Good Monday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Egyptian author Dalia Ziada, who fled the country after criticizing Cairo’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war, and look at the special election race shaping up in New York’s 3rd Congressional District. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Reps. Dan Goldman and Becca Balint, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Chen Goldstein-Almog.
Israelis emerged from a weekend of shock, anger and mourning after IDF soldiers shot and killed three hostages in Gaza on Friday, Jewish Insider Senior Political Correspondent Lahav Harkov reports. The incident led the Israeli government to consider re-entering negotiations to release the remaining 129 Israelis kidnapped by Hamas, with Mossad head David Barnea meeting with Qatar’s prime minister on Friday night.
Having either escaped captivity or been abandoned by their captors in Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya, Israeli hostages Yotam Haim, Samer Talalka and Alon Shamriz emerged shirtless from a building, with one holding a makeshift white flag, according to the initial IDF investigation. A soldier, who believed the situation was a trap by Hamas, yelled “terrorists,” and opened fire, killing two of the hostages. The third was wounded and fled.
When the shooting stopped, according to the IDF assessment, he yelled “help” in Hebrew and came out of the building where he was hiding, at which point another soldier shot and killed him. The bodies were brought back to Israel to be identified, where they were found to be Israeli hostages.
The words “SOS,” “save us” and “3 hostages,” were written on another building nearby using food on bedsheets that were hung out of windows. IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari said the matter would be further investigated.
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy made clear on Sunday that the soldiers’ behavior violated Israel’s rules of engagement. “If you see someone with a white flag, do you shoot them? Absolutely not. That is not the IDF,” Halevy told soldiers in Gaza. “Even if someone fought us, if he puts down his weapon and raises his hands, we capture him. We don’t shoot him.”
The IDF’s admission that its soldiers killed three hostages immediately sparked protests, a rare occurrence on a Friday night. “Hostages Square,” the Tel Aviv site where the families and their supporters gather daily, was moved from a short distance away to the area in front of the Kirya, the Defense Ministry and IDF high command’s headquarters in central Tel Aviv.
The government’s response has been to give Mossad chief David Barnea the green light to re-enter negotiations via Qatar to free the Israeli hostages who remain in Gaza, an Israeli diplomatic source told JI. Any deal would have to start where the last one left off, releasing children and women first. CIA Director Bill Burns will meet today in Warsaw with Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference on Saturday night that the news that the hostages were killed “broke my heart — it broke the entire nation’s heart” and that he is “haunted by one thought: ‘what would have happened if we did something differently.’” Still, the prime minister expressed determination, at the press conference and at a cabinet meeting the following day, that Israel would continue fighting.
“I appreciate U.S. support for Israel very much,” Netanyahu said. “I repeat to our friends: We are determined more than ever to continue to the end, until we destroy Hamas, until we bring back all of our hostages, until we ensure that in Gaza there will be no one educating for terrorism, funding terrorism and directing terrorism.”
That was the message Netanyahu said he conveyed to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who said during a trip to Israel last week that the IDF needs to end the phase of intense fighting in Gaza and move to more scaled-down and precise warfare. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. arrived in Israel on Sunday to relay the same message and emphasize the importance of civilian safety.
Other friends of Israel took the message further than Washington, with U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock penning an article in The Sunday Times calling for “a sustainable cease-fire,” underscoring President Joe Biden’s statement last week that Israel is starting to lose support from Europe for its war.
Stateside, Democratic Majority for Israel’s political arm, DMFI PAC, is releasing its first round of House endorsements for the 2024 cycle, backing a record 81 incumbents seeking reelection in contests across the country. Among the most notable endorsees are Reps. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Bill Foster (D-IL) and Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), who are each facing primary challenges from Israel critics, in DMFI PAC’s assessment.
The group, which has indicated that it will be spending heavily next year, has yet to confirm whether it will support any challengers now vying to unseat a range of Squad members, even as it has all but officially endorsed at least one candidate, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who is running against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). Last week, DMFI PAC circulated a fundraising email urging supporters to contribute to Latimer’s campaign.
For one acclaimed Egyptian author and activist, speaking out against Hamas has come with a price
Like many others in the Middle East, when Dalia Ziada, an acclaimed Egyptian author and civil rights activist, woke up to the news of fighting between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, she thought it was just another round of clashes between the old foes, who for 16 years have regularly exchanged tit-for-tat rockets and airstrikes. At least that was how it was being reported in the Arabic media in her home country, Ziada, 41, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash in an interview last week.
