Good Wednesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we preview tonight’s GOP presidential debate and report on yesterday’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing with the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT about campus antisemitism. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Jonathan Greenblatt, Julia Ioffe and Morgan Ortagus.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has the most at stake in tonight’s GOP presidential debate, now narrowed down to four challengers to former President Donald Trump: Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
The debate will be held in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and co-hosted by NewsNation, “The Megyn Kelly Show” on SiriusXM, The Washington Free Beacon and Rumble.
Haley, as the Trump challenger with the most momentum, will likely be facing fire from all three of her rivals. DeSantis, attempting to consolidate conservative support to perform well in Iowa, will want to paint his rival as too aligned with the Republican establishment. He’ll need to cap her support to the college-educated, Trump-skeptical voters that make up a big part of her coalition — and prevent her from making inroads with his base of grassroots conservatives.
Christie, who barely qualified for the debate and is facing calls from some top donors to drop out, is competing against Haley for more moderate voters in New Hampshire. The big question for Christie is whether he’ll aggressively go after Haley — which would be in his narrow self-interest — or whether he’ll be more focused on prosecuting the case against Trump.
Ramaswamy, who has been fading in the polls but holds appeal with the anti-establishment wing of the party, will also likely be a Haley thorn — given his isolationist views on foreign policy and out of a desire to exact revenge on her jabs at him in the previous debates.
Trump remains the clear favorite for the GOP nomination. DeSantis’ campaign is feuding with its well-funded super PAC, and struggling to make the inroads it needs in Iowa. And even if Haley emerges as a capable challenger to Trump, she’ll face steep challenges winning over the populist MAGA wing of the party, much of which views her skeptically.
The case for a DeSantis comeback requires a close second-place finish in Iowa, which could give him momentum, or at least revive a struggling campaign. But his reliance on social conservative support in Iowa would still make it tough to make a rebound in New Hampshire, with its more moderate GOP electorate.
The case for Haley to emerge as a credible challenger to Trump is clearer: Tie or finish ahead of DeSantis in Iowa (despite his organizational advantages), parlay that into a close race against Trump in New Hampshire, and win her home state of South Carolina. With the Trump trial in D.C. scheduled to begin just before Super Tuesday, which falls on March 5, it would give an opportunity for a broader swath of GOP voters to reassess whether Trump is their best choice.
Haley is also getting an infusion of campaign cash from new supporters in recent days: She raised over $500,000 at a major New York fundraiser on Monday held at the home of Campbell Brown, according to sources familiar with the event. Haley spoke about the importance of supporting Israel in its war against Hamas and fighting against antisemitism.
“October 7 felt like a wake-up call. Larger number of donors want to back a candidate who is serious and engaged in foreign policy. Nikki is definitely tapping into that,” one participant told JI.
Despite the momentum for Haley, the elephant in the room for tonight’s debate is the one who’s not onstage. Trump holds commanding leads in national polls and healthy leads in the early states, with less than two months left until the first contests.
Most significantly, his political standing against President Joe Biden is healthy enough that leading publications are already warning about a second Trump term, and all the volatile consequences.
Calling for genocide of Jews doesn’t violate school policy, university presidents tell
Pressed by lawmakers on Wednesday, presidents of three top universities all refused to say that calling for the genocide of Jews was inherently a violation of their campus policies on harassment and bullying. The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who have come under scrutiny for their responses to antisemitic incidents on their campuses, testified about antisemitism on their campuses before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce yesterday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
‘Depends on the context’: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) pressed each leader on whether calls for Jewish genocide — which she said were embodied in “intifada” chants heard on campuses across the country — violated their schools’ policies. None of the three presidents offered a direct or affirmative answer. “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes,” Penn President Liz Magill said. “It is a context-dependent decision.” Stefanik shot back, incredulous: “Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide? The speech is not harassment?” Harvard President Claudine Gay also said “it depends on the context,” and MIT President Sally Kornbluth answered that it could constitute harassment “if the speech turns into conduct.” Stefanik described the answers they provided as “dehumanizing” Jewish students.
Protecting free speech: The presidents’ responses echoed answers that they had provided throughout the hearing. They disavowed antisemitism and hateful conduct, but generally said that hateful speech is protected by their campus policies and the First Amendment unless it crosses over into action. They often declined or refused to offer specific details on how or whether they had disciplined or would discipline students involved in antisemitic activity that appeared to violate their policies. They also evaded direct questions about what sorts of comments would be unacceptable on their campuses.
Students’ response: Students from the schools said their administrators’ responses were insufficient. Talia Khan, a graduate student at MIT and president of the MIT Israel Alliance, told JI, “Mostly it was just lip service — it was the same lip service that we’ve heard the whole time.” Khan, who attended the Tuesday hearing, said that Kornbluth’s responses to Stefanik’s question were “horrendous” and “crazy.” “If anyone were, God forbid, calling for the genocide of any other ethnic group, for sure those people would be kicked off campus,” Khan said. “The only time it’s a controversy is just because it’s Jewish people. And it was textbook dehumanization of Jews.”
