Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at an effort by some progressive Senate Democrats to condition aid to Israel, and report on Germany’s move to cut funding to UNRWA in Gaza. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Javier Milei, Maggie Haberman and Israel Joshua Singer.
Voting begins today at the University of Michigan on an anti-Israel referendum that accuses Israel of engaging in “genocide in Gaza,” Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss reports. The referendum comes after the school’s student government voted by secret ballot to put the question to the student body.
The voting period, which concludes on Thursday, comes after weeks of heightened tensions on the campus. On Oct. 10, University President Santa Ono issued a statement condemning the “horrific attack by Hamas terrorists on Israeli citizens” that had occurred days prior. The text of the ballot initiative denounces Ono’s statement, alleging that his statement caused “entire student populations to feel unseen and otherized.”
This is the first time the issue will be brought to the Ann Arbor school’s entire student body. Six years ago, Michigan’s student government passed a call for the school’s administration to form a committee to look into divesting from some companies that operate in Israel. A month after the vote, members of the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents rejected the call.
Shortly after the Oct. 7 attack, UM faculty members and graduate studentslaunched an open letter blaming the attacks on Israel’s “structural apartheid.” The letter has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
On Oct. 10, SAFE Michigan, the anti-Israel campus group pushing the ballot measure, promoted an upcoming rally in nearby Dearborn. In the post, the group said that the Hamas terror attack “has shaped a new precedent for our national liberation struggle and we remain steadfast in our right to resist imperialism in all its forms.” The post included a call to “honor the resistance, honor our martyrs and uplift the call for liberation.”
Earlier this month, hundreds of protestorscharged into the UM administrative building housing the president’s office, chanting “Ono, Ono, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide” as they demanded the university divest from companies operating in Israel.
The vote is likely to sow further division in the Detroit area, which is home to one of the largest Palestinian-American communities in the country, and where young activists have threatened not to turn out for President Joe Biden next year over his support for Israel.
The referendum will also serve as a bellwether for other campuses that in recent years have become hotbeds of pro- and anti-Israel activity. The majority of Israel-related campus votes at universities across the U.S. have historically taken place in student governments. Campus-wide referenda are increasingly seen as a tool by which anti-Israel groups can amplify their message to a broader student population.
In Israel, X owner Elon Musk met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday in Jerusalem; Netanyahu also accompanied Musk to Kfar Aza, one of the Israeli communities hardest hit on Oct. 7. In a cryptic X post shortly after visiting the kibbutz, Musk wrote, “Actions speak louder than words.”
In Kfar Aza, Musk visited the home of Abigail Idan, a 4-year-old dual American-Israeli citizen who was released from Hamas captivity on Sunday night. Idan’s parents were killed on Oct. 7, and she was taken hostage, along with her neighbors. Her older siblings survived the attack.
Later, in an X Spaces conversation with Netanyahu, Musk discussed Hamas, saying that “those who are intent on murder must be neutralized. Then the propaganda must stop.” Hamas, Musk said, is “just training people to be murderers.”
During his sit-down with Herzog, Musk also met with families of hostages still being held in Gaza. In one video, Malki Shem Tov, whose son Omer is a hostage, could be seen giving Musk a metal dog tag calling for the hostages’ safe return — of the kind worn by Israelis around the country — which Musk then wore for a photo with the group.
on the hill
Progressive Senate Dems push to condition aid to Israel
Senate Democrats are expected to debate a push by some progressives to impose conditions on the administration’s request for $14 billion in emergency military aid to Israel during a caucus lunch today. Around a dozen Democrats met with Israeli officials in the Capitol on Monday evening in a sit-down organized by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
In the room: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) described the conversation as “extremely frank.” He continued, “We just want to be assured that they are abiding by American values as they try to dismantle Hamas. And we all conveyed that collectively and clearly. I do believe they heard us, but obviously, we have a long way to go.” Lawmakers said the discussion centered around Israeli military practices in the current conflict, including tactics, strategy, operational goals and rules of engagement, as well as the civilian casualty rate in Gaza and plans for Gaza after the war.
