Good Thursday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on an expected primary challenge to Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and interview the head of South Africa’s Jewish community about rising concerns over the government’s stance in the Israel-Hamas war. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Hillary Clinton, Nikki Haley and Mark Zuckerberg.
Reuters, The Associated Press and CNN — all of which published photos from Palestinian photographers taken in the first hours of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks — scrambled overnight to distance themselves from allegations that they, as well as The New York Times, had advance warning of the terror attacks in Israel, Jewish Insider’s Executive Editor Melissa Weiss reports.
The images represent some of the earliest footage of the attacks, and were taken by Palestinian photographers who accompanied Hamas terrorists into Israel on Oct. 7. A report published yesterday by NGO Honest Reporting found that at least four photographers whose work appeared in the outlets were on the scene in the initial hours of the attack, and called into question the journalistic integrity of the photographers, whom, the report notes, “just happened to appear early in the morning at the border without prior coordination with the terrorists.”
After the report’s release, a photograph of Hassan Eslaiah — whose photos were used by CNN and the AP in their coverage of the attacks — posing with Hamas official Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Oct. 7 attacks, began to circulate.
CNN said it had severed ties with Eslaiah, but said it did not have “any reason to doubt the journalistic accuracy of the work he has done for us.” Reuters said it “did not have a prior relationship” with two of the named freelancers, and “categorically denies that [Reuters] had prior knowledge of the attack or that we embedded journalists with Hamas on Oct 7.” The AP also denied prior knowledge of the attacks, saying its role “is to gather information on breaking news events around the world, wherever they happen, even when those events are horrific and cause mass casualties.” The New York Times has not issued a statement on the issue.
Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate, which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office, demanded immediate action, calling the photojournalists “accomplices in crimes against humanity” whose “actions were contrary to professional ethics.” The Government Press Office sent a letter to the bureau chiefs of the AP, Reuters, CNN and The New York Times asking for clarifications, JI’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who sits in Israel’s war cabinet, took the condemnation a step further with an implicit threat, saying on X: “Journalists found to have known about the massacre, and still chose to stand as idle bystanders while children were slaughtered – are no different than terrorists and should be treated as such.”
Stateside, the third Republican presidential debate Wednesday evening, co-sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition, focused predominantly on foreign policy — with the issue of the Israel-Hamas war and campus antisemitism playing central roles in the proceedings, JI Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
All the Republican candidates offered strong support for Israel’s military efforts to take out Hamas.
“I’m sick of hearing other people blame Israel just for defending itself. We will stand with Israel in word and in deed, in public and in private,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the debate’s opening.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, asked about what Israel should do with Hamas, responded: “Finish them. Finish them.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)argued that Biden needed to be more aggressive against Iran: “If you want to stop the 40 plus attacks on military personnel in the Middle East, you have to strike in Iran. If you want to make a difference, you cannot just continue to have strikes in Syria on warehouses, you actually have to cut off the head of the snake and the head of the snake is Iran and not simply the proxies.”
Most of the candidates highlighted tough proposals on cracking down on antisemitism on campus, though entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said that punishing students would risk being a violation of free speech.
DeSantis said he was the first presidential candidate to take action against campaign antisemitism, banning Students for Justice in Palestine from campus and calling for foreign students on a student visa who engage in antisemitic behavior to be deported.
Haley offered one of the most memorable soundbites of the night about the surge of antisemitism at universities: “If the KKK were doing this, every college president would be up in arms. This is no different… Antisemitism is just as awful as racism.”
Haley was an audience favorite even as the debate was held in DeSantis’ home state. She continued to showcase her political and foreign policy chops, and got another indignant dig in at Ramaswamy, calling him “scum” after he invoked her daughter in an exchange about TikTok.
All told, the debate is unlikely to change the trajectory of the race. Trump is still the dominant frontrunner, and escaped without facing much criticism. But Haley will likely benefit from another strong debate showing — at a debate with a foreign policy focus geared to her strength — and is positioned to emerge as Trump’s top rival when the dust settles.
gaza war: day 34
Israeli forces move deeper into Gaza, capturing Hamas stronghold in Jabaliya
Nearly two weeks after launching its ground incursion into Gaza, the IDF said on Thursday morning that forces from the Nahal Infantry Brigade had captured a Hamas stronghold in the area of west Jabaliya, east of Gaza City and that it was strengthening positions across the north part of the Palestinian enclave, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports. “The operation in Jabaliya was completed in ten hours, during which the forces eliminated terrorists, uncovered tunnel shafts, including one located near a kindergarten, and confiscated weapons at the scene,” the army documented on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.