Antisemitism, anti-Zionism resolution splits Democratic caucus
The House Democratic caucus nearly split in half yesterday afternoon over a resolution condemning antisemitism and describing anti-Zionism as antisemitic, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The resolution, which also expressed support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, passed by a 311-14 vote, with a surprisingly high number of 92 Democrats voting “present” and 13 voting no. The vote came shortly after a House Republican lawmaker posted a meme that critics described as antisemitism.
Vote breakdown: The lawmakers who voted against the resolution include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Summer Lee (D-PA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Delia Ramirez (D-IL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). Connolly, who represents a district with a significant Jewish population and generally does not fall within the farthest anti-Israel fringe of his party, was the most notable vote against the resolution.
Behind the scenes: The present votes came following an appeal from three progressive Jewish lawmakers — Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) — who accused the Republicans of “weaponiz[ing] Jewish pain and the serious problem of antisemitism to score cheap political points.” The resolution is “beneath the dignity of Congress and it is an affront to Jews everywhere,” they said in a statement. They added that the resolution “does not account for the complexity of Judaism itself,” such as the anti-Zionist Satmar sect.
Massie’s meme: Hours before voting no, Massie shared a meme that appeared to squarely violate the resolution’s standards regarding antisemitism. Massie’s post on X accused Congress of prioritizing “Zionism” over “American patriotism,” and featured a pair of images of the Jewish rapper Drake. The Republican Jewish Coalition, the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) condemned Massie but House Republican leaders did not respond to requests for comment.
Read the full story here.
on the hill
$1 billion for nonprofit security grants included in Senate supplemental aid bill
The Senate’s supplemental aid bill for Israel and other U.S. allies will also include an unprecedented $1 billion in additional funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod scooped yesterday, an enormous jump in funding for the program that has been severely oversubscribed.
Big change: The program was funded at $305 million last year, fulfilling less than half of applications. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was the first to publicly propose the $1 billion additional appropriation for the program, well outpacing the requests to that point from other lawmakers and Jewish groups, who had been pushing for additional funding to be included in the emergency national security bill. The Senate will take a preliminary procedural vote on the bill on Wednesday, which is expected to fail due to Republicans’ demands for sweeping border policy changes.
No conditions: Notably, the supplemental bill does not add any new conditions on U.S. aid to Israel, a major blow to the faction of progressives who had been seeking, at minimum, more specific language around existing regulations on U.S. foreign aid.
Path ahead: The Senate will take a preliminary procedural vote on the bill on Wednesday, which is expected to fail due to Republicans’ demands for sweeping border policy changes. The path to passing the bill remains murky, after Republicans stormed out of a classified briefing on Ukraine and Israel yesterday due to the ongoing dispute over border policy.
Read the full story here.
Iran action: Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) led 30 Republican colleagues on a letter urging full enforcement of steel sanctions on Iran. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) led seven colleagues on a new bill requiring that any nuclear agreement with Iran be ratified as a treaty and conditioning it on the termination of financial and other partnerships with China, the end of Iranian support for terrorism, the destruction of all Iranian chemical weapons and the end of the incarceration of the Uyghurs in China.
Hamas drugged hostages before releasing them
Hamas gave Israeli hostages tranquilizers to make them appear to be in good spirits when their release was filmed, an Israeli Health Ministry official confirmed on Tuesday. The revelation came during a Knesset Health Committee meeting on the health conditions of the 110 civilian hostages returned to Israel from Gaza last week, in a swap for Palestinians held on terrorism-related charges, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Keeping up appearances: Some large accounts on X, TikTok and other social media had claimed that hostages looked at the Hamas terrorists who were handing them over to the International Red Cross with affection. Yet Likud lawmaker Moshe Saada said he heard from hostages’ families that “they were given all kinds of pills so that they feel high.”
Hypnotic properties: “Is that true?” Saada asked. Ronit Endevelt, head of the Nutrition Department in Israel’s Health Ministry, said “yes.” “That’s something the public didn’t know,” Saada continued. “What kind of pills?” Health Ministry Head of General Medicine Hagar Mizrahi responded that they were given “Clonex, to improve their mood.” Clonex is the Israeli brand name for what is known in America as Klonopin, a tranquilizer of the benzodiazepine class. It is a sedative and muscle relaxant with hypnotic properties that takes effect within an hour. It can give those who take it a euphoric feeling, and is sometimes used as a recreational drug.