Elsewhere in D.C.: The progressive push to condition aid to Israel comes as a senior Biden White House official said Monday that the administration, at all levels, is pressuring Israel to restrain its operations in southern Gaza when the current pause expires. “The conduct of the Israeli campaign when it moves to the south must be done in a way that is to a maximum extent not designed to produce significant further displacement of persons,” the official said. “You cannot have the sort of scale of displacement that took place in the north replicated in the south… It also has to be conducted in a way that is maximally de-conflicted with humanitarian facilities — power, water, humanitarian sites, hospitals, other facilities including the many U.N.-supported shelters located throughout south and central Gaza.”
Republican side: Any effort to condition aid is likely to face opposition from Republicans, although several who spoke to JI yesterday said they’re waiting to see what, if anything, Democrats put forward. “I think it depends on the limits and how well received it would be to people who are on the battlefield,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told JI. “To me, it would be very important to see how Israeli leaders would react to it, if they think that they’re manageable, and do not create any constraints. But I don’t think that the United States should ever get on the front end of determining what’s best for Israel. I think Israel’s in the best position.” He said Republican support for the emergency aid bill is also contingent on the outcome of ongoing talks on border policy.
Brandeis Center files lawsuit against UC Berkeley for hostile campus environment
Citing claims of a “longstanding, unchecked spread of antisemitism” on University of California, Berkeley’s campus, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law filed a complaint on behalf of Jewish students on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that the campus is a “hotbed of anti-Jewish hostility and harassment,” eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
Uptick in incidents: The lawsuit, which names the University of California (UC) Regents, UC President Michael Drake, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and other officials as defendants, claims that since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel, antisemitism has been exacerbated at the school — citing several on-campus incidents of intimidation, harassment and physical violence against Jewish students.
Sense of disregard: “The concerns of Jewish students are not being taken seriously and incidents that are affecting Jewish students are not being treated the same as incidents that would affect another targeted minority on campus,” Hannah Schlacter, an MBA student at the school, told JI. UC Berkeley Jewish students wrote in the complaint that the school does so little to protect Jewish students, it feels as if the school is condoning antisemitism. They added that officials at the university display a “general disregard” for Jewish students.
In growing European trend, Germany freezes UNRWA Gaza aid
Germany moved to freeze its funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ Gaza operations indefinitely, marking a trend in Europe away from aid to the Palestinians. The German Development Ministry announced last week that Gaza would be excluded from its continued contributions to UNRWA, “due to the current situation,” Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Berlin’s buck: Berlin contributed close to $1 billion in the last five years, making it UNRWA’s largest donor. The U.N. agency, which also considers descendants born after the 1948 war to still be refugees, has distributed materials to students encouraging antisemitism and inciting violence against Jews and Israelis and hired teachers who do the same.
Hate education: IMPACT-se, an Israeli organization analyzing educational materials in the Middle East, published two reports following the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel finding that over 100 Hamas terrorists who murdered Israelis are graduates of UNRWA schools, and that at least 14 teachers and staff members of UNRWA schools celebrated the massacre on social media, including one post describing the assault as “an unforgettable glorious morning.” Palestinian Authority schools in the West Bank were also found to engage in glorification of the Oct. 7 terrorists.
Javier Milei, Argentina’s president-elect, makes surprise visit to Lubavitcher Rebbe’s grave
Javier Milei, Argentina’s philosemitic president-elect, made a surprise visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite in New York City on Monday morning, marking his first trip abroad since he claimed victory last week, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Paying respects: The 53-year-old libertarian newcomer, a former TV pundit who pulled off an upset over Argentina’s center-left economy minister, paid his respects at the Queens burial place of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the revered spiritual leader who died nearly 30 years ago, a day before his scheduled meeting with President Joe Biden’s national security adviser in Washington.
