Good Thursday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at how the Democrats vying to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein are approaching the Israel-Hamas war, and talk to the former longtime leaders of the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee about their concerns over Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Natan Sharansky, Rep. Ritchie Torres and William Daroff.
This week’s NYT/Siena poll offered yet another series of data points underscoring the gaping generational gap over support for Israel — particularly among Democrats, writes Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar. Like other recent polls, the survey showed by more than a two-to-one margin that Israel commands more sympathy among Americans than the Palestinians (47-20%).
But even as Israel won overwhelming support among those over the age of 30, the Gen Z crowd decidedly sided with the Palestinians. By a whopping 63-10% margin, seniors aged 65 and over back Israel over the Palestinians. The margin is similarly decisive among 45-64 year olds (57-14%) and Israel still wins widespread support with millennials aged 30-44 (36-24%).
It’s only the 18-29 year olds that side with the Palestinians, by a 19-point spread (46-27%).
The poll also showed a near-even divide among Americans who want Israel to continue its military operation until Hamas is eliminated even if it means there will be more civilian casualties (39%), compared to those who believe Israel should stop its military campaign to prevent civilian casualties (44%). Those over the age of 45 back Israel’s military campaign against Hamas by double-digits, but those under 30 want Israel to halt its military operation by a 45-point margin.
In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, a similar question drew stronger support for Israel’s military operation. In that survey, a 55% majority approved of Israel’s current military actions against Hamas as necessary, while just 25% said Israel’s actions were disproportionate.
Notably, the poll found that the youngest voters with the most hostility towards Israel are the ones most likely to defect to… former President Donald Trump. Trump is winning 21% of young Biden ’20 voters who sympathize more with Palestinians than Israel — a number that could well be inflated, given Trump’s position on Israel is more hawkish than Biden’s.
Overall, Trump is leading Biden among 18-29 year-old voters, 49-43%, even as Biden is leading Trump among all likely voters by two points (47-45%). Trump holds a two-point lead among registered voters.
Two important takeaways for 2024 from these numbers: One, Biden’s decision to remain publicly supportive of Israel is clearly the smart move politically. Older voters, who are the most reliable, remain solidly behind Israel and Biden would risk creating a bigger rift if he tried to distance himself from Israel’s war against Hamas.
Second, there’s good reason to believe some of the anti-Israel Gen Z voters are expressing their frustration towards Biden by saying they’ll vote for Trump but they’ll come home (or possibly stay home) next November. Biden is effectively calling their bluff and is facing depressed numbers with his base now, but that should rebound when the general election campaign gets underway.
But even as overall support for Israel remains healthy, the bigger concern in pro-Israel circles is a long-term one. Will the anti-Israel, pro-Hamas activism we’re seeing on campuses be a leading indicator of what’s to come from our future political and business leaders? Or has the exposure of the radicalism now raised enough awareness to stem the tide?
The youngest voters have historically migrated to the right as they get older; some of the anti-war McCarthy and McGovern voters in 1968 and 1972 became part of the Reagan revolution a decade later.
What makes our current moment more precarious is the lack of willpower from the adults in the room, unwilling or unable to lead the next generation on the right track. In previous generations, there was plenty of youthful radicalism but also opposition from institutional leadership that held the mainstream line.
As former New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet wrote in the Economist: “Leaders of many workplaces and boardrooms across America find that it is so much easier to compromise than to confront – to give a little ground today in the belief you can ultimately bring people around. This is how reasonable Republican leaders lost control of their party to Trump and how liberal-minded college presidents lost control of their campuses.”
In a year-end press conference on Wednesday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken laid bare the hypocrisy of those who call for a cease-fire and who place the onus only on Israel to end the war in Gaza.
“One of the things that’s striking to me is that, understandably, everyone would like to see this conflict end as quickly as possible,” Blinken said. “But if it ends with Hamas remaining in place and having the capacity and the stated intent to repeat October 7th again and again and again, that’s not in the interests of Israel, it’s not in the interests of the region, it’s not in the interests of the world.”
“What is striking to me,” Blinken continued, “is that even as, again, we hear many countries urging the end to this conflict, which we would all like to see, I hear virtually no one saying – demanding of Hamas that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This is over tomorrow if Hamas does that. This would have been over a month ago, six weeks ago, if Hamas had done that. How can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor and only demands made of the victim?”
