Good Wednesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the House’s censure of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and look at a new bipartisan House effort to push the White House to redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist organization. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Danny Danon, Ron Lauder and Barbra Streisand.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday took to X to walk back a confusing answer she gave when asked whether President Joe Biden condemns the people ripping down posters of the hostages held by Hamas.
“I’ve sort of kind of seen the reporting here and there,” she said. “I’m just not going to go into specifics on that particular thing.”
When pressed to comment further, Jean-Pierre said she could speak to “reporting out there about violent protest and threats,” and mentioned the “frequency of threats that we’re seeing to the Jewish community, to the Arab American community, to the Muslim communities in the United States since October 7.”
Soon after, on X, Jean-Pierre took a different tone: “As a result of the Hamas terrorist attacks, communities and families are grieving. For the past month, the families of those who have been taken hostage have lived in agony. Tearing down pictures of their loved ones – who are being held hostage by Hamas – is wrong and hurtful,” she wrote.
Last month, Jean-Pierre was also forced to walk back a flubbed answer to a question about antisemitism.
Also during Tuesday’s White House press briefing, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s director for strategic communications, demurred when asked by a reporter whether the White House has kept in place the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“Let me get back to you on that specific policy question,” Kirby said. The State Department in September maintained that “U.S. policy on the Golan Heights has not changed.” But the Biden administration has tiptoed around enthusiastically embracing the Trump administration’s move.
On Election Night, abortion rights groups extended their political winning streak, reelecting pro-choice Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in conservative Kentucky and passing a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights in Ohio, while keeping the state Senate blue in Virginia and flipping the Old Dominion’s General Assembly.
Beshear’s comfortable victory was the highlight of the night for Democrats. He defeated GOP state Attorney General Daniel Cameron by six points despite Kentucky’s heavily Republican electorate. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves won a second term, defeating Democrat Brandon Presley.
Democrats saw mixed results in a handful of key New York City Council races on Tuesday. In a bitterly contested matchup in South Brooklyn, Democrat Justin Brannan defeated Ari Kagan, a Jewish Republican who switched parties last year, by a wide margin — even as polling had suggested the race was neck and neck.
Elsewhere in South Brooklyn, Inna Vernikov, a Jewish Republican councilwoman, beat back a robust challenge from Amber Adler, an Orthodox Jewish Democrat. Meanwhile, in an increasingly purple district in the East Bronx, GOP upstart Kristy Marmorato pulled off an apparent upset over Democratic incumbent Marjorie Velázquez.
In an upset in New Jersey, Democrat Avi Schnall, the former director of Agudath Israel’s Garden State office, flipped a red Assembly seat in heavily Orthodox Lakewood, ousting the GOP incumbent. Schnall, for his part, is also a former Republican.
House censures Tlaib for anti-Israel comments, with support from 22 Democrats
The House voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) over comments she has made in the weeks since the Hamas attack on Israel. Twenty-two Democrats voted with most Republicans in favor of censuring Tlaib, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Change of pace: The vote represents a tougher line from those Democrats, who have been resistant to supporting formal rebukes of Tlaib and others over anti-Israel and antisemitic comments. Earlier this year, for instance, they voted in lockstep against removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from a committee seat over her own anti-Israel and antisemitic comments.
The votes: Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jim Costa (D-CA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Don Davis (D-NC), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Dan Goldman (D-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Susie Lee (D-NV), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Wiley Nickel (D-NC), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Marie Glusenkamp Perez (D-OR), Pat Ryan (D-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) voted for Tlaib’s censure.
Harsh criticism: The phrase Tlaib defended, “‘From the river to the sea’ is a term used by the PLO in 1964 before there was an occupation of the West Bank or Gaza, of Hamas when it was founded in 1987, of so many people who seek the destruction of the state of Israel,” Schneider told JI yesterday. “They know exactly what it means and any effort to try to persuade or gaslight folks that it means something else needs to be called out.” He added in a statement after the vote that Tlaib’s comments blaming Israel for the Al Ahli Hospital explosion were “blood libel” and “amplifying Hamas propaganda.”
