Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on Jewish community concerns over the congressional bid launched by Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s sister, Susheela, in Oregon, and spotlight Vice President Kamala Harris’ elevated role on issues related to postwar Gaza. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Nikki Haley, Etgar Keret and Sheryl Sandberg.
Just under two months after the first campus reactions to the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will testify before Congress this morning about the rise in antisemitism on campus, and their efforts — or lack thereof — to address the situation, Jewish Insider Executive Editor Melissa Weiss reports.
Today’s hearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce is the third campus-focused hearing since the Oct. 7 attacks and subsequent responses by students and faculty, but the first to focus on university administrators, who ultimately bear responsibility for what happens on their campuses.
Harvard was the first university to garner national attention for its response to the terror attacks when dozens of student groups signed on to an open letter blaming Israel for the Hamas’ murderous rampage that killed more than 1,200 people and resulted in more than 200 others being taken hostage. Harvard President Claudine Gay issued three statements over a four-day period addressing the situation on campus, the first of which — responding to the open letter — did not include any mention of Israel.
The University of Pennsylvania had faced criticism in the weeks prior to Oct. 7 for its hosting of a Palestinian literary festival whose speakers included individuals with histories of espousing antisemitic rhetoric. University President Elizabeth Magill, who will testify today in Washington, declined to intervene in the event. In the weeks after the terror attacks in Israel, notable UPenn donors, including former Utah governor, Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Apollo Global Management’s Marc Rowan, cut their giving to the school. Ronald Lauder, a UPenn alum, threatened to end his donations to the Ivy.
Two days ago, hundreds marched through University City — the area of Philadelphia home to UPenn — chanting phrases that are commonly associated with calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and protesting outside of Goldie, a kosher eatery co-owned by Israeli-American restaurateur Mike Solomonov. (The White House condemned the protest, calling the demonstration “[a]ntisemitic and completely unjustifiable.”) Last month, UPenn security officials investigated antisemitic threats made via email to university faculty.
And at MIT, students reported being physically blocked from going to their classes during a 12-hour anti-Israel protest that shut down access to a main thoroughfare on campus. In a statement to the student body, President Sally Kornbluth admitted that some of the students who participated in the protest and did not disperse when directed — in violation of university policy — would not be suspended over concerns that doing so would affect those students’ visas that allow them to study in the U.S.
The Capitol Hill hearing comes days after the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Harvard, following claims from students that the university was not addressing antisemitism on campus.
On Sunday, Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman, an alumnus of Harvard and major donor to the school, penned a nearly 1,700-word missive on X, formerly Twitter, addressed to Gay. In the letter, Ackman recounted conversations with Harvard faculty about the school’s Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in which university staff raised concerns about the activities of the office.
Ackman added that he was “embarrassed” that he had not “been aware and previously taken the time to investigate these issues until antisemitism exploded on campus,” adding that he “should have paid more attention as it did not take a forensic analysis to surface and better understand these issues.” He called on Gay to “begin to address the antisemitism that has exploded on campus during your presidency, the seeds for which began years before you became President.” Ackman added that “the issues at Harvard are much more expansive than antisemitism,” which, he said, “is the canary in the coal mine for other discriminatory practices at Harvard.”
Ackman, along with a group of businessmen including Rowan, Robert Kraft, Dan Senor, Gary Ginsberg, Marc Lasry and Barry Sternlicht, met last week in New York with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to discuss the Gulf nation’s relationship with Hamas, in a meeting organized by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
Ahead of today’s hearing, Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD)introduced a resolution condemning antisemitism and urging the implementation of the national strategy on antisemitism and increased security grant funding. It particularly highlights the rise of antisemitism on college campuses.
And Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) urged Rutgers University to block Marc Lamont Hill and Nick Estes, another anti-Israel activist, from an upcoming Rutgers-sponsored event.