A different version of events: Two days later, however, the longtime participant in interfaith programs between Jews and Muslims was invited to join a video conference call organized by Israel’s Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs. The presentation included the screening of footage from Israeli CCTV cameras and bodycam images filmed by Hamas terrorists themselves as they carried out barbaric atrocities against Israeli civilian communities and revelers at a mass music festival.
Exposing the truth: “As soon as I finished watching, I decided I had to tell the truth,” stated Ziada. With some 88,000 followers on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Ziada wrote a post taking Egyptian media to task for whitewashing Hamas’ actions on Oct. 7. “I wrote ‘our media is lying, here is the truth, here is what happened,’” she recalled.
On air: Ziada, who has a reputation as a well-respected commentator on regional issues, was then invited by the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies to speak about the reaction in Egypt to Hamas’ attack and Israel’s retaliatory war in Gaza. She recorded two podcasts with senior researcher Ofir Winter – one in English and one in Arabic. While she condemned “every drop of blood that is shed, whether Palestinian or Israel,” Ziada also noted that she fully supported Israel’s efforts to eliminate Hamas.
Driven out: Before Ziada realized it, she was being attacked not only online but also in person, with radical Islamists calling to take “revenge” against her for her comments. Extremist Salafists and other supporters of Hamas filed a criminal complaint against her with Egypt’s state prosecutor. Other Islamist extremists supporters visited her mother’s home in an attempt to “hunt” her down amid accusations that she was with a Zionist spy and sympathizer. When Ziada tried to argue that she had committed no crime and that Egypt has a decades-old peace agreement with Israel, the authorities, she said, shrugged, a non-committal response that prompted her decision to avoid potential arrest and flee the country.
Tom Suozzi argues he’ll be a Democratic bulwark against the hard left in Congress
While in Congress, former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), who is now seeking to reclaim his old seat in the special election to replace ousted Rep. George Santos (R-NY), liked to boast that he was among the most reliable non-Jewish Democratic votes on legislation supporting Israel. But as he makes his case to Jewish voters who represent a potentially decisive swing coalition on Long Island, Suozzi, 61, finds himself facing off against a formidable Republican rival, Mazi Melesa Pilip, whose compelling biography and strong personal ties to Israel threaten to overshadow his well-tested pitch, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Dem demand: In an interview with JI on Friday, the former three-term lawmaker said there was no doubt Pilip “would be another Republican voice that is pro-Israel,” but added that it would be more “valuable” to elect a a pro-Israel Democrat — at a moment when his party has grown increasingly divided on standing with Israel in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks. “Anybody who cares about Israel and wants the relationship between America and Israel to remain strong and bipartisan, I would argue that another Republican voice is not what’s needed right now,” Suozzi reasoned. “What’s needed is a strong Democratic voice. It’s just very needed at this time.”
‘Out of context’: Whether his argument will persuade voters in the Feb. 13 election remains to be seen, particularly as Pilip and her allies seek to cast Suozzi as aligned with the far left, citing comments from a 2019 TV interview in which he expressed solidarity with the Squad after former President Donald Trump had attacked the group in social media remarks widely viewed as racist. In a statement to JI on Sunday, Suozzi said his comments have been taken out of context and that he had defended the Squad because Trump’s call for its members to “go back” to the countries they came from, which he described as “un-American,” had been made about his “Italian immigrant father after he returned from fighting in World War II.”
Staying neutral: Marshall Wittmann, a spokesperson for AIPAC, indicated that the bipartisan pro-Israel group would not be engaging in the race, expressing satisfaction with both candidates’ records on Israel. “Both candidates have reflected the overwhelming bipartisan support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and Israel’s fight to remove Hamas from Gaza,” he said in a statement to JI on Sunday.
crossing red lines
Goldman, Balint express ‘profound concern’ about Red Cross’ response to Oct. 7, hostage situation
Reps. Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Becca Balint (D-VT) condemned the International Committee of the Red Cross’ response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and ongoing hostage situation in a letter to the president of the humanitarian organization sent this morning, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Profound concern: “We write to express our profound concern at your lack of response to the recent war crimes perpetrated by terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (“PIJ”), including the illegal abduction of civilian hostages following the brutal events of October 7 and their continued captivity in horrific conditions,” the two lawmakers, who are both Jewish, wrote.