Caucus confusion: Neither of the Jewish Republican lawmakers in the House were contacted by Jewish Democrats, led by Wasserman Schultz, about plans to create a formal Jewish caucus, they said yesterday. Wasserman Schultz said the caucus would be open to any Jewish members. Wasserman Schultz told JI that “these formation conversations were and are ongoing.”
Education Dept. pens letter to universities urging them to address antisemitism, Islamophobia
The top civil rights official at the Education Department sent a letter to leaders of American colleges and universities on Tuesday to remind them of their obligations to provide a discrimination-free learning environment for all students, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The letter, authored by Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, cited “a nationwide rise in reports of hate crimes and harassment, including an alarming rise in disturbing antisemitic incidents and threats to Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students on college campuses and in P-12 schools.”
Background: The Dear Colleague letter comes as Jewish advocates have sought additional action from federal officials in light of a dramatic rise in antisemitism on campuses following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. Last week, the Education Department released an updated version of the complaint form, making it easier to identify religious discrimination, for students alleging that their civil rights had been violated. Such discrimination falls under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires any programs receiving federal assistance “to provide all students a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”
Identifying harassment: The “key paragraph” in Tuesday’s Dear Colleague letter, according to Mark Rotenberg, vice president for university initiatives and general counsel at Hillel International, is one that describes what counts as “harassing conduct.” “Harassing conduct can be verbal or physical and need not be directed at a particular individual,” the letter said. “OCR interprets Title VI to mean that the following type of harassment creates a hostile environment: unwelcome conduct based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics that, based on the totality of circumstances, is subjectively and objectively offensive and is so severe or pervasive that it limits or denies a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from the recipient’s education program or activity.”
Bipartisan group of House members joins effort to redesignate Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists
A bipartisan group of more than 40 House members on Tuesday joined the effort to restore the Houthis’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, following the Yemeni militia group’s repeated rocket and drone attacks on Israel, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Reps. Mike Waltz (R-FL) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) led a letter, obtained by JI, to Secretary of State Tony Blinken urging him to restore the designation.
Why redesignate: “Despite their delisting [in] 2021, the Houthis [have] decisively intervened in Israel’s conflict on behalf of Hamas,” the letter reads. “As this conflict between Israel and Hamas intensifies, the Administration must use every tool available to ensure that the utilization of U.S. military assets remains a last resort. As you know, the FTO designation primarily serves to help isolate the adversarial target from its enablers.” The letter goes on to argue that the move would “help prevent the Houthis from acquiring more war materiel like missiles.”
Defending Israel: “The Houthis are launching rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians as our ally seeks to defend itself against Hamas,” Moskowitz said in a statement to JI. “They are a terrorist organization – plain and simple. Re-designating them as a foreign terrorist organization is crucial in hindering the Houthis’ ability to acquire material assistance for their murderous activities.”
Next steps: Beyond restoring the FTO designation, Waltz emphasized that the administration needs to more strictly enforce sanctions that the U.S. has in place. “We have to have the designation, then we begin pressing down on how aggressively they’re enforcing,” he said. Waltz said that he will be open to legislation reimposing the designation with or without support from the administration. “There’s very little to no trust when it comes to this administration and enforcing sanctions on Iran. So we’re just going to put it in the law,” he continued.
Israel’s former U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon keeping up personal diplomacy
Knesset Member Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, is on a mission. Since the Oct. 7 terror attack against Israel, Danon has given multiple interviews to the foreign media each day and taken delegations of ambassadors and social media influencers to Israel’s south to witness the atrocities. A member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its secretive Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services, Danon is privy to highly classified information on the current war. Danon was also Israel’s deputy defense minister in 2013-2014, a job from which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired him after he publicly criticized Netanyahu’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, the largest operation against Hamas before this year. Danon spoke with Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov, after taking former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of the U.K. and Scott Morrison of Australia to the western Negev on Sunday.