Porter’s call for cease-fire clears pro-Israel lane in California primary for Schiff
Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-CA) announcement this week of her support for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas likely opens a lane for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to lock down California’s pro-Israel vote in the three-way Senate primary between Porter, Schiff and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
The move: Porter released a statement earlier this week calling for a “lasting bilateral ceasefire,” in part citing concerns about comments from Israeli leaders rejecting the U.S.’s post-war vision for Gaza. Porter said a cease-fire must involve the return of hostages and remove Hamas from “operational control” of Gaza, while also criticizing Hamas’ long-standing deprivation of innocent Palestinians. The statement brings Porter closer in line with the growing consensus among progressives. Earlier in the current war, Porter had taken a more hawkish approach, blaming the Hamas attack partially on the U.S. for taking too soft a line on Iran.
Inside the campaign: A Porter campaign aide denied political motivations influenced her shifting views on a cease-fire, describing it as a response to the changing situation in Israel and Gaza, but said she’s been consistent in calling for the release of hostages and for the end of Hamas’ rule over Gaza. The aide also said Porter has consistently polled in first or second place in the race. The Porter campaign aide accused her opponents of using the war to score political points.
Schiff stats: Schiff, for his part, is sticking to his pro-Israel positions, a posture helping him rack up support among Jewish and moderate voters in the state — and fueling his growing lead in early polling. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey shows Schiff with a comfortable lead over Porter and Lee, winning 28% of likely voters in the all-party primary, compared to 17% for Porter and 14% for Lee.
Lee’s criticism: Lee was among the first lawmakers to call for a cease-fire, just 10 days after the Hamas attack. She appeared to reject Porter’s call for a cease-fire as too weak and as politically motivated. “A conditional ceasefire is not a ceasefire at all. We need leaders who set the pace for change — not half-heartedly follow along when it’s politically expedient,” Lee said in an X post. “I’ve always shown up for the side of peace & I’ll take urgent, unwavering action for peace & security in the Senate.” Her campaign added in a statement to Politico that she views the conditions Porter laid out for a cease-fire as “so unlikely to ever be achieved.”
Former ADL, AJC leaders Abe Foxman and David Harris call for scrapping DEI
Abe Foxman and David Harris, two former longtime leaders of prominent Jewish communal organizations, called for an end to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy at colleges on Wednesday. In separate statements, the former heads of the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee argued that DEI efforts on college campuses should be overhauled because of the major challenges it poses to the liberal understanding of societal aims. Foxman and Harris’ stances contrast with their organizations’ current positions on how to deal with DEI. ADL and AJC leaders told JI this week their organizations are urging universities to better incorporate Jews into the DEI infrastructure, instead of calling on them to dismantle the ideology behind DEI altogether, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
No hope: Foxman, who served as the Anti-Defamation League’s national director for 28 years until 2015, insisted that DEI “cannot be fixed.” He said that part of the problem is that DEI is “based on a faulty premise — that racism is a function of oppressed and oppressors [and] that all white people are oppressors and all people of color [are] oppressed.” The results, Foxman said, are “bias, illiberalism, reinforced, legitimized and institutionalized antisemitism in many institutions.”
‘Mammoth’ presence: David Harris, the longtime CEO of the American Jewish Committee CEO, echoed similar criticisms of DEI. “DEI has evolved into a mammoth, ideologically-driven presence on many campuses, some of which have literally hundreds of staff working exclusively in this space,” Harris told JI. “Accordingly, I don’t believe that outside efforts, however well-intentioned, that nibble around the edges or simply seek to add Jews to the DEI agenda, address the heart of the problem. DEI today poses a major challenge to liberal understanding of American societal aims, so the goal of rethinking it conceptually is far more urgent than just trying to get along with it.”
Lawmakers criticize Associated Press for declining to classify Hamas as a terrorist group
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers sent a letter on Friday criticizing the Associated Press and its style guide for guidance that advises against using the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” to describe Hamas and its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
The guidance: Guidance from the news service’s style guide about the war states, “The terms terrorism and terrorist have become politicized, and often are applied inconsistently. Because they can be used to label such a wide range of actions and events, and because the debate around them is so intense, detailing what happened is more precise and better serves audiences.” The AP’s wire service feeds coverage to news organizations worldwide, and many news outlets rely on its style guide in their own coverage.
