Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Israeli antisemitism envoy Michal Cotler-Wunsh, and look at how campus Hillels are beefing up security following the Oct. 7 terror attacks. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: former Gov. Larry Hogan, Rep. Dean Phillips and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The top White House spokesperson was forced on Monday to walk back a bungled response to a question about a rise in antisemitism after suggesting that threats against Jews have not increased and quickly pivoting to point out that Islamophobia has increased, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
“We have not seen any credible threats. I know there’s been, always, questions about credible threats. And so just want to make sure that that’s out there,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing on Monday in response to a question about antisemitism. “But look: Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks.”
Three hours later, Jean-Pierre responded to a post on X from the journalist Yashar Ali, a prominent media figure with more than 700,000 followers, who had called the exchange “odd.” “To be clear: the President and our team are very concerned about a rise in antisemitism, especially after the horrific Hamas terrorist attack in Israel,” Jean-Pierre wrote on X. Contacted by JI, a White House spokesperson declined to comment and instead shared a link to the post on X.
Federal hate crime data released last week showed that antisemitic incidents accounted for more than half of all religion-based hate crimes in 2022.
Senior Biden administration officials on Monday continued to caution Israel to avoid civilian casualties and to follow the laws of war. “Since the very early hours of the conflict, the president has communicated our concern over civilian casualties to our Israeli counterparts. He’s made clear publicly that that’s what separates us from Hamas,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said in a Monday public briefing. “Hamas, on the other hand, doesn’t do that. They’re a terrorist organization. They are hiding behind innocent civilians.”
As administration officials continue to use this language, reporters have begun to ask: Does the White House think Israel is — or is not — seeking to avoid civilian casualties? The State Department’s top spokesperson wouldn’t provide a straightforward answer to that question on Monday.
“We have not made any kind of formal determination, but it’s a matter we are in close communication with our Israeli counterparts,” department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
When pressed further, Miller said he is “not in a position to sit here and assess every single strike from this podium.” But, he added, “Obviously, there is reason to be concerned. Every time there is a civilian death, we mourn the loss of every civilian death, whether it be a Palestinian civilian or whether it be an Israeli civilian.”
“But again, you have to look at these strikes and you have to look at their operations in the context that I just said, where you have legitimate military targets that are embedded in civilian infrastructure,” Miller added. “So it is in a very, extremely unfortunate byproduct of this campaign that there are civilians that are unfortunately harmed and civilians that are killed.”
A senior Defense Department official offered Israel more leeway: “Our partner Israel is a law-abiding country,” the unnamed official said at a separate Monday briefing, “who is obligated to adhere to the law of armed conflict.” Read more here.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday and welcomed the release of two additional hostages from Gaza earlier in the day, according to a White House readout of the call.
“Biden reaffirmed his commitment to ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the remaining hostages taken by Hamas – including Americans – and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza,” the White House said. “The President also underscored the need to sustain a continuous flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza. The President updated the Prime Minister on U.S. support for Israel and ongoing efforts at regional deterrence, to include new U.S. military deployments.”
Asked by a reporter yesterday whether the U.S. would support a hostages-for-cease-fire deal, Biden said: “We should have those hostages released and then we can talk.”
gaza war: day 18
Captured Hamas terrorists reveal being offered $10,000, apartment for kidnapping Israelis
Hamas terrorists were offered some $10,000 and an apartment in Gaza if they returned to the Palestinian enclave after their mass terrorist attack on Oct. 7 with Israeli civilians, especially women and children, footage from the interrogations of captured Hamas fighters shared by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, and the Israeli Police revealed on Monday. In the 12-minute video, several individuals from the Palestinian terror group are asked about their actions and motives for carrying out the attack on southern Israel, which included infiltrations by thousands of terrorists from the Gaza Strip into more than 20 kibbutzim, two cities and a large music festival taking place in the area, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Jarring details: All those questioned spoke in Arabic and identified themselves as members of Hamas’ various combat units. They all attested to being ordered to kill and kidnap as many people as possible, soldiers as well as civilians. And they revealed jarring details about the depth of knowledge of the Israeli communities they were sent to attack and shared the names of several senior Hamas commanders, whom they said stayed behind in Gaza while the attack was carried out.
Two women released: On Monday night, two of the hostages – Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 – were released by Hamas to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which took them to the Rafah border crossing. The two women, both from Kibbutz Nir Oz, were greeted by Israeli officials and taken to the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv for treatment before being reunited with their families. Their husbands remain in Hamas captivity.