On the ground: “A month after the massacre and atrocities by Hamas, some in the world have forgotten what happened,” Danon said. “The discussion is shifting towards the quote-unquote humanitarian crisis of the Palestinians. I think it’s important to bring leaders to see what happened and speak to the people here, so they can go back and echo what they saw. That’s what we did today with Johnson and Morrison. I’m sure they brought a lot of media from their home countries, and they will also speak up and send the message that Israel needs not only support but time to finish the job and to eradicate Hamas.”
No other choice: “I don’t think we have any other option,” Danon said. “We have to finish the job this time after many times that we postponed it. Hamas is not an existential threat to Israel, but if we don’t eliminate Hamas, it will become an existential threat, because others in the region will not be afraid of Israel. That will cause a major problem. It would be better to do it with the support of the international community, which I believe we still have, but even if we have to confront our allies, I will still push the government and prime minister to eliminate Hamas at all costs. We cannot let them stay in Gaza to recover and rebuild its strength all over again.”
House committee advances measure to freeze $6 billion in Iranian funds
The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted yesterday to advance a bill that would implement sanctions to permanently freeze the $6 billion in Iranian funds released as part of the administration’s hostage deal with Iran earlier this year, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Vote breakdown: This tranche of funds, which the administration has said it has informally re-frozen after Oct. 7, has become a top focus for Republicans seeking to retaliate against Iran and push back on the administration’s Iran policy since the Hamas attack on Israel. Five Democrats — Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) — voted with Republicans to advance the legislation.
Hostage support: By a voice vote, the committee advanced a bipartisan resolution condemning the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack and calling for the release of hostages. Lawmakers said that McCaul had fast-tracked the resolution to committee consideration, and the legislation’s sponsors, Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and French Hill (R-AR) said at a candlelight vigil last night that they’re working to quickly move it to the House floor.
Other measures: The committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to impose sanctions on producers of the stimulant narcotic Captagon, including members of the Syrian government and Hezbollah. The drug was reportedly found on some Hamas terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 attack. Along party lines, the committee approved a bill that would require the State Department to notify Congress when a senior official loses their security clearance or has it suspended. The measure is a response to the suspension of Iran envoy Rob Malley and the State Department’s alleged obfuscation of the situation to Congress.
Path to Peace: In the Washington Post, World Jewish Congress head Ronald Lauder suggests that Israel pursue peace with the Palestinians alongside its war with Hamas. “Israel should not walk into the trap set by Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. It must not conduct a campaign that will ignite a regional conflict. The Jewish democratic state must not perpetuate its enemies’ disregard for human life. It must retain the moral high ground, safeguard its international legitimacy and maintain the support of the majority of Americans. Israel must make clear that this is a war against Hamas, not against the Palestinians, a war for life and Western values, not for territory. A war whose foremost objective is peace.” [WashPost]
Family First: The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer talks to the parents of American-Israeli citizen Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who is believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas. “Rachel [Goldberg-Polin] told me that they had both lost substantial weight. The Jewish impulse to feed the suffering felt like an affront, which they both resisted. ‘I’m not sure if Hersh is alive. I am not going to be eating cake,’ Rachel said. They narrated their story with a sense of detachment, the numbness that allows the mind to function in the midst of a living nightmare. I noted that fact to Rachel, who wore a sticker with a 26 on her T-shirt, the number of days since Hamas had blown off her son’s arm and abducted him. She didn’t disagree. ‘I tell everyone that I’m going to go downstairs and cry now and that I’ll be back in a few minutes. And I’ll go into our bedroom and I’ll cry, and I’ll scream into a T-shirt, and I’ll just be beside myself. Then I’ll wipe my face and say, “Okay, I’ve got work to do.” And I come back upstairs.’ Each interview is a shout in the darkness, an exhaustion of their obligation to avail themselves of every opportunity to remind the world of Hersh’s existence.” [TheAtlantic]
