Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the rising tensions along Israel’s northern border, and report on Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine’s continued violations of university policy after being temporarily suspended. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rachel Goldberg, Hadas Ziv and Amb. Deborah Lipstadt.
Though the mood at the White House Hanukkah party was festive — the grounds lit in white lights, the hallways decorated like the inside of a candy factory, an a cappella group singing a medley of Hanukkah songs — the war raging some 6,000 miles away was never far from mind, Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss reports.
“We know this year’s Hanukkah is different,” President Joe Biden said in his remarks.
In the foyer stood a menorah rescued from the rubble of a home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, one of the communities hardest hit on Oct. 7. The translucent glass menorah, a sign read, “is a reminder of the flame of faith that endures from tragedy and persecution, and is a symbol of the Jewish people’s eternal spirit of resistance and hope that continues to shine its light on the world.”
Some of the 800 attendees wore ribbons for the hostages — some blue, others yellow — or metal tags that read “BRING THEM HOME – NOW.”
And in his remarks to a packed room, Biden reiterated his support for Israel. The administration is “working relentlessly for the safe return of the hostages,” he said, eliciting cheers, “And we’re not going to stop until we get every one of them home.”
“Folks, were there no Israel, there wouldn’t be a Jew in the world who is safe,” Biden said to loud applause. “I ran into trouble and criticism when I said a few years ago that you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist.”
Biden gave “a special thanks to my buddy, Chuck Schumer,” praising the Senate majority leader’s recent “powerful and historic speech” condemning antisemitism. “Everyone in America should read it,” Biden said. “Chuck, thank you.”
The president pledged that Washington will “continue to provide military assistance until they get rid of Hamas,” noting that the terrorist organization documented evidence of “rape, sexual violence and terrorism” is “beyond comprehension.”
“We all have to condemn such brutality without equivocation, without exception,” Biden added.
He also reiterated support for continued humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians, a line that drew loud applause from the crowd, before refocusing his comments on the American Jewish community.
“I also recognize you’re hurt from the silence,” Biden said. “In fear for your safety, because the surge of antisemitism in the United States and around the world is sickening.”
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff lit the menorah with five White House staffers who are descended from Holocaust survivors. Ahead of Biden’s remarks, the president met with a group of Holocaust survivors that included Marion Wiesel, the wife of late Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
Suspended groups at Columbia University continue to hold anti-Israel campus events
Even as Columbia University announced a temporary suspension of the campus chapters of National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) as official student groups through the end of the fall term, both groups have continued organizing on-campus events. According to witnesses, some of the unauthorized events by the anti-Israel groups have included holding protests featuring chants of “intifada, intifada, long live the intifada” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Deans have done nothing to stop the events the school claimed were canceled, students on campus tell eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen, reporting for Jewish Insider.
Counteractive: “It feels like [JVP and SJP] have ramped up more [since the ban],” Alon Levin, a Columbia School of Engineering graduate student, told JI. “We’re seeing it now almost on a daily basis,” he said, adding that some of the events are held under different names associated with JVP and SJP, such as a protest he witnessed on Monday that was sponsored by Student Workers of Columbia, held on Barnard’s campus. Barnard College is affiliated with Columbia University and Barnard students are part of Columbia clubs.
Hanukkah event: Other events, such as a menorah lighting held throughout the week of Hanukkah, are still advertised as being sponsored by JVP and SJP, despite the ban, which runs through Dec. 22, the end of the fall semester. JVP Columbia advertised the event on its Instagram page, writing “@SJP.Columbia will join us to meditate on the parallels between the Hanukkah story and current events, the importance of grassroots activism, and the significance of solidarity in the face of oppression and suppression.”
University statement: In a statement to JI, Samantha Slater, a Columbia University spokesperson, didn’t outline any attempts made to prevent the groups from sponsoring campus events. “We have communicated with JVP that this is an unsanctioned event by an unsanctioned student group. The university supports students who wish to commemorate religious holidays, including by lighting menorahs and celebrating the festival of Hanukkah. Our event policies are in place to ensure that group gatherings are as safe as possible, and to minimize any disruption of ongoing instruction, research, and other activities taking place on campus,” Slater said.