Jayapal sister’s congressional candidacy alarming Portland Jewish leaders
Pro-Israel activists in Portland, Ore., are bracing for what could be a bitterly divided House race as longtime Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) prepares to retire at the end of his current term, opening up a rare vacancy in one of the state’s most progressive districts. The Democratic primary field, which is expected to grow in the coming weeks, has so far drawn two candidates, most prominently Susheela Jayapal, a former Multnomah County commissioner whose younger sister, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is among the most outspoken critics of Israel in the House. While the elder Jayapal, 61, had no discernible history of public engagement on Middle East policy until recently, her approach to the war between Israel and Hamas suggests there is little distance between the two siblings on such matters — fueling concerns among local pro-Israel advocates who have yet to coalesce behind a viable candidate, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Weighing words: One major source of contention stems from an emotionally charged county board meeting days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack, when Jayapal, who stepped down as commissioner last month to launch her campaign, voted to reject a resolution seeking to show unified support for lighting a Portland bridge in blue and white. “I don’t think I can acknowledge [the] loss of one group when there are Palestinian lives being lost as well,” Jayapal said of the resolution, even as she endorsed illuminating the Morrison Bridge in solidarity with Israel. Later that day, Jayapal drew heightened scrutiny from Jewish and pro-Israel leaders after she chose not to include her name on a joint statement — signed by two commissioners and the county chair — condemning Hamas and standing with Israel as well as Portland’s Jewish community.
Community reactions: “We were disappointed that she didn’t sign on,” Bob Horenstein, the director of community relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, told JI in a recent interview. “I can only surmise that she didn’t feel like it was balanced.” Sharon Meieran, the lone Jewish commissioner on Multnomah County’s board, who led the statement, said that Jayapal had initially seemed open to adding her name but ultimately pulled out “at the very last minute,” even after some of the language had been revised at her behest during a strained editing process.
VP Harris takes more visible role in Mideast, focused on postwar Gaza
When Vice President Kamala Harris was introduced to give a speech on Saturday at the U.N. climate summit in Dubai, attendees cheered. But she wasn’t actually in the room; Harris was focused on other priorities, and at that moment she was on the phone with the emir of Qatar. It was part of a 36-hour flurry of diplomacy focused on the Israel-Hamas war. A former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Harris has in recent days become a much more visible face of the Biden administration’s handling of the war in Gaza. Senior White House officials have promoted her as the definitive U.S. voice on what postwar Gaza will look like, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Bigger conversations: “We’ve been having conversations internally, which she’s been a part of, and the idea now is that we were ready to expand [those conversations] to our regional partners,” said a senior Biden administration official, who requested anonymity to speak about White House strategy. While in the United Arab Emirates, Harris met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed and Jordanian King Abdullah II. She spoke to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the phone.
Palestinian voice: “She’ll certainly be making it clear, as we’ve said many times before, that we believe that Palestinian people need a vote and a voice in their future, and that they need governance in Gaza that will look after their aspirations and their needs,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said on Friday. Harris is expected to travel to Israel in the coming months to continue those conversations.
Five principles: Before departing to the U.S., Harris offered more details on Washington’s vision for postwar Gaza than other officials had previously shared. “Five principles guide our approach for post-conflict Gaza: no forcible displacement, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, no reduction in territory and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism,” Harris said. Gaza and the West Bank must be governed together under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, she said, as a unified Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state.
Harvard first university to screen IDF film showing Hamas brutalities of Oct. 7
In a bright lecture hall in the Harvard Art Museum, a diverse mix of students, faculty, Harvard administrative employees and community members affiliated with the university gathered for a somber film screening. The assembled crowd of nearly 200 marked the first campus audience to see a 46-minute film compiled by the Israel Defense Forces as a record of the brutality carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch from Cambridge, Mass.
Influential reach: The first group to see the footage were foreign journalists, who watched it at a military base near Tel Aviv in late October. Since then, it has slowly reached other groups of influencers outside Israel, including lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate; leaders of American Jewish organizations; and researchers at prominent think tanks. Israeli officials have said that screening the footage is meant to serve as a corrective to those who deny the scale and savagery of the attacks.
Campus conundrum: That this compilation of unspeakably violent footage has now also been shown at America’s most prestigious university demonstrates how seriously Israel’s leaders take the crisis of antisemitism on American campuses. The footage can only be shown in tightly controlled settings; attendees must sign a waiver pledging not to record or share any of the footage beyond what notes they might jot down with a pen and paper. A physical copy of the film was brought to Harvard by an Israeli military official.