Reporter’s notebook: Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss reports from the IDF base where reporters were shown raw footage of the Oct. 7 attacks compiled from cell phones, CCTV, dashboard cameras and the GoPros that Hamas terrorists wore as they carried out their attack.
Israeli antisemitism envoy calls on White House to strengthen position on IHRA, anti-Zionism
Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday that White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s comments denying that antisemitic incidents are on the rise and highlighting other forms of hate are “unbelievable and unfathomable.”
U.S. visit: “There is a documented rise in antisemitism,” Cotler-Wunsh told JI in an interview in Washington, D.C. yesterday. The former member of the Knesset was in the U.S. capital for meetings with administration officials and lawmakers, after a stop in New York where she met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the chancellor of the City University of New York and high-level U.N. officials.
Appreciation: Despite her concerns about Jean-Pierre’s remarks, the Israeli envoy conveyed a “great appreciation” for “the clear messages of the president that recognize that antisemitism is the fuel for” Hamas’ actions.
IHRA on the agenda: In her meetings in the U.S., Cotler-Wunsh is pressing her interlocutors — including Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — to push the administration to unequivocally embrace and implement the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism and clearly state that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
Larry Hogan withdraws from Harvard fellowships over handling of pro-Hamas letter
Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is withdrawing from two fellowships at Harvard University over the university’s handling of a controversial statement signed by dozens of Harvard student groups claiming Israel was “entirely responsible” for Hamas’ terrorist attacks, he wrote in a letter sent to Harvard President Claudine Gay on Monday. “While these students have a right to free speech, they do not have a right to have hate speech go unchallenged by your institution,” Hogan wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kasssel. “Harvard’s failure to immediately and forcefully denounce the antisemitic vitriol from these students is in my opinion a moral stain on the university.”
University leadership: Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The university’s leadership has faced intense backlash from donors, alumni and other high-profile critics in recent weeks over its delayed response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the uproar surrounding the student groups’ letter. In statements earlier this month, Gay condemned Hamas’ atrocities as “abhorrent” and said that “no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”
No ‘both sides’: But in his letter, Hogan, a Republican who had accepted fellowships at the Kennedy School of Government and the Chan School of Public Health this fall, said that such statements did not go far enough. “The lessons of history are clear: we must all do our part to take a clear stand in the face of genocidal acts against the Jewish people or any group,” he wrote. “There is no ‘both sides’ when it comes to the murder, rape, and kidnapping of innocent women and children. I believe very strongly that in this matter there is no room for justification or equivocation.”
Post-Oct. 7, Jewish life on campus requires extra security to keep students safe
One Hillel at a Big Ten university used to employ armed guards only for “big” Shabbat dinners — the ones with hundreds of students. Since Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’ deadly rampage in southern Israel, which has resulted in rising antisemitism globally, armed security personnel now patrol the on-campus Hillel building for around five hours every day. Similarly, University of Miami Hillel always hired armed security for Shabbat dinners and holidays with more than 100 students. But last Shabbat, which had an attendance of about 60, was the first time the Hillel requested that university police guard a smaller event, Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
A new normal? Armed guards were also present at some campus Chabads last Shabbat. At a university in the Northeast, a Chabad rebbetzin said that having the local police department, in addition to the regular unarmed security staff who check names, was “something we never did before. To be honest, it’s very costly,” she said. “We hope it isn’t the new normal, but I don’t know.”
Emergency funds: On Thursday, Hillel International’s CEO, Adam Lehman, addressed the security situation in a webinar, saying that armed guards would be hired to protect students at Shabbat activities. “It might seem unimaginable that students going to a simple service would have to walk through armed guards, but that is in some cases what we need on the campuses,” Lehman said. A Hillel spokesperson told JI that emergency funds will support a wide range of efforts and that the group is still assessing what the needs of specific schools are to best decide how they will be implemented over the next few weeks.