Failed duty: “Given the widely-known depravity of the conditions of captivity, and the lack of public statements from the ICRC regarding such conditions or demanding access to the Hostages, we request answers to the questions enumerated below regarding why your organization has failed to properly execute its duty to ensure their care and protection, including the role, if any, that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries in the region have played in assisting or obstructing your efforts,” the letter continues.
Urgent need: Highlighting the grave reports from released hostages and the dire conditions of the remaining hostages, they argued that the ICRC’s “intervention to attend to the hostages is required immediately.” The letter comes amid intensifying scrutiny of the ICRC’s response to the Hamas conflict, driven in part by the families of the hostages. In meetings with lawmakers over the past two months, they have frequently urged lawmakers to put more pressure on the ICRC to fulfill its duties and communicate with the families.
Elsewhere on the Hill: Senate Republicans are signalinginternally that border policy talks won’t be finalized until January, meaning that the Senate is increasingly unlikely to pass the Israel and Ukraine aid bill before its Christmas break this week. Some conservative Republicans are also signaling their opposition to the way the talks have been conducted in general. The development is likely to frustrate some Democrats who had sought tokeep the Senate in session until it passes the aid bill.
Qatar-funded experts tell hostages’ relatives not to criticize Doha
The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which receives substantial funding from the Government of Qatar, advised the families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza not to criticize the Gulf state, which is a major financial backer of Hamas. A source who advised hostages’ families said that the Richardson Center told them that “pressure on Qatar would be counterproductive because Qatar holds all the leverage,” Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Background: The Richardson Center “promotes global peace and dialogue by identifying and working on areas of opportunity for engagement and citizen diplomacy with countries and communities not usually open to more formal diplomatic channels,” according to its mission statement. One of the ways it does this is to negotiate for the release of hostages, and was involved in the release of American student Otto Warmbier from North Korea and Princeton student Xiyue Wang, and worked with the family of basketball player Brittney Griner when she was imprisoned in Russia.
Qatari cash: In 2019, the center announced a “substantial investment in hostage recovery” from Doha. Richardson Center Vice President and Executive Director Mickey Bergman said at the time that “the funding provided by Qatar will allow us to expand our team, engage in more on the ground activities, and provide even greater support to families in their darkest hours.”
Regional role: Doha has sought to make itself an essential player in the region, maintaining good relations with Washington – the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar hosts 8,000 U.S. military personnel – while serving as a conduit to pariah states and terrorist groups, like Hamas, the Taliban, and others. Qatar hosts Hamas’ political office, including leaders Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh, and has transferred nearly $2 billion. to the Palestinian terrorist group since it took over Gaza in 2007. “This is what we can do that nobody else can do,” Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said to AFP last month.
Spotlight on SJP: The New Yorker’s Emma Green spotlights the efforts of anti-Israel campus group Students for Justice in Palestine. “A rising generation of scholars identifies with a new subfield, settler-colonial studies, and a new journal was created to explore this framework, which posits that powerful nations resettle new peoples in conquered territories in order to permanently alter their character and make use of their resources. These ideas have gained significant traction in the academic disciplines that have expressed the most support for Palestine: associations for American studies, critical ethnic studies, Indigenous studies, and several others have voted to support the B.D.S. — or Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — movement, which aims to end international support for Israel. As these younger scholars have crafted syllabi and designed courses on these subjects, their students have helped their ideas make the jump into the popular imagination. In the hands of activists, dense concepts are transformed into digestible slogans, with terms like ‘settler colonialism’ sliding easily into Instagram posts. When I spoke with students involved with S.J.P., they insisted that what’s happening in Gaza is not “complicated.” Instead, they cited these academic concepts as evidence that Israel — ‘the Zionist entity’ — can be understood solely as an oppressive, colonial power, settled by a non-Indigenous population at the ongoing expense of native Palestinians.” [NewYorker]