Ivy educated: “Harvard is considered one of the most important campuses in the world, and we are truly concerned from what we see, that instead of growing and educating the next leaders of the United States or the world, it has become the hotbed of terrorist supporters,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, who introduced the footage, told JI on Monday. The screening was organized by Harvard Chabad at the urging of Erdan and Bill Ackman, a billionaire investor and Harvard alumnus who has attacked the university for its slow, fumbling response to the Oct. 7 massacre and for its handling of campus antisemitism, which has exploded over the past two months.
state of play
Republicans say they’ll oppose Israel aid package vote amid border impasse
Senate Republicans said on Monday they’ll oppose a procedural vote on an aid package containing support for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian aid later this week amid an impasse over Republican-sought border policy changes, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On the schedule: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Monday set up a Wednesday procedural vote on the aid package. But Republican leaders said yesterday they expect their party to oppose it, meaning the vote will likely fail, delaying Senate passage of the Israel bill. Senate Republicans have been demanding substantial changes to border and immigration policy in exchange for their support for the bill, and negotiations had been ongoing last week.
Digging in: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters yesterday he expects Republicans will vote in lockstep against the aid package without border policy changes. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said she will vote against the procedural vote on the supplemental unless there are “substantial changes to policy.” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said a failed vote will be “proof of resolve” from the Republicans on the border issue.
Conditions update: Meanwhile, the progressive senators who’ve been leading the charge in favor of adding conditions on the aid package for Israel were vague yesterday about where those efforts stand. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told JI lawmakers were “working on it as we speak,” while Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) told JI “it’s a work in progress.” Neither senator would say whether they see widespread support in the caucus for their effort.
Coming up: The House is set to vote this afternoon on a GOP resolution condemning antisemitism. Owing to its language supporting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism and its characterization of anti-Zionism as antisemitic, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said they oppose the resolution, and more Democrats are likely to follow.
Terror Target: The Associated Press’ Lori Hinnant and Sam McNeil look at how Nir Oz, where 80 of the kibbutz’s 400 residents were taken hostage by Hamas, embodied the terror group’s strategy. “Those seized from the kibbutz ranged in age from 9 months to 85 years. All were civilians, and more than half were women and children. All 13 Israeli hostages released in the first exchange on Nov. 24 were from Nir Oz, and they bought the freedom of 39 Palestinian prisoners from Israel. A review of hundreds of messages among Nir Oz residents shared exclusively with The Associated Press, direct interviews with 17 and accounts from many more, security camera footage and Hamas’ own instructions manuals suggests that the group planned well ahead of time to target civilians. Four experts in hostage situations agreed that Hamas’ actions, both the day of the attack and afterwards, indicated a plan to seize civilians to prepare for the war to come.” [AP]
The $1 Harvard Protest:Bloomberg’s Janet Lorin spotlights the Harvard alumni who are cutting their gifts to their alma mater in protest over its handling of antisemitism on campus. “For every Ken Griffin, the hedge fund manager whose $300 million donation put his name on his alma mater’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences this year, Harvard also relies on thousands of volunteers. They cultivate smaller financial commitments, organize reunions, recruit students and run alumni clubs far from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus. The most steadfast volunteers wear top hats or crimson rosettes at Harvard’s commencement ceremony each May. Alumni engage for decades with the school. Harvard, which employs hundreds of full- and part-time staffers to connect with graduates and process their gifts, is now struggling to assuage growing alumni concerns while keeping the donation machine going. Longtime volunteer fundraisers are pulling back. One alum is taking Harvard out of his will. [Tally] Zingher is planning to give just $1, joining hundreds of other former students in a symbolic protest.” [Bloomberg]
Strategy Suggestions: In the New York Post, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz and Rich Goldberg lay out how the Biden administration could respond to increasing Iranian proxy attacks across the Middle East. “Biden remains committed to a failed strategic posture that will end with more American and allied deaths and a nuclear-armed state sponsor of terrorism. His strategy must change. Refreezing all cash made available to Iran over the last few months and cracking down on Iranian oil shipments to China are the easy first steps. Senators can force Biden’s hand on both counts by voting on two bills that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Next comes the reestablishment of US military deterrence. America must defend itself and regional allies against any attempt by Iran to retaliate — a reassurance Riyadh and Abu Dhabi need, given the potential for Tehran to break its de-escalation pact with the Gulf Arab states. By striking Iranian and Houthi targets, Biden would advance the cause of Middle East peace.” [NYPost]