‘Seeking blessings’: During his visit, Milei, wearing a black kippah, gave tzedakah, lit a candle and read from prayers he had written on a note before his arrival, according to Motti Seligson, a spokesperson for Chabad. It was Milei’s second trip to the gravesite in two months. “It’s very clear that Mr. Milei is deeply spiritual and he’s inspired by the rebbe’s teachings,” Seligson told JI. “He came today seeking blessings for the road ahead and for his people and his country.”
Conversion to Judaism: Milei, a Roman Catholic, is reportedly converting to Judaism and regularly studies Torah with a Buenos Aires rabbi, he said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais this summer. The self-described anarcho-capitalist, whose inauguration is scheduled for Dec. 10, is also an outspoken supporter of Israel and has vowed to move Argentina’s embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Behind the Scenes: The Ankler’s Peter Kiefer reports on the infighting happening in Hollywood-adjacent WhatsApp groups, where disagreement over the Israel-Hamas war has hit a fever pitch. “Across the industry, clusters of professionals — some in groups as small as half a dozen, others in the hundreds — are congregating on encrypted apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. That peer groups who work in the same industry are communicating via virtual chat groups is nothing new. What is different now, however, is the raw and rancorous tenor that has come to dominate a number of these chat groups since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out seven weeks ago. The mission of these groups, its participants say, is largely about advocacy. But they also reflect more troubling symptoms of an industry that seems to have reached a cultural tipping point. Conversations deemed too dangerous to have out in the open have now gone completely underground. As a result, loyalties are being questioned, language is being policed and relationships between colleagues, peers and friends are being tested like never before.” [TheAnkler]
Campus Concern: The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn looks at the state of play on college campuses. “A week ago pro-Palestinian students gave [Harvard] university President Claudine Gay until Monday to respond to three demands. They were: that Harvard divest from any investments in ‘illegal settlements in Palestine’; that the university reinstate a proctor suspended for taking part in a mob that surrounded and harassed a Jewish student; and — of course — a promise from Harvard that ‘pro-Palestinian students and workers engaging in non-violent protest’ would face no disciplinary action. There you have it. The ethos of our modern best and brightest in a nutshell: We are taking a brave stand—but we demand that we pay no price for it. In fairness, Harvard is no worse than most other universities here. Then again, that’s the scandal: It ought to be. Today the places that are supposed to be exemplars of how a civilized community behaves have become prone to loutish behavior as well as incoherent in their responses. The ordinary citizen, by contrast, has little trouble recognizing that targeting innocent civilians instead of soldiers makes you a war criminal, not a soldier.” [WSJ]
Character Conundrum: The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead interviews German actress Sandra Hüller, who stars as the wife of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss in an upcoming film. “When Hüller was approached to play Hedwig, she was initially skeptical. ‘I always refused to play Fascists — which, of course, especially in international productions, come your way from time to time as a German actress,’ she told me over lunch at a restaurant in Leipzig, where she lives with her twelve-year-old daughter. (Hüller is not with the girl’s father.) The neighborhood was filled with galleries and restaurants, and the pavement of its main street, Karl-Heine Strasse, was studded with Stolpersteine — memorial plaques outside buildings whose former residents were murdered in the Holocaust. We sat in a pleasant outdoor area, and Hüller’s dog, a Weimaraner mix, rested beside her on a blanket that Hüller had brought from home. (The dog appears in ‘The Zone of Interest’ as the family pet.) ‘I didn’t like the idea of putting on a Nazi uniform like that, or using language like that — to get close to the energy of that, or to discover there would be fun in that,’ Hüller went on. ‘I have seen colleagues that actually have fun doing it. Maybe it’s still in their bodies from former generations. They like to change their language and speak like that’—the tone of her voice changed, her usually soft-spoken, careful speech becoming harsh and rat-a-tat. Reverting to her own voice, she asked, ‘Why do they do it? They could speak like a normal person.’” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
Shuttle Diplomacy: CIA Director Bill Burns is meeting in Doha today with Mossad head David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani to push for another extension beyond the two-day extension agreed to by Israel and Hamas yesterday; Secretary of State Tony Blinken is slated to travel to Israel, the UAE and the West Bank later this week.