Deeping offensive: In his daily briefing on Wednesday night, IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the army was continuing to deepen its offensive inside Gaza and discounted claims that a cease-fire was on the horizon. “We are fighting Hamas and there is no cease-fire,” Hagari stated, adding that brief humanitarian pauses are taking place frequently as the army facilitates the movement of the civilian population out of areas where heavy fighting is taking place in the northern Gaza Strip.
Moving south: “There are set times to allow the civilian population to get organized and to move southward safely,” he said, highlighting that an additional 50,000 civilians had moved southward on Wednesday. “We want the civilians to go to a safer area and to temporarily remain in that safer area in southern Gaza. We are not fighting against the Gaza population,” Hagari emphasized. “We are fighting against Hamas — Hamas, which is holding our hostages and carried out the Oct. 7th massacre. We are fighting against Hamas and we will dismantle it.”
George Latimer expected to launch challenge to Bowman in coming weeks
Following months of indecision, Westchester County Executive George Latimer is expected to launch a highly anticipated primary challenge to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) in the next few weeks, multiple sources confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Wednesday.
Tentative timing: Two Democratic sources informed of Latimer’s thinking said he is planning to announce his campaign in early December. Another source familiar with the race, meanwhile, told JI that Latimer could declare before Nov. 26 — when he is scheduled to depart on a solidarity trip to Israel sponsored by the Westchester Jewish Council.
Poker face: In a text message to JI on Wednesday, Latimer declined to confirm his plans for the primary. “Speculation but I’ve made no announcement,” he said tersely, emphasizing that he is “focused on” next year’s “county budget” as well as the “trip to Israel at month’s end with” local elected officials.
Backlash to Bowman: Bowman, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment, has faced mounting backlash over his positions on the Israel-Hamas war. Last week, a super PAC affiliated with AIPAC, which has encouraged Latimer to run, began airing attack ads tied to the congressman’s vote against a House resolution standing with Israel. An anti-Bowman group has also done polling that shows he is vulnerable to a primary challenge, according to several informed sources.
South African Jews sound the alarm as government reaches out to Hamas
South Africa’s Jewish community is on a collision course with the country’s government, following official expressions of solidarity with Hamas after the terrorist group massacred more than 1,400 people in Israel on Oct. 7, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports. Pretoria announced that it would recall all of its diplomats from Israel on Monday in protest of the war with Hamas and threatened to expel Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Eliav Belotsercovsky — a move that came after the government said Israel has no right to defend itself using military means. Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s international relations minister spoke on the phone last month with Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh and traveled to Tehran to meet with her Iranian counterpart, as well as President Ebrahim Raisi, in recent weeks.
Internal strife: Domestically, South Africa’s government has been lashing out at supporters of Israel, threatening the leadership of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), the umbrella organization that represents the more than 50,000 members of the country’s Jewish community, for criticizing what it said in a recent statement was Pretoria’s “ill-considered, immoral and ultimately self-defeating stance.”
Chief Rabbi’s response: South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein gave a fiery address condemning the government at a pro-Israel rally the week after the Hamas attack. In an interview with JI, Goldstein pointed out that while his government reaches out to Hamas and Iran, it has mostly ignored jihadism in Africa. “Hamas is the ideological brother of Boko Haram and ISIS operating in Africa,” he said. “The story of jihadi terror in Africa is not being told at all in Western media. Some of the statistics are horrifying…The West African group, ECOWAS, reported that there were over 1,800 terrorist attacks, killing more than 4,600 people this year. Across the border of South Africa, in Mozambique, ISIS is waging a war.”
Majority of Senate Dems raise questions about Israel’s Gaza operations, offensive military aid
A slim majority of Senate Democrats joined a letter on Wednesday that raised questions about Israeli operations inside Gaza and the provision of offensive weaponry by the United States to Israel for such operations, and sought assurances about U.S. oversight of such operations, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The letter, signed by 26 Senate Democrats, marks the largest group of senators openly suggesting concerns about Israel’s operations against Hamas in Gaza since Oct. 7, including from a growing number of more conventionally pro-Israel lawmakers.
Oversight of Israel: The letter asks President Joe Biden to “inform us about what specific mechanisms you are putting in place to ensure that Israeli military operations conducted inside Gaza are carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law and to ensure that any U.S.-provided equipment is used in a manner consistent with U.S. law.” It requests for an assessment of “whether Israel’s military rules of engagement, particularly regarding mitigation of civilian casualties, align with U.S. policy and practice” and of the “viability of Israel’s military strategy in Gaza, and whether it prioritizes the release of hostages.”