After Magill’s ouster, Harvard and MIT’s presidents face renewed pressure
Following Elizabeth Magill’s resignation as the president of the University of Pennsylvania, public attention is now focusing on Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which are facing calls to unseat their own presidents. But Harvard’s Claudine Gay and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth are thus far facing less in-state political pressure for their resignations, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Consider carefully: “Strong, moral leadership should be qualification number one for the president of the world’s leading university, but as a tireless advocate for ending the ‘cancel culture’ so pervasive at Harvard over the past decade, I’m not going to rush to cancel the president,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a Harvard alum, told JI on Monday. “That’s a decision the university’s governing boards should consider carefully.”
Up to the board: Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) said Friday, “I would say that in the last two months, Dr. Gay has been making a lot of second and third statements when she should have gotten it right the first time. Genocide is unacceptable, period,” but said he’d leave the decision of her resignation to the school’s board.
Where they stand: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said last week, “If you can’t lead, if you can’t stand up and say what’s right and wrong – very much in the extreme cases, and these are the extreme cases – then you’ve got a problem,” but didn’t respond to a question from JI on Monday about whether the schools’ boards should ask their presidents to resign. Neither did Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) or Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat. Several prominent Harvard alums in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), also did not respond to requests for comment.
Breaking: Gay will remain in office with the backing of the Harvard Corporation, The Harvard Crimson reported this morning.
Infighting: Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), who organized a letter with fellow Democrats calling for Harvard, MIT and Penn to reconsider their policies to protect Jewish students, is accusing Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) of “plagiarizing” sections of her draft letter in Stefanik’s own letter calling for the presidents to be fired. Stefanik fired back, accusing Manning of pushing a “hit piece to help panicked Democrats who are clearly on the wrong side of history protecting these university presidents.” Manning said Stefanik was only seeking “the resignation of university presidents to score political points.”
Northern Israel a ‘waking nightmare’ amid efforts to push Hezbollah from border
On Oct. 7, as Israelis and Jews across the world watched Hamas’ massacre with horror, Sarit Zehavi opened a map. “The first thing I did when I heard Hamas entered Ofakim is to look at how far it is from the Gaza border,” Zehavi told Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov this week. “It’s 12 kilometers [7.5 miles] away. I live 9 kilometers [5.6 miles] from the Lebanon border.” Zehavi is the founder and president of the Alma Research and Education Center, where she and her team research and write about security on Israel’s northern border. Alma’s headquarters are in Tefen in the Western Galilee, just a few minutes drive from her home.
Diplomatic efforts: As she hears the daily booms of battle between Israel and Hezbollah, and the U.S. and France try to persuade Lebanon to force the Iran-backed terrorist group to retreat north of the Litani River about 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Israel-Lebanon border, Zehavi is worried that Israel is making a “big mistake.”
Resolution 1701: The U.N. Security Council approved Resolution 1701 in August 2006, putting the Second Lebanon War to an end. The resolution calls for “the establishment between the Blue Line” – the demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon – “and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of [the UN Interim Force in Lebanon]…deployed in this area…There will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than of the Lebanese State.” The Lebanese government “authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action…to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind,” the resolution continues.
Perceived problems: Zehavi is not opposed to diplomatic efforts, but she said that basing them on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 is “very dangerous.” The resolution “is not really a system that can bring security to the residents of northern Israel and southern Lebanon,” she said. “It’s not clear from the resolution who is supposed to enforce it; Israel says it’s UNIFIL and the rest of the world says it’s the Lebanese Army. It’s worded problematically and everyone reads it differently…The Lebanese Army doesn’t enforce it and UNIFIL doesn’t help. That’s the situation on the ground.”
on the hill
House lawmakers push for independent commission to study antisemitic acts in the United States
A bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation last week to establish an independent commission to probe the increase in antisemitism in the United States, seeking to identify its causes and protect the Jewish community, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
The idea: The commission would be charged with investigating the “facts and causes” of present-day antisemitism and providing its assessment and legislative and policy recommendations to the president and Congress. The body would be made up of eight members, two appointed by the top Democrat and Republican in each chamber of Congress, equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans, and would be active for a year. It would have the authority to hold hearings and issue subpoenas.