Who’s Responsible for Civilian Deaths?: In The Bulwark, Gabriel Schoenfeld considers what obligation Israel has to protect civilians in Gaza. “Israel has the means to level Gaza and eradicate Hamas without suffering any casualties at all. But it has never engaged in the kind of tactics that were routinized by the Allies in World War II. Even as it has been forceful, it has also exercised restraint. But Hamas has set what [Michael] Walzer calls an ‘asymmetry trap,’ as Israel rather than Hamas gets blamed for the civilian deaths. For its pains, Israel is being accused of the crime of genocide by pro-Palestinian voices around the world. Never mind that under the laws of war, the onus for civilian casualties in this conflict lies entirely on Hamas, which, just as ISIS did, violates the laws of war in their totality. …Against an enemy that makes such pledges, an enemy that fires rockets indiscriminately at civilian targets, that takes infants and children hostage, that tortures civilians and then executes them, that deliberately places Palestinian civilians at risk of death, Israel is entitled to defend itself.” [TheBulwark]
Mamet’s Moment:The Wall Street Journal’s Ellen Gamerman interviews playwright David Mamet about his history in Hollywood. “He’s not precious about the process of putting those words to the page. ‘I could write in a car crash,’ he says. If an idea strikes when he’s out, he’ll pull out the pen he always uses — a Caran d’Ache fountain pen he bought in New York on New Year’s Day in 2000 — and a Smythson notebook from an old shoulder bag he’s carried since he was a kid. He’ll start scribbling, then transcribe the words to typed pages later. His typewriter is his workhorse, sitting among a collection of small objects including a stone elephant bearing witness from his desk at home. Even as he’s still writing, Mamet, 76, rarely meets with Hollywood executives anymore. He spends most of his time at home in Santa Monica, or nearby walking his poodles on the beach and enjoying the salt air.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
PAC Problems: The Koch network’s Americans for Prosperity is facing internal blowback from staffers over the super PAC’s endorsement of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the GOP primary.
In Deep Water: GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake’s campaign in Arizona is hitting stumbling blocks as she tries to woo moderate Republicans, whom she denigrated in her gubernatorial campaign last year.
Scoop: Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI) told Jewish Insider his campaign’s X account was hacked late last night, leading to a post that denounced Israel as a genocidal terrorist state. Thanedar said he deleted the tweet and changed his password.
Captive Questions: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) demanded answers from UNRWA about allegations that an UNRWA employee had held an Israeli hostage in Gaza.
Rape as a Weapon: Reps. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) are planning to introduce a resolution condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence against Israeli women on Oct. 7.
War of Words: The American Jewish Committee, The Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations are partnering on the 10/7 Project, a new effort to combat misinformation in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Category Call: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) urged the administration to redesignate the Houthis as a terrorist organization, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged strikes against Iranian infrastructure in response to Houthi attacks.
Making Waves: Department of Defense officials told Politico they are frustrated by the Biden administration’s response to threats to U.S. interests in the Red Sea.
Sana’a Signal: Yemen’s information minister warned that the Iran-backed Houthis are planning major offensives in two government-held regions.
A Friend In Need: The Wall Street Journalspotlights the efforts of friends of detained reporter Evan Gershkovich to keep his spirits up and fight for his release from Russia.
Lighting Up: The Canadian city of Moncton will include a menorah in its holiday display outside city hall, following an uproar over a secret-ballot vote by the city council to ban the symbol while allowing a nativity scene.
Enhorabuena: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Argentinian President-elect Javier Milei on his recent win, and invited him to Israel.
Etgar’s Intention: Israeli writer Etgar Keret penned a short story set in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks.
Doves in the Spotlight: The Wall Street Journal interviews Israeli peace activists about their worldviews and attitudes toward the Palestinians in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks.
Rocket Review: A New York Times visual analysis found that a Hamas rocket struck an IDF installation linked to Israel’s nuclear program.
Telling Trade: Researchers at Columbia University and NYU found unusual stock trading in the days before the Oct. 7 terror attacks that suggest that a trader had advance knowledge that the Israeli market was about to sustain a hit.
‘Deal of the Century’: Former White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren call for the revival of the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan as a blueprint for the future of the Middle East.
Discriminatory Drivers: Transportation officials in the U.K. are investigating a series of complaints alleging that city buses did not stop for Jewish passengers.
Pic of the Day
Speakers at yesterday’s U.N. summit to address sexual violence against women during the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, co-organized by former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg, National Council of Jewish Women and Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan.
“Silence is complicity,” Sandberg said. “On Oct. 7, Hamas brutally murdered 1,200 souls and in some cases, they first raped their victims. We know this from eyewitnesses, we know this from combat paramedics, we would know this from some victims if more had been allowed to live.”
President of The LS Group and director of Jewish outreach for Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, Lisa Spies…
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