Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the challenges facing Jewish and Israeli athletes abroad, and have the scoop on a new bipartisan House effort to condemn Hamas’ sexual violence. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Adam Schiff, Sen. Ben Cardin and Agam Goldstein-Almog.
Donald Trump romped to victory on Monday in the Iowa caucuses, winning an outright majority of the Republican vote in the first electoral test of the 2024 election cycle, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar reports from Des Moines, Iowa.
The former president’s big win — 51% — was powered by the state’s sizable constituency of evangelical voters, who were skeptical of Trump’s first campaign in 2016 but rallied behind him this time around. Entrance polling from AP VoteCast’s survey shows Trump dominant among evangelicals, winning 59% to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 18%.
The commanding Trump victory was a blow to DeSantis, who spent most of his time and resources in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, with little bang for his buck. DeSantis, who brought in 21% of the vote, won the endorsements of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, but the results indicated that the GOP grassroots weren’t moved by the guidance of their leaders. DeSantis, despite finishing well behind Trump, sounded like he was sticking in the race. “You helped us get our ticket punched out of the Hawkeye State,” he said.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s support was factional, concentrated in the suburban and urban precincts where more moderate GOP candidates typically overperform. But she barely registered in the rural precincts across the state, putting a hard ceiling on her support here. She’s hoping her respectable 19% showing will translate into momentum for next week’s New Hampshire primary, where the GOP electorate is more centrist and secular.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who finished a distant fourth place in the caucuses, announced he would be suspending his campaign and endorsed Trump.
There is a significant socioeconomic divide in the Republican Party, according to the results. Trump is running up the score in the blue-collar precincts (winning about two-thirds of the vote in areas with the fewest college graduates) while holding only a narrow lead in the most affluent, white-collar precincts.
But the fact that Trump is still winning among his weakest demographic groups is a sign of his overall strength. According to the AP VoteCast survey, Trump led Haley by four points (35-31%) among college graduates, while leading her by 13 points among moderates (44-31%).
Big picture: Trump looks as strong as any front-running candidate we’ve seen in a contested presidential nomination fight. And while Haley has a chance to shine in New Hampshire, where independents and even some Democratic voters play an outsized role, it’s hard to see a candidate prevailing primarily with the support of the Trump-skeptical wing of the party.
Trump’s magnanimous victory speech indicates where this election is headed. Even some of Trump’s loudest critics in the party have indicated they’d support him as the GOP nominee. The biggest challenge for the former president, looking ahead to a general election: wooing back those skeptics in preparation for a hard-fought 2024 election against President Joe Biden.
Sports becomes new battleground in wartime anti-Israel campaigns
When Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel landed in Israel on Monday, following his release from jail in Turkey for displaying the message “100 days 7.10” in support of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza on his wrist bandage, his personal ordeal likely came to an end. But Jehezkel is just one of several Israeli and Jewish athletes facing discrimination and harassment in light of Israel’s war with Hamas, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Trouble in Turkey: Jehezkel, who plays right-back and winger for Antalyaspor, displayed the message written on his bandaged hand after scoring a goal on Sunday, sparking an immediate angry reaction from fans. Within minutes, the team announced plans to cancel his contract, as well, tweeting that they “condemn [his] unacceptable behavior.” On Monday evening, Israeli soccer player Eden Kartsev, who plays for Başakşehir F.K. in Istanbul, was arrested for “violating the sensibilities of the country,” according to the team.
Safe, not sorry: The International Ice Hockey Federation removed the Israeli team from its competitions last week, “until the safety and well-being of all participants (including Israeli participants) can be assured.” The decision came following pressure from Russia on the IIHF chairman, Luc Tardif, according to The Jerusalem Post. Attorney Dahlia Bushinsky, who is representing the Israeli Olympic Committee, petitioned the IIHF’s internal court on Monday, she told JI, and is prepared to bring an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if the case is rejected. Cricket South Africa also cited the issue of “safety” in light of the war in Gaza when it announced on Friday that it was demoting David Teeger, the Jewish captain of the under-19 squad, ahead of the Cricket World Cup set to be held in the country this week.
Doha’s role: “The involvement of a lot of Qatari money in athletics leads to bias in many international sports organizations,” Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar said. Qatar, which harbors Hamas’ leaders, has long faced accusations of “sportswashing” – using large investments in international sports to burnish its reputation and hide human rights abuses – the pinnacle of which was when it hosted the 2022 World Cup. Israel uses “secret channels” to push back against discrimination in sports because doing so in an attention-getting manner may hurt Israeli athletics, Zohar said. “There is a real danger that if there will be politics in international sports organizations, it will threaten Israel’s ability to participate, and I don’t want that to happen. We need to show restraint,” he said.
DMFI PAC endorses Adam Schiff in California Senate race
Democratic Majority for Israel’s political arm, DMFI PAC, is endorsing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in California’s closely contested Senate primary, extending a key line of national support with just under two months until the March 5 election, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel scoops.