Offensive weaponry: The lawmakers express unqualified support for providing Israel with funding to replenish Iron Dome and other defensive capabilities, but appear more concerned about offensive military aid to be used in attacks inside Gaza. “To better understand the efficacy of U.S. funding that supports Israel’s operations inside Gaza, we respectfully ask your team to provide us with information relative to these two clear U.S. priorities: supporting an Israeli strategy that will effectively degrade and defeat the threat from Hamas and taking all possible measures to protect civilians in Gaza,” the letter continues.
Humanitarian expectations: The letter states that “As we consider additional military assistance to Israel,” the U.S. must “insist that Israel take all necessary measures to help us facilitate such relief to the two million civilians living there, half of them children,” although it stops short of explicitly calling to condition the offensive aid on Israel taking these actions.
Scoop: In light of the ongoing war in Gaza and increased tensions in the region, Reps. August Pfluger (R-TX), Jake Ellzey (R-TX), Mike Garcia (R-CA), Scott Franklin (R-FL) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) renewed their efforts to accelerate the transfer of a KC-46 aerial refueling tanker to Israel and deploy a U.S. KC-46 to the Middle East in advance of that transfer. “These actions would dramatically increase our ability to help deter further aggression, project power, and improve our posture in the region,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The tankers have been seen as most necessary to enable an Israeli strike on Iran.
on the hill
Administration officials accuse Hamas of genocide, doubt willingness to release hostages voluntarily
In testimony before Congress yesterday, senior administration officials questioned Hamas’ willingness to release its more than 200 hostages voluntarily — whether through a ceasefire or other means — and said the terrorist group had committed genocide and other war crimes, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Barbara Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Dana Stroul, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday on the Israel-Hamas war and broader conditions in the Middle East region.
Hamas in focus: The administration officials argued against calling for a ceasefire with Hamas, noting that it would allow Hamas to remain in power, maintain its warfighting and terrorism capacity and, according to Stroul, provide no assurances that Hamas would actually release its hostages. Leaf added that “it’s a real question” whether Hamas “is serious in any degree about releasing those hostages” in general, and noted that Hamas has repeatedly violated past ceasefires, including on Oct. 7. Stroul and Leaf agreed that Hamas is guilty of war crimes and genocide, and in violation of humanitarian law.
Defending Israel: Stroul rejected an allegation from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) that Israel was pursuing “collective punishment” in Gaza rather than targeting Hamas sites, describing the IDF’s operations as aimed at dismantling Hamas’ military infrastructure. She specifically pushed back on his characterization of a recent incident in which Israel struck an ambulance in Gaza. “With respect to the ambulance convoy, this is a good example of the misinformation and disinformation environment,” Stroul said.
Post-war plan: “There’s a greater urgency than ever to take a negotiation forward after the conflict towards Palestinian statehood,” Leaf said. “The only way to ensure that this crisis never happens again, is to begin setting the conditions for durable peace and security, and to frame our diplomatic efforts now with that in mind.” She said that the Palestinian Authority “is the appropriate place to look for governance” in the long run.
Arab world: “These partners are very focused on, and their publics are very focused on — and enraged frankly — by the mounting total casualties among civilians, Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” Leaf said of Abraham Accords members. “But that said, I’ve heard nothing that would sway me from the belief that there is a day on the other side of this conflict, where people will work to resume work to repair those relations, because there’s a common good to that.”
Bonus: At a hearing yesterday on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which serves Palestinians, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who chaired the hearing, said that UNRWA “bears a heavy moral responsibility” for the Oct. 7 attacks and described it as “absurd” that so many Palestinians remain classified as refugees decades after the founding of Israel. One witness, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Jonathan Schanzer, called for phasing out UNRWA as an agency.