JI INTERVIEW SERIES
Inside the Newsroom: Jonathan Greenblatt
Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar sat down with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt yesterday to talk about the rise of antisemitism and how to most effectively combat it, his recent conversation with Elon Musk and his thoughts on whether DEI programs are systemically antisemitic.
DEI dilemma: “We live in an incredibly heterogeneous country, maybe the most diverse country on the planet Earth, right, a multitude of religions, a multitude of ethnicities, a multitude of identities and to be competitive and to be successful in this heterogeneous world I think our young people, all of us, really need to know how to navigate it effectively,” Greenblatt said. “However, if you are teaching Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and that involves the exclusion of Jews you are doing it wrong. If you think diversity, equity and inclusion, and that involves the… sanitizing the extermination of Israelis you are doing it wrong. And so I do think that DEI needs to be reformed dramatically to make sure that it is actually delivering on its promise.”
On Musk missteps: “I will not be a part of this whole cancel culture phenomenon. I won’t cancel culture because they get it wrong, and by the way I think cancel culture is not just anti-democratic, it’s anti-Jewish. I mean the Jewish people, our whole tradition is based on discourse, it’s based on debate — I mean the Talmud itself is predicated on this notion of commentary… so we try to live by this ethos — which I’ve talked about publicly — not cancel culture but counsel culture. If someone gets it wrong, we should try to help them get it right… So was it problematic when Elon Musk replied to this random user spreading an antisemitic conspiracy? Yes it was. And so I called him out, and then guess what? He called me up.”
Too Big to Be Antisemites:The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg outlines the ways communities excuse or otherwise ignore antisemitism. “They become too big to fail. Over the past six months, Elon Musk has publicly affirmed the deadliest anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in recent American history, claimed that Jews and Jewish organizations cause anti-Semitism, and echoed extremist conspiracy theories about the Jewish financier George Soros. As a result, the billionaire has lost a few advertisers on his social-media platform, and even got rapped by the White House. But as The New York Times reported, even as the U.S. government criticized Musk, it continued to buy things from him.” [The Atlantic]
Hamas’ Motives: In Puck, Julia Ioffe delves into the conversations in the West Wing surrounding the collapse of the temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and the terrorist group’s refusal to release the remaining female hostages. “Speaking on Monday during his daily briefing, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that “it seems one of the reasons they don’t want to turn women over that they’ve been holding hostage, and the reason this pause fell apart, is because they don’t want these women to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody.’ Three senior administration officials confirmed to me that this is the going hypothesis in the White House: that the Israeli women still in Hamas custody are young, in their 20s and 30s, and Hamas members have raped and sexually assaulted them. ‘Everyone assumes it seems to be the case,’ said one of the sources. ‘It’s quite ugly.’ Said a second senior administration official, ‘That is our going assumption, that at least one reason they’re unwilling to let these young ladies go is that they have been sexually assaulting them.’” [Puck]
Ignorance is Bliss: In The Wall Street Journal, Ron E. Hassner, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses the results of a poll he commissioned that questioned 250 students on their stance on and knowledge, or lack thereof, surrounding the “From the river to the sea,” slogan. “Would learning basic political facts about the conflict moderate students’ opinions? A Latino engineering student from a southern university reported ‘definitely’ supporting ‘from the river to the sea’ because ‘Palestinians and Israelis should live in two separate countries, side by side.’ Shown on a map of the region that a Palestinian state would stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, leaving no room for Israel, he downgraded his enthusiasm for the mantra to ‘probably not.’ Of the 80 students who saw the map, 75% similarly changed their view.” [WSJ]
The Day After: Politico’s Nahal Toosi explores the Biden administration’s efforts to plan for a postwar Gaza. “‘We’re stuck,’ the State Department official said. ‘There’s a strong policy preference for the PA to play a governing role in Gaza, but it has significant legitimacy and capability challenges.’ The broad vision emerging from the internal talks is that of a multiphase reconstruction of Gaza once the heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants ends. An international force will be needed to stabilize the region in the immediate aftermath, followed by a revamped Palestinian Authority taking over long-term. Key parts of the plan include increasing security-related aid that the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs offers the Palestinian Authority and allowing for a bigger role for the U.S. Security Coordinator, which has a track record of advising Palestinian security forces, the officials said. ‘Ultimately, we want to have a Palestinian security structure in post-conflict Gaza,’ a senior Biden administration official said.” [Politico]
Around the Web
Travel Ban: The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will implement visa restrictions against Israelis and Palestinians who have “been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank.” The policy includes “extremist settlers” who have attacked Palestinians. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller made explicit that the policy comes in response to what Washington deems an insufficient response by the Israeli government to escalating violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Not Running: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who briefly served as acting House speaker, announced on Tuesday that will not seek reelection. “I believe there is a season for everything and — for me — this season has come to an end. I look forward to what comes next for my family and me,” McHenry, who plans to finish his two-year term, wrote on X.