The letter: The letter, led by Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI), states that the lawmakers are “deeply disturbed by the AP’s failure to accurately label Hamas a terrorist organization.” It warns of “potential dangers that may arise” from this guidance. “The decision by the AP to avoid using terms such as ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ due to their perceived politicization is deeply unsettling,” they wrote. “Mislabeling Hamas undermines journalistic integrity and confuses the public as to the nature of events transpiring in Israel and Gaza. By not accurately labeling Hamas and its continued terroristic actions, we believe the AP inadvertently provides cover for these heinous acts to be accepted.”
The signatories: The letter was co-signed by Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Don Bacon (R-NE), David Kustoff (R-TN), Tom Kean (R-NJ), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Susan Wild (D-PA) and Kathy Manning (D-NC).
Rep. Jahana Hayes met with Connecticut CAIR chapter earlier this month
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) met with affiliates of the Council on American Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) Connecticut chapter in early December, according to a Facebook post from the group, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: CAIR has come under recent scrutiny over its supportive rhetoric regarding Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Days after Hayes’ meeting, CAIR’s founder and executive director Nihad Awad was revealed to have praised the Hamas attack and invoked antisemitic tropes. The group has a long record of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric, including a statement on Oct. 7 that condemned Israel while making no mention of the Hamas attack. Hayes represents a competitive Connecticut district that the Cook Political Report rates as “Lean Democrat.”
The meeting: According to the CAIR Connecticut Facebook post, Hayes met with Muslim leaders from her district to discuss the conflict and her policies toward Israel and the Palestinians. Hayes spokesperson Sidney Johnson told Jewish Insider, “The Congresswoman has held several meetings with all constituents who have deep concerns about the ongoing war. Her statements make her position clear. She has a responsibility to listen to all of her constituents, even if they disagree on serious issues.”
Not addressed: She did not address whether Johnson or her staff were aware of CAIR’s comments on the Oct. 7 attack before the meeting, did not offer any direct response to such comments and did not respond to a question about whether Hayes would still have met with the group if she had been aware of its director’s remarks.
Progressive Problems: In Tablet magazine, former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, who headed the Jewish Agency until 2018, posits that the Jewish community should abandon efforts to build bridges with progressives who have adopted an oppressor-oppressed worldview. “It is time for liberal Jews to accept that neo-Marxist social movements only appear to be our allies. They speak of equality but perpetuate discrimination. They speak of freedom but seek to subjugate the ‘privileged.’ They speak of justice but will use any means necessary to promote their warped ends. Some people believe that as we fight against antisemitism, our goal should be to prove to progressives that Jews belong in the ranks of the oppressed, that not all of us are white and privileged. But why should we accept the premises of a corrupt and corrupting ideology that stands against the most basic liberal values? We need not push ourselves into organizations whose ideology denies our equal rights and moral worth. And we must not abandon our Zionism or deny our identity in order to fight for a better future, because this so-called better future will then be rotten from the core.” [Tablet]
Poison Ivy: In City Journal, Tevi Troy explores the underlying issues beneath the relationship between Ivy League schools and Jewish students today. “Ironically, it is this very concept of pluralism that is under attack at universities — especially at those considered the most prestigious. This anti-pluralism aims to close off debate. And this same anti-intellectualism is behind the effort to block Jewish admissions and trying to mute and intimidate those who do make it. It’s no coincidence that colleges and universities are rejecting their liberal foundations at the same time that hostility to Jews rises. By questioning everything and accepting that not all questions have answers, Judaism offers a bracing contrast — even a dangerous counter — to today’s cancel culture. Those who have no questions, and purport to have all the answers, are the ones targeting Jews and seeking to drive them away. The current situation facing some Jewish students on college campuses, and the Jewish reaction to these trends, evokes a disturbing historical parallel. Nations that have antagonized Jews, and have seen Jews flee in response, often were experiencing a deeper rot and corruption. History is littered with nations, from Imperial Spain to Czarist and then Soviet Russia to Nazi Germany, whose underlying problems were worsened by government-sponsored scapegoating and driving away of Jews. Persecution of the Jews did not always cause those nations’ decline, but it was a signal that it was coming.” [CityJournal]