Biden vs. Bibi: TheAtlantic’s Yair Rosenberg looks at the Biden administration’s strategy vis-a-vis Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “As both vice president and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden had a front-row seat to these failures. So did his close-knit foreign-policy team, including longtime staffers such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Recognizing the errors of the past, they have charted a different course aimed at outmaneuvering Netanyahu, seeking to succeed where their predecessors did not. This approach predates the current Gaza conflict, but has reached full expression in the past months. It explains why Biden has full-throatedly supported Israel against Hamas while simultaneously assailing the country’s hard-right governing coalition. And it offers a glimpse at the administration’s intended endgame for the war — and for Netanyahu himself.” [TheAtlantic]
Community Concerns: In Tablet magazine, Julia Hahn, a former White House communications official during the Trump administration, considers how administrations’ policies affect the American Jewish community. “Allowing political manipulators to play on the fears of a besieged community by convincing them to act against their own interests is worse than manipulative — it is sick and sadistic. Instead of signing on, American Jews need to be clear about their own interests and opt out of the political verticals that are pushing them to engage in self-harm. We cannot be sidetracked from squarely facing threats to our lives and to our hard-won positions in American life. ‘The Jewish principle of tikkun olam’ is not a commandment by which G-d Almighty mandates voting for the Democratic Party, nor is it a commandment that decrees the expansion of Jew-hating DEI bureaucracies into every corner of American institutional and corporate life.” [Tablet]
Seeing Crimson: In The Wall Street Journal, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recounts his experience observing an anti-Israel demonstration at his alma mater, Harvard. “As a U.S. senator who has been through two election campaigns, I’ve had plenty of iPhones aggressively shoved in my face by members of radical groups. Nevertheless, I was shocked and, again, ashamed of my alma mater. All of this — the anti-Israel protests, the big banner, the fliers, the iPhones, the taunting questions — took place inside the Widener Library, a revered place of quiet study for tens of thousands of Harvard students and alumni. My thoughts then turned to Harvard undergrads. Imagine if you were an 18-year-old Jewish or Israeli student, or even a pro-Israel Catholic like me, and you wanted to study for your chemistry final in the Widener Reading Room on a Sunday morning. Imagine being confronted by this protest, obviously condoned by Harvard’s leadership and commandeered by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the group behind the notorious statement that holds ‘the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence’ in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
Post-Roe: Jeff Roe, the top adviser to Never Back Down, the deep-pocketed super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid, abruptly resigned from the job Saturday. It means the outside organization that funded the DeSantis advertising and field programs, along with some of the candidate’s travel and events, has been greatly downsized.
Michigan Malaise: President Biden’s political woes have gotten so significant that Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), running for the Senate, has expressed concern that she may not be able to win her race if Biden is at the top of the ticket, according to the Washington Post.
Targeted Threats: More than 200 synagogues and other Jewish facilities across 17 states were the subject of widespread bomb threats and “swatting” attacks over the weekend.
Antisemitic Attack: Authorities in Washington arrested a man outside of Kesher Israel Congregation who sprayed a substance on two people while yelling, “Gas the Jews.”
Presidential Pushback: Israeli President Isaac Herzog pushed back against calls for a restarting of talks aimed at a two-state solution, saying the country is still in a state of trauma as it reels from the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Coons’ Qualms: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “exceptionally difficult partner” on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Indyk’s Outrage: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk accused Netanyahu of lying to world leaders about supporting a two-state solution after the Israeli prime minister boasted during a press conference that he had prevented the emergence of a Palestinian state.
Hostage Spotlight: Israeli hostage Chen Goldstein-Almog, whose husband and daughter were killed on Oct. 7 recounts in The New York Times her seven weeks in Hamas captivity alongside her surviving children; CBS’ “60 Minutes” interviews Alon and Yarden Gat, who were taken hostage by Hamas.
Candid Camera: The IDF released video of the largest Gaza tunnel discovered to date, wide enough for vehicles to drive through.
Money Matters: Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced a bill seeking to block Iran’s access to funding through the International Monetary Fund.
Attorney’s Accountability: Nineteen Republican House members wrote to the Department of Veterans Affairs calling for accountability for a VA attorney who posted a video mocking Israelis demanding the return of hostages held by Hamas.
Teen Suspect: A 13-year-old boy in Canton, Ohio, was arrested and charged with planning a mass shooting at a local synagogue.
Bye, Bialik: “Jeopardy!” interim co-host Mayim Bialik said that Sony had removed her as a host of the popular game show, which going forward will be hosted solely by former “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings.
Reform Rift: The Washington Post looks at divides in the Reform Jewish community over the Israel-Hamas war.