Defining antisemitism: The legislation defines antisemitism using the language included in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition, without its examples: “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Who’s onboard: The legislation is being led by Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Max Miller (R-OH) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL). The legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Tracey Mann (R-KS), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), John Rose (R-TN), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Thomas Kean Jr. (R-NJ), Michael Guest (R-MS), Rudy Yakym (R-IN) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).
follow the money
Senate bill seeks sanctions on banks, crypto firms that facilitate Hamas financing
A bipartisan group of senior senators introduced a bill on Thursday that aims to crack down on money flowing to Hamas and other terrorist groups, taking aim both at traditional banks and cryptocurrency firms, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Breakdown: The legislation was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jack Reed (D-RI), who chair the Intelligence and Armed Services committees, respectively, joined by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Mitt Romney (R-UT). The legislation seeks to restrict international financing to Hamas and other designated foreign terrorist organizations and other foreign actors controlled by such groups.
New sanctions: The Terrorism Financing Prevention Act would place sanctions on foreign financial institutions and digital asset transaction facilitators (including crypto firms and crypto exchanges) that knowingly conduct transactions involving terrorist groups and their affiliates, barring financial institutions from correspondent bank accounts that allow them to do business in the U.S. and barring digital asset facilitators from transactions with U.S. people and entities.
Crypto focus: The legislation also includes provisions from a previously introduced crypto-focused bill allowing the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to restrict transactions with crypto firms that are involved in money laundering.
Prognosis negative: It appears unlikely that Congress will approve supplemental aid to Israel and Ukraine before departing for Christmas. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who’s leading negotiations over border policy, said he doesn’t think senators will be able to reach a deal to pass the aid package before the end of the week, and the House has said it will not stay in session next week to wait for the Senate to pass a bill. Several Republicans are expected to skip Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky’s Capitol Hill visit today.
Owning Her Error:The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood calls on Harvard President Claudine Gay to resign. “But I’ll say it again: Gay should resign. To offer her neck to Harvard’s Board of Overseers would show her confidence that its members, like Emperor Meiji, would see past her error and ask her to endure in her position. It would also demonstrate her willingness to own that error, to acknowledge it publicly and unselfishly. Maybe the board would accept her resignation, and maybe it would not. Either of these fates is better than the one she is courting. At the moment she is trying to wriggle out of her error, and clinging to her job as if her dignity depended on keeping it. Better to teach by example that the reverse is often true, that dignity depends on leaving a job — and that staying suggests that one has nothing else, once it is gone.” [TheAtlantic]
After the War: The Wall Street Journal’s Walter Russell Mead, following a recent trip to Israel, suggests that the country will emerge from its war with Hamas from a position of strength. “Israel is more united, its citizens are more determined to fight for their state, and Jews around the world have renewed their commitment to the Zionist cause. I spoke to Israelis across the political spectrum. From leaders of the pre-Oct. 7 protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to senior officials in the war cabinet, I heard only commitment to supporting the government through the war. Politics isn’t dead in Israel. Protests demanding Mr. Netanyahu’s resignation have resumed, and profound disagreements bubble below the surface. But none of this affects the country’s determination to prosecute the war. Israelis from all political camps are determined to put national security first when the war ends.” [WSJ]
Old Hatred, New Focus: The Hill’s Brett Samuels interviews Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, about the state of antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world. “Lipstadt said she came into the job with two objectives, the first of which was to get people to take antisemitism seriously. ‘But now the conditions have eliminated my need to do that, because most countries are taking it very seriously,’ she said. Her other goal, which she said is still ‘quite necessary,’ is to help people understand what antisemitism is and how it differs from other forms of prejudice. She cited the persistent myths and conspiracy theories about Jews and the view among some that Jews are trying to control the world and must be stopped.” [TheHill]
Hostage Diplomacy: The Wall Street Journal’s Louise Radnofsky and Gordon Lubold profile Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, and his approach to negotiating with adversaries of the U.S. “‘There’s a saying that we have in my office that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists, but we do,’ Carstens often says of his staff of about 20 that enters to coordinate efforts whenever the U.S. considers a citizen wrongfully held by another country. Carstens, the first person to hold the job of special presidential envoy for hostage affairs full time and at the level of ambassador, has emerged as the government’s most robust and high-visibility defender of a diplomatic response to the fundamentally undiplomatic act of state-sponsored kidnapping. His dramatically expanded office’s efforts highlight a sharp — and deeply controversial — shift in U.S. policy in favor of open engagement with unsavory actors when it comes to hostages.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
In Town: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Washington today for meetings with administration officials and to push for more security aid as Congress winds down before the winter recess.