Bonus: Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) are set to introduce a resolution today condemning antisemitism on college campuses, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has learned. The resolution, obtained by JI, has support from a wide array of Jewish community organizations and comes days after Republicans, led by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), attempted to pass their own resolution on the subject but were blocked by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Rush to Judgement:The Atlantic’s Yascha Mounk spotlights the media’s rush to publish incorrect allegations by Hamas that Israel was responsible for an attack on a hospital — and the real-world implications of inaccurate reporting. “Such a glaring example of major outlets messing up on a very consequential event helps explain why trust in traditional news media has been falling fast. As recently as 2003, eight out of 10 British respondents said that they ‘trust BBC journalists to tell the truth.’ By 2020, the share of respondents who said that they trust the BBC had fallen to fewer than one in two. Americans have been mistrustful of media for longer, but here, too, the share of respondents who say that they trust mass media to report ‘the news fully, accurately, and fairly’ has fallen to a near-record low. Journalists and media executives understandably tend to apportion blame for their failings elsewhere. If people no longer trust quality outlets, the fault must lie with the ‘misinformation’ they encounter on social media. But such an easy allocation of responsibility won’t work when, marching in unison, major news organizations seem to have fouled up in as blatant a way as they have over this past week.” [TheAtlantic]
Campus as Front Line: Puck’s Peter Hamby looks at how the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has evolved since the last major military conflagration. “Over the last few weeks, the commentary about Israel has been infected by America’s new political vocabulary and algorithms that tell people how to think and what to say. Words like ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes’ are being casually tossed around in comments sections, usually with little consideration for the actual genocide in Europe that led to the creation of a Jewish state in the first place. Campuses have emerged as a primary battleground. Universities and colleges everywhere have exploded with demonstrations, with chants of ‘Free Palestine’ competing with vigils for dead Jews and accusations of antisemitism from pro-Israel students. Michigan State University is one of those schools. The campus sits in the district of Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat now running for Senate in a state with a huge Arab and Muslim population. Slotkin has been meeting with leaders in both the Jewish and Muslim communities, she told me by phone on Monday, and tensions are running high. But she’s noticed in recent weeks that the rhetoric from students and younger activists has taken on a sharper and more dangerous edge. ‘Campuses have become the epicenter of the debate. The younger people, their language is more loose,’ Slotkin, 47, told me by phone.” [Puck]
The WWII Blueprint: In The Wall Street Journal, Jerome Marcus suggests that Israel follow the blueprint laid out by the Allies in WWII as it seeks to eradicate Hamas. “Israel should follow in the Allies’ steps. It must demand unconditional surrender. It must capture and, at least in the war’s immediate aftermath, take complete control of Gaza. It must crush Hamas, killing or capturing its top leaders. Israel must announce that it will try Hamas’s leaders in courts that it convenes for the trial of war crimes — similar to the Jerusalem District Court’s 1961-62 trial of Adolph Eichmann, a Nazi official who played a central role in implementing Hitler’s ‘Final Solution.’ If found guilty, defendants must be executed, and Israel must carry out those sentences. (Israeli law provides for the death penalty in cases involving genocide or Nazi collaboration, and Eichmann is the only prisoner the state of Israel has executed.) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already made it clear that Israel has no desire to govern those who live in the Gaza strip. Just as the Allies worked together to govern Germany immediately after VE Day, Israel can seek partners in the initial government of Gaza. Its Abraham Accords allies — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco — are the natural source for such help. These Arab states have much to gain from a Gaza that is at peace with its neighbors and free from the sickness Iran seeks to spread throughout the Middle East.” [WSJ]
Iran’s Long Arm: In The New York Times, Colin Clarke assesses the state of play in the Middle East as Tehran colludes with its terror proxy Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border in what could devolve into a broader regional war. “Many longtime Middle East watchers believe that the driving force behind Hamas’s attack was an overarching imperative — from both Hamas leadership and Tehran — to disrupt the momentum of the normalization agreement between Israel and Iran’s other longtime nemesis in the region, Saudi Arabia. And it may have worked. The images of death and destruction coming out of Gaza and the mounting death toll of Palestinian civilians could ultimately prove to be too much for Saudi Arabia to ignore. For the time being, any normalization talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel have been shelved. But Tehran has gone much further than disrupting talks. The IRGC-QF commander, Gen. Ismail Qaani, appears to be coordinating Iran’s various proxy forces more closely, even reportedly organizing regular meetings since August between the heads of Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militant group that is active in Gaza. Accordingly, the fighting since Oct. 7 has not been limited to Gaza. Israel has launched strikes into Lebanon in response to Hezbollah missiles that have been fired into its territory.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
Phillips’ Play: Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) is expected to announce a primary challenge to President Joe Biden on Friday.