Lessons Learned: The Washington Post’s Max Boot looks at the similarities between the wars being fought by Israel and Ukraine, and the lessons that can be learned from both. “As of this writing, the outcomes in both Gaza and Ukraine remain uncertain. We don’t know whether Ukraine will receive the support it desperately needs from Washington, given growing Republican isolationism; if it doesn’t, the results could be catastrophic. In the case of Israel, it’s not clear whether the IDF will have the time it wants to destroy Hamas amid growing global outrage over the number of civilian casualties it is inflicting. Whatever happens in the future, both Israel and Ukraine have already suffered heavy losses because they were caught off-guard by enemy attacks. That should offer an urgent warning to the Pentagon to learn the right lessons from the ongoing conflicts as it prepares its own forces for the wars of the future. As Israel and Ukraine remind us, the price of unreadiness will be paid in blood.” [WashPost]
Unmasking Hate: Commentary’s Seth Mandel writes about the refusal by anti-Israel government employees and activists to publicly defend their beliefs. “Sometimes the cowardice of the anti-Israel coalition is harmless and almost humorous. Last week a bunch of administration employees held a candlelight vigil for Hamas-run Gaza in front of the White House, draped in scarves and keffiyehs. The keffiyehs were not worn by Palestinian staffers, it should be noted, since the Palestinian staffers didn’t attend; they refused to show their eyebrows in public. The keffiyehs were worn by ridiculous people with preposterously inflated egos. But often it is far from harmless, and in fact arguably presents a security threat in itself. The prime example of this is the protesters and rioters who accost passersby, beat and bloody up pedestrians, chase children, and vandalize Jewish-owned storefronts. They, too, cover their faces with keffiyehs, scarves, and masks. Many states and localities still have laws on the books banning masked protest of this sort, stemming from attempts to rein in the public menacing by the Ku Klux Klan.” [Commentary]
Around the Web
Justice Delayed: The Justice Department charged a Lebanese-Colombian Hezbollah operative in connection with the 1984 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that killed 85 people.
Beijing Bluster: Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly warned President Joe Biden in their recent meeting in San Francisco that Beijing intends to unify Taiwan with mainland China, with a timeline yet to be determined.
Swatting Saga: A leaked FBI memo indicated that a nationwide “swatting” spree targeting Jewish institutions around the country was a coordinated effort orchestrated by actors outside the U.S.
Harvard Headache: Harvard President Claudine Gay has failed to address allegations of plagiarism from her PhD, separate from those which she recently corrected, according to CNN. A Republican-led House committee is expanding its probe into elite universities to include the allegations against Gay.
Meta Move: Politicoreports on a Facebook post by Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA), in which the Squad member accused AIPAC of being “an existential threat to the Black community.”
Seafaring Concerns: Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) led 10 bipartisan colleagues on a letter expressing concerns about Iran’s increased use of “ghost ships” and “dark fleets” to avoid U.S. oil sanctions.
Paint Problem: The Lincoln Memorial is temporarily shuttered after an incident in which anti-Israel protesters vandalized the National Mall site with red paint that read “Free Gaza.”
Exchange: The U.S. freed Colombian national Alex Saab with close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in exchange for 10 Americans imprisoned in Venezuela, as well as a fugitive defense contractor; Saab was arrested in 2020 during a refueling stop in Cape Verde while he was acting as a diplomat from Caracas headed to negotiate fuel shipments and humanitarian aid with Iran.
Media Merger: David Zaslav and Bob Bakish, respectively the CEOs of Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global, are discussing a potential merger of the companies.
Hedging Bets: The Wall Street Journal looks at the shift and flop of a new strategy used by Benjamin Stein and Zachary Sternberg’s Spruce House hedge fund and their current recovery efforts.
Something Sold: Arielle Charnas is selling her Something Navy clothing company in a fire sale.
Coming Soon: The Tikvah Fund announced the opening next fall of the Emet Classical Academy, a Jewish day school that plans to emphasize “the majesty of Western civilization.”