Security Slump: In the Financial Times, John Paul Rathbone and Neri Zilber examine how Israel’s security apparatus failed to act on threats posed by Hamas ahead of the Oct. 7 attacks. “‘Even on the night of the attack, we smelled that something was happening but the interpretation was that it was just a regular [Hamas] military exercise,’ a senior Israeli official said. ‘Our intelligence suffered from a fundamental flaw.’ That was in part because Israel’s security services underestimated Hamas’s ability to mount such a large-scale operation with all the tight operational security, disciplined planning and detailed knowledge of Israeli terrain that it required. ‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it seems the big failure [in Israel] was a failure of imagination, as was the case with 9/11,’ said Sir Alex Younger, former head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service. ‘There is always a danger of conflating what you want with what actually is . . . and Israel felt that Hamas had been de-risked.’” [FT]
War of Words: In The Atlantic, Juliette Kayyam considers how the promotion of the slogan “from the river to the sea” by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and others on the far left has stoked anger and raised already elevated tensions both in Israel and abroad. “The language of annihilation heralds an escalation of violence, and not only in the Middle East. Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray offered deeply disturbing testimony about how the threat of terrorism has grown in the United States after the Hamas attacks of October 7. That threat, he said, has reached a ‘whole other level.’ He noted that multiple extremist organizations overseas have called for attacks against the United States, but also that homegrown terrorists might attack American Muslims or Jews. Anti-Semitic harassment has spiked. A young Palestinian boy was murdered because of his identity. Individuals can be radicalized to the point of violence, even if their reasoning is muddled. When the language of holy war is invoked, compromise and de-escalation become impossible.” [TheAtlantic]
Corporate Response: The New York Times’ Emma Goldberg looks at how CEOs are approaching how to address the Israel-Gaza war. “Company executives have, over the past month, faced a dilemma that they’re by now well practiced in confronting: whether to engage with a large humanitarian or social issue, in this case the war between Israel and Hamas. This time, many say, responding — with a public statement, internal discussion, a donation or even social media parameters for staff members — presents complexities that they have not experienced when wading into other recent social crises. ‘If you release a statement about the damage of a hurricane, there’s nobody who will say, “Actually that area of the country deserved a hurricane,”’ said Iliya Rybchin, a partner at the consultancy Elixirr, who has advised dozens of Fortune 500 chief executives.” [NYTimes]
Past and Present: In The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Kellerman compares and contrasts the conversations happening about Israel on college campuses today with his own experiences in the 1970s. “Those opposed to Israel planted the seeds of hatred following the Six Day War in 1967. Israel won that military conflict, but its enemies have since dominated the war of words. The protesters at [former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba] Eban’s speech were similar to today’s culprits: Arab students, leftist radicals and old-school Jew haters. The difference is that in 1970, most people regarded the SDSer and his ilk as fringe lunatics. Today, they’re mainstream. In 1970, Jewish students generally weren’t afraid to express themselves. I did so freely as a columnist and editorial cartoonist for the campus newspaper. I found that UCLA in the 1970s welcomed a diversity of opinions, and people treated one another civilly. Professors concentrated on research and teaching rather than operating as an ideological bloc. … But it still doesn’t excuse the viciousness of his verbal assault, and it hasn’t provided comfort as Jew-hatred on college campuses has risen steadily. The situation has deteriorated to the point where self-styled scholars and their acolytes barely flinch at the decapitation of babies and blame the victims for terrorist violence.” [WSJ]
Swift Return: In the Washington Post, Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs recounts her experience watching the film made from singer Taylor Swift’s recent “Eras” tour at a movie theater in Tel Aviv, where many attendees were friends of Roni Eshel, an Israeli woman believed to be held hostage by Hamas. “There was not a single song for which these girls sat in their seats. They brought the energy for Eshel, but also for all the approximately 240 hostages likely held in the tunnels beneath Gaza. The girls processed their grief in a way only teenagers could: They were up and dancing, striking poses, hands in the air, chanting Swift’s words to one another and screaming at the start of every new song as if it was a surprise. The grief and abject terror that have gripped this small country since Oct. 7 played out on their faces, young women who wanted more than anything to just be themselves for a few hours even if Hamas fires rockets at them. I can already hear detractors mocking these tears, saying the girls’ anguish is nothing compared with the tragedy unfolding in Gaza. But it was the girls of Gaza I couldn’t stop thinking about as my friends and I swayed to ‘Fearless.’ Do the girls of Gaza listen to Taylor Swift? Are they allowed to?” [WashPost]
Around the Web
Survey Says: A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 50% of Democrats approve of President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, while 46% — many of whom are under 45 or non-white, disapprove. Meanwhile, CNN reports on the divides among House Democrats on the war.
On the Hill: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and 11 Democratic colleagues introduced a bill to criminalize transnational oppression, specifically citing threats from Iran, among other countries. The legislation targets foreign backers of attacks on U.S. soil, making them subject to fines, prison time and the same penalties as those who carry out the crimes.
Security Stance: Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill to increase funding for the U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, part of ongoing efforts from lawmakers to shore up that mission.
TikTok Trouble: Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Don Bacon (R-NE), in cooperation with the Anti-Defamation League, introduced a bill to require social media companies to release detailed reports on violations of their terms of service, and require the administration to report on the use of social media by terror groups. Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY), appearing on Fox News, discussed the impact of TikTok on public perception of the Israel-Hamas war.