Hamas Funding: Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo will travel to Brussels, London and Berlin for meetings to address cutting off Hamas’ access to international funding.
Doubling Down: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) doubled down on previous accusations that Israel had conducted an airstrike on a hospital in Gaza, which have since been disproven.
In the Courts: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as a foreign agent to Egypt.
Moore’s Momentum: Maryland Gov. Wes Moore endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who is running against Rep. David Trone (D-MD) in the Maryland Senate race.
Sending Reinforcements: Lt. Gen. James Glynn, a three-star Marine Corps general, was sent to Israel by the Biden administration to advise top defense officials on a potential ground operation in Gaza.
Checking Iran: A Pentagon spokesperson warned that the United States will hold Tehran accountable for recent waves of drone and rocket strikes on U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Terrorist Terminology: The Associated Press, which serves as the primary style guide for news publications, advises against using the terms “terrorism” or “terrorist” to describe Hamas’ actions and members.
Controversial Posts: A New York magazine senior writer, who also publishes with Vox, is facing criticism for his social media posts alleging that early Zionists collaborated with the Nazis during WWII.
Last Wish:The New York Timesreports on the challenges faced by individuals who are attempting to arrange funerals for friends and loved ones who have died outside of Israel but wished to be buried there.
Not an Act of Antisemitism: Detroit’s police chief said that the weekend killing of a local synagogue president is not believed to be an act of antisemitism, saying that the department has several persons of interest and is “just short” of naming a suspect.
Paradigm Play:The New York Timeslooks at how Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack has upended the status quo across the Middle East.
EU’s Solidarity: President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who has faced internal criticism for her recent trip to Israel and support for Jerusalem, said that the Israel-Hamas war is a “struggle between those who seek peace, balance, freedom and cooperation — and those who do not want any of this because they profit from the chaos and disorder.”
Facing Death: NBC News spotlights the dangers faced by the Israeli military in Hamas’ elaborate underground tunnel network, where the IDF is at a strategic disadvantage.
Military Boomlet: The Israel-Hamas war has reportedly reactivated halted U.S. investment in the manufacture of munitions for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.
Tehran’s Terror: A 16-year-old Iranian girl was declared brain dead after being hospitalized with head injuries following an incident at a Tehran metro station, a week after the Islamic republic passed legislation toughening penalties for women who violate the country’s modesty laws.
Journalist Crackdown: Iran sentenced two journalists to six and seven years in prison, alleging that the two, who had been covering the death of Mahsa Amini, worked with the United States.
Remembering: Historian Natalie Zemon Davis, whose work focused on marginalized populations, died at 94.
Pic of the Day
French President Emmanuel Macron (left) meets on Tuesday with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem.
Retired executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin “Marty” Baron turns 69…
Genealogist who specializes in the research of Jewish roots in Poland and the former Soviet Union, Miriam Weiner turns 81… Writer and adjunct instructor at Queensborough Community College, Ira Greenfest… Stock market analyst who has published books and appears regularly on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Charles Biderman turns 77… Retired Pentagon official, Judy Gleklen Kopff… Financial planner and president of Laredo, Texas-based International Asset Management, Joseph Rothstein… Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Southern California since 1997, Brad Sherman turns 69… Chattanooga-based CEO of Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring company, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum turns 69… U.S. senator (R-SD), Mike Rounds turns 69… U.S. senator (D-OR), Jeff Merkley turns 67… Program director at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Alan Divack… Co-founder and former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, David Margolese turns 66… Producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Henry Schuster… Russian-Ukrainian businessman and a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, German Khan turns 62… Professor and chair of politics at the University of Hull in the U.K., Raphael Cohen-Almagor turns 62… Political correspondent for The New York Times and author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, Jonathan Weisman… Russian businessman and former owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich turns 57… Co-founder of the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation, focused on pediatric cancer research and care, Evan Sohn… Political communications consultant, Tovah Ravitz Meehan… Israeli author and editor of science fiction and fantasy, Vered Tochterman turns 53… Businesswoman, actress and television personality, Caprice Bourret turns 52… Fashion designer, Zac Posen turns 43… Founding partner of Be Clear Communications, Matt Lehrich… Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor, born to a Jewish mother in Toronto, Aubrey Drake Graham, now known as Drake, turns 37… Executive director at Flatbush Community Fund, Yitzy Weinberg… Director of community engagement at Friends of the IDF, Yehuda Joel Friedman…