nuland turns 62… Television personality and author of 16 books, Bruce Feiler turns 59… Voice actress and singer, best known for voicing Asajj Ventress in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Nika Futterman turns 54… Actor, he is currently starring on the CBS show “The Equalizer,” Adam Charles Goldberg turns 53…
Television screenwriter, showrunner, executive producer and director, best known for running the television medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” Krista Vernoff turns 52… Actress, she has appeared as various characters on the FX anthology series “American Horror Story,” Leslie Erin Grossman turns 52… State Department official, she is married to Rep. Brad Sherman, Lisa Nicola Kaplan… Physician, author and public speaker on health issues, Michael Herschel Greger, MD turns 51… Sharon Iancu… Rapper and songwriter, known professionally as The Alchemist, Daniel Alan Maman turns 46… Director of the Chabad House at Princeton University, Rabbi Eitan Yaakov Webb… Singer and songwriter who competed in the ninth season of “American Idol,” Vered “Didi” Benami turns 37… Singer and model, she has released three albums and toured internationally, Hannah Cohen turns 37… Program officer at San Francisco’s Koret Foundation, Rachel Elana Schonwetter… Director of community relations at the Baltimore Jewish Council, Josh Sherman… Freelance journalist living in Israel, Cole S. Aronson…