On the List: The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office added to the list of those considered for release Palestinians who have been arrested since Oct. 7.
Vandalism Against Valadao: Rep. David Valadao’s (R-CA) district office in Hanford, Calif., was vandalized by anti-Israel protesters.
New York Arrests: The NYPD arrested two women who face hate crime charges after a physical altercation with a Jewish woman who confronted the duo as they were ripping down posters of Israeli hostages.
Book Deal:The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan signed a deal with Simon & Schuster for a book focused on former President Donald Trump’s next move — with the book likely to hit shelves in 2025.
Out of Work-man: Ryna Workman, the president of New York University School of Law’s student bar association, was voted out by the student body after Workman posted a public missive blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Helping Hand: The Wall Street Journalspotlights the volunteer medical and emergency personnel who have traveled to Israel to assist in the war effort.
A Different View: “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin criticized her ABC talk show for only showing footage of the reunions of Israeli hostages with their families and not those of Palestinian prisoners being released, calling the latter “something that we should also be looking at and talking about.”
Prayers from Bangkok: The Washington Post interviewed the family of a Thai worker who had been taken hostage by Hamas and was released over the weekend.
Hack Attack: An Iran-backed cyber group hacked a booster station of the municipal water system of Aliquippa, Pa., which uses technology from Israel.
Destroyer Debut: Iran debuted its Caspian Sea-based 1,400-ton Deilaman destroyer, with the capability to launch cruise missiles and torpedoes.
Cairo Connection: The Washington Postlooks at the deep ties between Cairo and the Egyptian businessman charged with paying bribes to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
Yiddish Literature: The New Yorkerspotlights writer Israel Joshua Singer, the older brother of Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Pic of the Day
Elon Musk and Israeli President Isaac Herzog met on Monday with families of Israelis being held hostage in Gaza.
Songwriter, arranger and composer, Randy Newman turns 80…
New Orleans attorney, Joel Loeffelholz turns 78… Television producer, Barry M. Meyer turns 77… Political consultant and manager of President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign in 1996, Richard Samuel (Dick) Morris turns 75… David Letterman’s musical director, band leader and sidekick from 1982 to 2015, Paul Shaffer turns 74… Former solicitor general of the U.S., now a partner at WilmerHale, he has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court over 85 times, Seth Paul Waxman turns 72… Los Angeles-based attorney, Steven Jacob Barkin… COO of American Friends of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel, Judy Rapfogel… Former judge on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then Homeland Security secretary in the Bush 43 administration, he is senior of counsel at Covington & Burling, Michael Chertoff turns 70… Film and television actor, Judd Nelson turns 64… Comedian and former host of “The Daily Show on Comedy Central,” known professionally as Jon Stewart, Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz turns 61… Chief field-building officer at UpStart Lab, Aliza Mazor… Clearwater, Fla., speech pathologist, Nancy Turkel Laskowitz… CEO of the Israel Policy Forum, David Elliot Halperin turns 61… Senior U.S. senator from Colorado, his mother was a Holocaust survivor born in Warsaw in 1938, Michael Bennet turns 59… Former CFO of Citigroup and then president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, now CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck turns 59… National editor of the Washington Post, Matea Gold… Founder and principal at Green Mountain Strategies, Anna Weinstein… Executive director of The Isaiah Projects, David Nekrutman turns 50… CEO of Lens Investments, Julie Hammerman… National security advisor to President Joe Biden, Jacob Jeremiah (Jake) Sullivan turns 47… Managing partner and founder of PR firm, EDGE Partners, Jeremy Wimpfheimer… Former congressman from Staten Island, he earlier served in the U.S. Army and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, Max Rose turns 37… Rabbi at Congregation KTI in Port Chester, N.Y., Benjamin Goldberg… and his twin brother, Cantor at Westchester Jewish Center, Ethan Goldberg, both turn 34… Singer, songwriter and rapper, Jacob Harris (Jake) Miller turns 31… Executive director at Tmura, an Israeli public service venture fund, Baruch Lipner… Jude Rabinowitz…