Career Pivot: Mara Karlin, a top official in the Department of Defense who has undertaken the duties of deputy undersecretary for policy following Colin Kahl’s departure over the summer, is leaving her posting at the end of the month.
Hack Work: Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Jim Banks (R-IN) requested a congressional briefing on Iranian efforts to hack U.S. water facilities.
Hart Building Arrests: Dozens of anti-Israel protestors were arrested during a demonstration in the Hart Senate Office Building.
Inappropriate Protest: Yale University leaders condemned the placement of a Palestinian flag on a menorah by a protestor in New Haven, Conn.
Pushing for Pilip: Jewish activists in New York’s 3rd Congressional District are pushing for Republicans to nominate Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian Jew who served in the Israeli Defense Forces before moving to the U.S., to run in the special election to replace former Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
Cold Feet, Cold Open: Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Cecily Strong, who was set to portray Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in the show’s widely panned cold open that focused on the Capitol Hill antisemitism hearing last week, backed out after the episode’s dress rehearsal, reportedly citing her discomfort with the sketch.
Hate Probe: Police in Los Angeles are investigating as a hate crime an incident in which an elderly Jewish couple was attacked on their way to synagogue.
Two Months of Grief:The New York Timesinterviews Rachel Goldberg, the mother of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, whom Hamas abducted from the Nova musical festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Gathering the Evidence: The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner interviews Hadas Ziv, one of the authors of the Physicians for Human Rights Israel report about the sexual and gender-based violence on Oct. 7.
Callous Campaign: Fashion distributor Zara pulled an ad campaign that featured mannequins missing limbs and wrapped in white shrouds following an uproar from pro-Palestinian activists.
Hamas-PA Partnership?: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh suggested that Hamas be folded into a future Palestinian government that works to rebuild Gaza.
Tehran Trial: Iran has put on trial a Swedish diplomat it accuses of collaborating with Israel.
Remembering: Attorney Estelle Fishbein, the first general counsel of Johns Hopkins University, died at 89.
Pic of the Day
President Joe Biden waves after speaking during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House on Monday night.
Member of the rock band Grand Funk Railroad, Bruce Kulick turns 70…
Attorney, author and television commentator, Lanny Davis turns 78… Chairman of Full Stop Management which represents recording artists, Irving Azoff turns 76… Israeli mathematician of Latvian origin, he co-authored a paper on Bible codes, Eliyahu Rips turns 75… Two-term congressman starting in 2007 (D-WI), he is a physician who founded four allergy clinics, Steven Leslie Kagen, M.D. turns 74… 2007 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, he is a professor at Harvard University, Eric Stark Maskin turns 73… Professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Richard J. Davidson turns 62… Associated Press science writer and adjunct professor at NYU’s academic center in Washington, Seth Borenstein… Israeli-born real estate developer active in Los Angeles, partner in Linear City Development, Yuval Bar-Zemer turns 61… CEO at Chicago-based Next Realty, he chairs JFNA’s domestic policy and government affairs council, Andrew S. Hochberg… Afternoon anchor on the Fox Business Network, Elizabeth Kate “Liz” Claman turns 60… Rabbi of the Bet Israel community in Zagreb, Croatia, Kotel Dadon turns 56… Minnesota secretary of state, Steve Simon turns 54… Israeli celebrity chef, Moshe Aharon “Moshik” Roth turns 52… Actress, game show host and neuroscientist, she played the role of neuroscientist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Mayim Chaya Bialik, Ph.D. turns 48… Former account director at Lewis Global Communications, Sarah R. Horowitz… Freelance producer for ABC News, Rebecca “Becky” Perlow… One-half of the duo known for their YouTube channel h3h3Productions, Hila Hakmon Klein turns 36… Managing director at Narrative Strategies DC, David Pasch… Brazilian mixed martial artist, Neiman Gracie Stambowsky turns 35… Senior advisor for policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s CHIPS for America program, Jeffrey S. Goldstein… Co-founder of The Next 50, Zak Malamed turns 30… Film and television actor, Lucas Jade Zumann turns 23…