Friendship Test: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens writes that American Jews should consider who their allies were in the days after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying. More than 3,800 years of Jewish history keeps yielding the same bracing lesson: In the long run, we’re alone. What can Oct. 8 Jews do? We can stop being embarrassed, equivocal or defensive about Zionism, which is, after all, one of the world’s most successful movements of national liberation. We can call out anti-Zionism for what it is: a rebranded version of antisemitism, based on the same set of libels and conspiracy theories. We can exit the institutions that have disserved us: ‘Defund the academy’ is a much better slogan than defund the police.” [NYTimes]
Picking Sides: In The Wall Street Journal, Judge Matthew Solomson and Tal Fortgang raise concerns about how social justice movements move away from traditional concepts of justice. “For many Americans today, justice — often with the modifier ‘social’ before it — is precisely about power. Rejecting the biblical ideal codified in the judicial oath, our academics, intelligentsia and public figures have embraced the idea that power tells you all you need to know about who is right and who is wrong. This is clear as some of our best and brightest side with the Hamas terrorists in their war against Israel. To those who believe in the biblical ideal of justice, defending Israel’s right to destroy those who commit atrocities against innocents isn’t simple, but involves a moral analysis that yields a clear conclusion. One must look at who acts virtuously and who acts viciously. Though no country is virtuous all the time, Israel seeks peace and in war doesn’t specifically target civilians. Israel holds no kidnapped babies, nor does it steal billions of dollars of foreign aid to build tunnels where terrorists can hide while using women and children as human shields. Hamas is unfathomably evil, by any traditional measure, to Israelis and Gazans. Its barbarism is unjustifiable, even if Palestinians have legitimate grievances against Israel.” [WSJ]
Lieberman in the Spotlight: The Washington Post’s Kara Voght interviews former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) about the pushback his organization No Labels has faced from Democrats concerned a third-party candidate could hand Republicans the White House. “The backlash against the project has been moderately furious. And it has raised a question particular to this moment, when a right-wing demagogue has an iron grip on one of the country’s two major parties: In order for the center to hold, will the centrists have to become a skosh more comfortable with their teammate-opponents on the left? Maybe even walk a few paces in their direction, for the sake of reaching common ground? Lieberman remains hopeful, as he has his whole career, that if he holds firm in the center then the party will find its way back to where he’s standing. My visit with the former senator fell on the morning after Yom Kippur, the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar devoted to introspection and atonement. I asked Lieberman if he had used the holiday to reflect on anything that he was willing to share with the rest of us. ‘No, thanks.’” [WashPost]
Around the Web
Gaza Daylight: The U.S. is pushing back on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intentions to maintain security control in Gaza after Hamas is removed from power.
Ron’s Role:The New York Timesspotlights the role of Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, who for nine years was Israel’s top diplomat in the U.S., in the ongoing talks between Jerusalem and Washington over the Israel-Hamas war.
Come Together: Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for a Nov. 14 unity rally in support of Israel in Washington, D.C., eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports.
Sanctions Push: Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill seeking to pressure the administration to enforce existing U.S. oil sanctions on Iran and a strategy for countering Chinese evasion of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Voice of Concern: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) led six GOP Senate colleagues on a letter highlighting concerns about the coverage of Hamas by Voice of America, the U.S. government-funded media outlet, including its policy against describing it as a terrorist group.
Letter to London: Reps. Tom Kean (R-NJ) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) led 10 other lawmakers on a letter to UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urging the U.K. government to ban Iran Air flights from landing in the country.
TikTok Talk: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called on the Biden administration to ban TikTok, where anti-Israel content has proliferated since Oct. 7, over the social media platform’s “power to radically distort the world-picture that America’s young people encounter.”
Maxwell’s Move: Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) said he should have voted in favor of a House resolution condemning antisemitism on college campuses; after the vote, Frost met with Jewish community members and students at the University of Central Florida who voiced their concerns.