Tuberville Blinks: After months of political gamesmanship and without any concessions, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) said he’d release most of the more than 400 holds he has placed on military promotions in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion policy, except those on a handful of four-star generals, who will likely be easier to confirm individually.
Billionaire’s Bucks: WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has donated $5 million more to the super PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, Puck’s Teddy Schleifer reports.
No Good Options: Apollo Global Management CEO Marc Rowan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that he is “disappointed” in the field of presidential candidates and doesn’t have a favorite.
Threat Level: The terror threat facing the U.S. has reached new levels since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in Israel, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Pentagon Probe: The Pentagon has investigated 183 cases of extremism within military ranks, with dozens of soldiers supporting the overthrow of the U.S. government, according to a new Department of Defence report.
Postwar Gaza: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the idea that an international force could demilitarize Gaza after the war against Hamas, arguing during a press conference yesterday that only the Israel Defense Forces could be trusted with that mission. Two U.S. officials, however, toldAxios’ Barak Ravid that Israel is showing more willingness to discuss plans for the future of Gaza.
Tightrope Walk:The New York Times’ Peter Baker explores the internal challenges President Joe Biden faces as he continues to support Israel’s right to defend itself after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.
Rape as a Weapon: Biden called on the international community to forcibly condemn sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. Meanwhile, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) issued a new statement in which she “unequivocally condemns Hamas’ use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war,” following backlash to her response to a question posed by CNN’s Dana Bash on the subject on Sunday. A doctor who treated some of the released hostages told AP that at least 10 men and women among those freed were sexually assaulted or abused.
Army Update: The IDF said its air force struck some 250 terror targets in Gaza over the last day, as intensive battles against armed terror cells continue in the enclave. The military said today that its forces were advancing around the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Rare Apology: In a rare statement, the Israeli army apologized yesterday for killing a Lebanese soldier in a strike on a Hezbollah-linked target.
Against the Grain: Former Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the U.S. should put pressure on Israel to engage in multilateral talks to secure a long-term resolution to the Israel-Hamas war.
Sarandon Sacked: Indie film production company PTO Films has dropped Susan Sarandon from the upcoming film “Slipping Away” because of her antisemitic remarks at a pro-Palestinian rally.
Education Indoctrination: Dozens of public school educators in Oakland, Calif. are planning to present pro-Palestinian lessons on Wednesday as part of an unauthorized teach-in.
Trip Talk: Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates today for meetings focused on the Israel-Hamas war, as Moscow seeks to reassert its role in the region, according to a Guardian report.
Russian Refusal: Moscow rejected a new U.S. offer for the release of detained Americans Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, the State Department said yesterday.
Transition: Trump administration State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus is launching a weekly SiriusXM radio program.
Pic of the Day
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY), right at podium, along with Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) held a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday with the American Jewish Committee and several family members of individuals held hostage in Gaza “to highlight the approaching two months mark since their family members were kidnapped.”
Film and television actress, Gina Hecht turns 70…
Moshe Hochenberg… Former member of the National Assembly of Quebec for 20 years, Lawrence S. Bergman turns 83… Renowned artist whose sculpture, photography, neon and video works appear in museums worldwide, Bruce Nauman turns 82… Israeli-born art collector and producer of over 130 full-length films, Arnon Milchan turns 79… Founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (named after her late sister), she also served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary and chief of protocol of the U.S., Nancy Goodman Brinker turns 77… Senior U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, he serves as a trustee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Judge Dan Aaron Polster turns 72… Cell and molecular biologist, he is the director of research and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, David L. Spector turns 71… Founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark turns 71… Faculty member at Harvard Law School since 1981, she served as Dean of Harvard Law School until 2017, Martha Minow turns 69… Author of a bestselling novel, Arthur Sulzberger Golden turns 67… SVP and general counsel at United Airlines, Robert S. Rivkin turns 63… Former EVP and COO of the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie T. Katzman turns 62… Emmy Award-winning producer, writer, director, actor and comedian, Judd Apatow turns 56… Israel’s minister of education, he was a fighter pilot for the IDF and then a civilian pilot for El Al before entering politics, Yoav Kisch turns 55… Professor of economics at the University of Chicago, he previously served as the chief economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, Michael Greenstone turns 55… Professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, he is a son and grandson of rabbis, Julian E. Zelizer turns 54… Senior director of Milltown Partners, Amir Mizroch turns 48… Managing director in the NYC office of PR firm BerlinRosen, Dan Levitan… Editor-in-chief at The Air Current, Jon Ostrower… Venture capitalist in Israel, Ilan Regenbaum… Licensed community association manager in South Florida, Beth Argaman… Assistant professor in international relations and global politics at the American University of Rome, Andrea Dessì… Joe Blumenthal…