Donor Decisions: Nevada real estate investor Robert Bigelow, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top donor, is considering backing former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election.
Hillary’s View: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the Israel-Hamas war on “The View.”
Police Beat: Police in Detroit made an arrest in the killing of a local synagogue president.
Rocketing Apps: Downloads of phone apps that track rocket attacks against Israel are surging both in Israel and abroad.
Evangelical Mobilization: The Washington Postlooks at how evangelical Christian groups mobilized to fundraise for Israeli causes in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks.
Molotovs in Montreal: A synagogue and Jewish community center in the Montreal suburbs were attacked with Molotov cocktails, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “deeply disturbing.”
Down Under: A group of Australian Holocaust survivors penned an open letter calling on Australians “to denounce the antisemitism and hatred that we see today in our beautiful country and across the globe.”
From The Horse’s Mouth:The New York Timesinterviewed members of Hamas leadership about the future of the Gaza Strip and their desire to continue attacking Israel, with one Hamas official acknowledging that the terror groups’ “goal is not to run Gaza and to bring it water and electricity and such.”
Tooth and Nail: The BBC interviews a Palestinian dentist who orchestrated the mass evacuation of his Gaza neighborhood after receiving a call from the IDF, which notified him of the upcoming strike and worked with him to clear the area of civilians.
Houthi Strike: Houthi forces shot down an unmanned U.S. drone off the coast of Yemen that was operating in international airspace.
Eye on Oman: China is reportedly considering building a military base in Oman, as it looks to deepen its footprint in the Middle East.
What’s Up with WhatsApp: Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg talked toThe New York Times about his company’s efforts to build out WhatsApp.
Hollywood Movement: The Screen Actors Guild reached a tentative agreement with studios and streaming companies to end the months-long strike that has halted television and film development.
Disney Developments: Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors that the company plans to focus on streaming, sports coverage, theme parks and cruises and studios, as it works to overcome a series of financial challenges from recent years.
Song of the Day
Broadway performers, including Billy Porter, Annaleigh Ashford, Tovah Feldshuh and Jeremy Jordan, perform an adapted rendition of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” to raise awareness about the more than 200 hostages taken captive by Hamas.
Professional baseball manager in the minor leagues and college, he managed Team Israel in 2016 and 2017, Jerry Weinstein turns 80…
Israeli novelist and playwright, Shulamit Lapid turns 89… British businessman and philanthropist, formerly chairman of Lloyds Bank, a major U.K. bank, Sir Maurice Victor Blank turns 81… Israeli war hero and longtime past member of the Knesset, Zevulun Orlev turns 78… Principal of Los Angeles-based PR and public affairs firm Cerrell Associates, Hal Dash… San Diego-based media developer, Daniel Ajzen… Mitchell Bedell… Former deputy national security advisor for President Trump, Charles Martin Kupperman turns 73… U.S. senator (D-OH) and chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Sherrod Brown turns 71… Senior producer at “NBC Nightly News,” Joel Seidman… Political consultant and fundraiser, she founded No Labels in 2010 to take on problems across the partisan divide, Nancy Jacobson turns 61… Executive director of Los Angeles-based Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project, Samara Hutman… Professor of journalism and media studies at Fordham University, Amy Beth Aronson Ph.D. turns 61… Partner in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis, Douglas C. Gessner… Partner at Covington & Burling specializing in export controls and sanctions, he was previously the assistant secretary of commerce for export administration during the Bush 43 administration, Peter Lichtenbaum turns 58… Chairman and CEO of Sky Harbour, he is an American-born Israeli fighter pilot and author of a 2018 book on the future of Judaism, Tal Keinan turns 54… Grammy Award-winning record producer specializing in comedy, Dan Schlissel turns 53… Founding CEO of OneTable, Aliza Kline… Associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court since 2015, despite being legally blind since birth as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, Richard H. Bernstein turns 49… Journalist and pioneering podcaster, he is the creator and host of “How I Built This” and “Wisdom from the Top,” Guy Raz turns 48… Israeli singer and actress, Maya Bouskilla turns 46… Co-founder and executive director of the States Project, he was elected the youngest member of the New York State Senate in 2008, serving until 2017, Daniel Squadron turns 44… COO at BerlinRosen, David Levine… Singer, songwriter and rapper, Ari Benjamin Lesser turns 37… Chess grandmaster, Daniel Naroditsky turns 28… Army JAG officer, Matthew Adam McCoy…