Studying SJP:The Forwarddoes a deep dive into the history of Students for Justice in Palestine, as many campus chapters of the group come under scrutiny for their backing of Hamas’ terror attacks against Israel.
Big Apple Concerns: The New York Timestalks to Jewish New Yorkers about the spike in antisemitism in the city.
New York State of Crime: The Jewish man who was beaten by pro-Palestinian protestors in New York two years ago urged state politicians to hold demonstrators accountable for their actions. Mohammed Othman, the fourth of five people charged in the attack, was sentenced yesterday to five-and-a-half years in prison.
Judge’s Ruling: A 13-year-old boy was charged with misdemeanor inducing panic and misdemeanor disorderly conduct after he allegedly planned a shooting at Temple Israel synagogue in Ohio. The judge gave the teenager a year probation and ruled that he must write a book report on Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
Haniyeh’s Rejection: Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh, in Cairo for talks on the Israel-Hamas war, rejected an Israeli-offered pause in fighting for one week in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages, saying the terror group will not discuss releasing hostages until a cease-fire is in place.
Blame Game: The Wall Street Journal looks at the shift in support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip as Palestinians in the enclave begin to blame the terror group for starting the war with Israel.
Gruesome Job: The Times of Israelinterviews one of three members of a medical team that determines the deaths of hostages still in the Gaza Strip.
Crossing Red Lines: The Shurat Hadin legal organization is suing the Red Cross on behalf of an Israeli woman who was held hostage by Hamas in Gaza for almost two months and denied access to the medicine she takes for a chronic illness and her husband, who remains a hostage.
Francis’ Friends: Pope Francis discussed the values of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity with the judging committee, which includes chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Rabbi Abraham Cooper.
Plot Twist: An Iranian plot to assassinate two British-Iranian news presenters in London whose news reports have included criticism of the Islamic republic was exposed by a double agent.
New Initiative: William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was named the first chair of the J7, the Large Jewish Communities’ Task Force Against Antisemitism, which convened in Paris this week.
Pic of the Day
The families of Yarden and Shiri Bibas, who were kidnapped by Hamas along with their sons Ariel and Kfir, celebrated the completion of a Sefer Torah alongside a Long Island family that sponsored the Torah outside the remains of the Bibas’ home in Nir Oz, Israel. The Torah’s final letters were written at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv.
Film, television and voice actor, Barry Gordon turns 75…
Former minister and member of Knesset for more than 36 years, David Levy turns 86… Former chair of the NY Fed and a partner at Goldman Sachs, Stephen Friedman turns 86… Producer of over 90 plays on and off Broadway for which she has won seven Pulitzer Prizes and ten Tony Awards, Daryl Roth turns 79… Born in Auschwitz five weeks before liberation, she is one of only two babies born there known to have survived, Angela Orosz-Richt turns 79… Artistic director laureate of the New World Symphony, conductor, pianist and composer, Michael Tilson Thomas (family name was Thomashefsky) turns 79… Member of Knesset since 1999 for the Likud party, now serving as Minister of Tourism, Haim Katz turns 76… Director of the LA Initiative at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, he was a member of the LA County Board of Supervisors for 20 years following 20 years on the LA City Council, Zev Yaroslavsky turns 75… CEO of WndrCo and the former CEO of DreamWorks Animation and chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg turns 73… Former member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, where she became the first female Jewish minister in Australia, Marsha Rose Thomson turns 68… Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney and behind-the-scenes fixture in the world of rap musicians, Drew O. Findling… Retired four-star general who served as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, David L. Goldfein turns 64… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin turns 61… Senior NFL insider for ESPN, Adam Schefter turns 57… Owner of Liberty Consultants in the Tampa / St. Petersburg area, Cherie Velez… Former member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Rachel Azaria turns 46… President of France since 2017, Emmanuel Macron turns 46… Principal of Kona Media and Message, he is also the founder of Scriber, Brian Goldsmith… Israeli actor and fashion model, Michael Mario Lewis turns 36… Chief creative officer of Five Seasons Media, Josh Scheinblum… EVP in the financial services practice at Weber Shandwick, Julia Bloch Mellon… Assistant metro editor for the Boston Globe, Joshua Miller…