Campus Beat: Jewish students at Yale reflect in The Wall Street Journal on how they feel the university has not adequately supported Jewish students following Oct. 7 while supporting anti-Israel programming on campus.
Caught on Camera: A New York attorney resigned from the city’s public defender’s office after being filmed ripping down posters of Israeli hostages.
Across the Pond: A group of 10 conservative university societies across the U.K. expressed support for Israel and global Jewry in a joint statement spearheaded by the Pinsker Centre.
Sports Saga: The Washington Post looks at efforts by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to become key players in the world of sports.
Foggy Bottom Fury: The State Department condemned Iran’s suspected coercion of its Jewish community to participate in anti-Israel protests across the Islamic republic.
History Lesson: Former CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel suggests that Israel apply some of the lessons and tactics used by American forces in Iraq to rout out Hamas.
One Month On: Tablet magazine marked the one-month anniversary of the Oct. 7 attacks with a series of essays under the banner, “What now?”
A Peace of Them: The Washington Post interviews the sons of Canadian-Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, who was taken hostage by Hamas.
Remembering: Republican donor Mel Sembler, whose family once celebrated Shabbat in the White House, died at 93. An Israeli Police officer who was killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem on Monday was identified as Rose Lubin, an Atlanta native who immigrated to Israel in 2021.
Pic of the Day
Lawmakers, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) gather for a vigil on the House steps last night in honor of the hostages being held by Hamas and the one-month anniversary of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Earlier in the day, Johnson and other GOP leaders held a press conference alongside the families of some of the hostages, where they begged for U.S. assistance. “Their pain and grief is unspeakable, and their stories are not one that we will soon forget. Which is why we must do all we can do to support Israel, and their dire moment of need,” Johnson said at the evening event, which was also attended by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO) and others on the far left who have faced criticism for their responses to the attack.
Israel’s minister of defense, Yoav Gallant turns 65…
U.S. attorney for New Jersey, then a U.S. District Court Judge, now a criminal defense attorney, Herbert Jay Stern turns 87… Actress, comedian and writer, she played the recurring role of Doris Klompus on “Seinfeld,” her solo theater shows include “Yenta Unplugged” and “The Yenta Cometh,” Annie Korzen turns 85… French heiress, pediatrician, businesswoman and philanthropist, Léone-Noëlle Meyer turns 84… Former CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Ira C. Magaziner turns 76… Leader of the Sephardic baal teshuva movement in Israel, Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak turns 70… Senior managing director and global head of government relations for Blackstone, Wayne Berman turns 67… Chief operating officer at Forsight, Michael Sosebee… Emirati businessman who is widely known as the developer of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, Mohamed Alabbar turns 67… Financial consultant at Retirement Benefits Consulting, Michelle Feinberg Silverstein… Television producer, she is the co-author of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In, Helen Vivian “Nell” Scovell turns 63… NYC-area attorney, Charles “Chesky” Wertman… Principal at Lore Strategies, Laurie Moskowitz… Popular Israeli female vocalist in the Mizrahi music genre, Zehava Ben turns 55… Chair of community engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Allison Gingold… Sports journalist for ESPN Deportes, he was born in Ashkelon and has covered both the World Cup and the Summer Olympics, David Moshé Faitelson turns 55… Professional poker player and fashion designer, Beth Shak turns 54… Founder of Ayecha, Yavilah McCoy turns 51… Congregational rabbi in Paris and co-leader of the Liberal Jewish Movement of France, Delphine Horvilleur turns 49… CEO of Gold Star Financial Group, Daniel Milstein turns 48… Israeli singer, Lior Narkis turns 47… Deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security, Mira Kogen Resnick turns 41… Director of high school affairs at the American Jewish Committee, Aaron Bregman… Principal at Bayit Consulting, Roei Eisenberg… Film and television actor, Jared Kusnitz turns 35… VP of marketing and communications at StoryFile, Alana Weiner… Student at Johns Hopkins University, Cameron Elizabeth Fields… Allan Waxman…