Union Label: Dozens of New York Times staffers formed an “independent caucus” within the NewsGuild-CWA amid concerns over the union’s recent tilt toward advocacy.
Flight Fury: British Airways is pausing plans to make available for viewing on its flights a British sitcom about a Jewish family, saying in a statement citing the Israel-Hamas war that the airline wishes to “remain as neutral in these situations as possible.”
AI Fury:The National News looks at the role artificial intelligence is playing in Israel’s military activities in Gaza, diminishing Hamas’ capabilities on the ground.
Poll Problems: Even as public support for Israel’s war against Hamas remains high in Israel, recent polling of the Palestinian public shows record support for the terror group, pollster Stephan Miller writes in Euronews.
Capital Punishment: Iran executed a man convicted of spying for Israel’s Mossad.
Spy Story: The Washington Postinterviews former CIA spy Thomas Ahern about his time as a hostage in Iran following the publication of Ahern’s memoir about his time at the agency.
Remembering: Chicago philanthropist and businessman Charles “Corky” Goodman died at 90. Guy Stern, who came to the U.S. as a teenage refugee and returned to Nazi Europe to interrogate Nazis as one of the “Ritchie Boys,” died at 101. Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah died at 96. Ad man Neil Drossman, whose clients included 1-800-Flowers and Meow Mix, died at 83. Film producer Mort Engelberg, who dabbled in presidential campaign work, died at 86.
Pic of the Day
Pro-Israel supporters in Cape Town hold a giant Israeli flag in support of Israel at Lagoon beach on Saturday.
Special envoy of Israel’s Foreign Ministry to combat antisemitism, former member of the Knesset, Michal Cotler-Wunsh turns 53…
Founder of supply chain firm HAVI, active in over 100 countries, in 2019 he and his wife Harriette pledged $25 million to BBYO, Theodore F. Perlman turns 87… Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Medicine, he served as director of NIH for seven years and then director of the National Cancer Institute for 15 years, Harold Eliot Varmus turns 84… Office manager in the D.C. office of Kator, Parks, Weiser & Wright, Ramona Cohen… Co-founder of DreamWorks Studios, Academy Award-winning director of “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” plus many other box-office record-setters like “E.T.” and “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg turns 77… Member of the House of Representatives since 2009 (R-FL), William Joseph (Bill) Posey turns 76… Former CFO of the Pentagon in the Bush 43 administration, he is presently a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dov S. Zakheim turns 75… Film critic, historian and author of 14 books on cinema, Leonard Maltin turns 73… Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics, professor at both Stanford and Harvard, Alvin Eliot Roth turns 72… Network engineer sometimes called “the mother of the Internet” for her inventions of the spanning-tree protocol (STP) and the TRILL protocol, Radia Joy Perlman turns 72… Diplomat and ambassador, now President Biden’s special envoy for humanitarian issues in Gaza, David Michael Satterfield turns 69… Television writer, producer and director, best known as the co-creator and executive producer of the award-winning series “24,” Joel Surnow turns 68… Labor leader and president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten turns 66… Founder and chief executive of Third Point LLC, Daniel S. Loeb turns 62… Retired editor of The Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard turns 59… Member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Gael Grunewald turns 59… Director of development at American Friends of ALYN Hospital, Erica Skolnick… Partner at the communications firm 30 Point Strategies, formerly a speechwriter and Jewish liaison in the Bush 43 White House, Noam Neusner… Motivational speaker and teacher, his book about his own coping with Tourette syndrome was made into a Hallmark movie, Brad Cohen turns 50… Member of the House of Representatives (D-FL) since earlier this year, Jared Moskowitz turns 43… Director of policy for New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul, Micah Lasher… Manager of public policy and government relations for Wing Australia at Google, he was a White House aide in the Bush 43 administration, Jesse Suskin… Senior producer at CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rachel Streitfeld… Multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator, known for his double bass performances, Adam Ben Ezra turns 41… Winner of four straight NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championships while at UCLA, now a VP of business development at Brainard Strategy, Jillian Amaris Kraus turns 37… AVP of external affairs at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Marc Ashed… Eliezer H. (Elie) Peltz… Consultant at Brussels-based Trinomics, Jessica Glicker… Senior associate at Dataminr, Emily Cooper…