‘Stellar member’: Schiff, a Jewish Democrat and pro-Israel stalwart, “has been a stellar member of Congress who has fought tirelessly for democracy and for Democratic values, including a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” Mark Mellman, DMFI PAC’s chairman, said in a statement shared exclusively with JI. “We need leaders in the Senate like Adam who have the experience, expertise, drive and passion to take on our nation’s biggest challenges, and we are proud to endorse him.”
Cease-fire schism: The stamp of approval from DMFI PAC, making its first Senate endorsement of the current election cycle, comes as Schiff has continued to lock up support among Jewish and pro-Israel voters in California’s top-two open primary, where he holds a narrow lead over Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), a top progressive rival who recently came under scrutiny over her shifting decision to call for a “bilateral cease-fire” between Israel and Hamas.
Echoing Biden: In a statement, Schiff, who has echoed the Biden administration in opposing calls for a cease-fire, praised DMFI PAC as “a powerful advocate for security in the region, peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and a two-state solution,” adding: “In the aftermath of the atrocities of Oct. 7th, it is more critical than ever that we make it clear to our adversaries and our allies alike that we stand with Israel and support its right to defend itself.”
Mediascape: The Los Angeles Times endorsed Schiff, while Porter’s local Orange County Register criticized her for “classic politician speak” over positions she’s taken related to the Israel-Hamas war.
Lawmakers pressed Qatari leaders on Al Jazeera coverage, Red Cross access to hostages
U.S. lawmakers who visited Qatar earlier this month raised concerns about the coverage of the Israel-Hamas war being propagated by state-owned media outlet Al Jazeera, and urged the Gulf nation to help ensure Red Cross access to the hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, in addition to pressing Qatar’s prime minister to place more pressure on Hamas to free hostages, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Al Jazeera concerns: Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) told JI that the group’s time in Doha included discussion of Al Jazeera’s “toxic” coverage — which many in the U.S. link directly to the Qatari government — as well as the Red Cross’ largely ineffectual role in ensuring the hostages’ safety. ”We had very different views on what we believe was being delivered,” he said. Qatari leaders claimed that the news outlet is editorially independent and enjoys freedom of the press. The New Jersey congressman suggested there was “irony” in that explanation, “and that’s why we were very forceful in this.”
Harboring: Norcross described the conversation with Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani as being “as frank and as direct” a conversation as he’s ever had with a head of state. He said lawmakers conveyed that Qatar must either increase pressure on Hamas and ensure it releases the hostages or expel its leadership from the country. “If you’re not negotiating, then you’re harboring terrorists,” Norcross said. “And when those words were spoken at that meeting, you could visibly see the reaction [from] the prime minister. And he was clear in suggesting that [they] are not harboring, that [they] were asked, quite frankly, to be in this role.”
Reputation reservations: Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) alluded to a similar message, saying that the lawmakers wanted to make it clear that they believe the Qataris “are playing a bit more than a neutral role when it comes to this, and that they have skin in the game based on their relationship with Hamas leadership, based on their hosting the Hamas leadership.” He said he’d suggested to Qatari leaders that their conduct in these negotiations would have consequences for Qatar’s reputation in the U.S. and around the world — which Qatari leaders have aggressively protected and sought to burnish in recent years.
Supplemental update: The path forward for the Israel and Ukraine aid package remains murky, with House Republicans vowing to reject any compromise deal on immigration — which senators have been negotiating as a precondition of moving the package forward — that the Senate reaches.
Nearly 150 lawmakers to introduce bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas sexual violence
A bipartisan group of nearly 150 House lawmakers is set to introduce a resolution on Tuesday condemning the sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists on and since the Oct. 7 attacks, the latest move by lawmakers seeking justice and accountability for victims of sexual violence and other crimes by terror group, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
The resolution: The legislation, led by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), summarizes the reports and photographic, video and forensic evidence of sexual violence by eyewitnesses, hostages and survivors. It condemns “all rape and forms of sexual violence as weapons of war, including those acts committed by Hamas terrorists on and since October 7th,” calls on “all international bodies” to condemn such actions, expresses U.S. support for investigations of these attacks and emphasizes Congress’ support for the survivors of Hamas’ crimes.
Who’s supporting: The bill’s co-sponsors — 79 Democrats and 67 Republicans — include some of the lawmakers who have been deeply critical of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and are supporting a cease-fire.
Joining the call: “This resolution really adds Congress’ voice to supporting the survivors, to supporting an investigation and unequivocally condemning Hamas terrorists for murder, rapes, sexual assault and kidnapping,” Frankel told Jewish Insider, “and of course asks that all perpetrators be held accountable.” Frankel said she was “very happy” for the broad bipartisan support that the resolution had garnered.
on the hill
MAHSA Act, a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, likely dead in the Senate
The MAHSA Act, a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill that advanced through the House with more than 400 votes, appears likely to be dead in the Senate, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Iranian American activists, who rallied a significant pressure campaign in favor of the bill, generating momentum that helped push it through the House, told JI last week that they’ve been told by staff for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he doesn’t, at this time, plan to bring the bill up for a markup in the committee.
In writing: In an email from Dec. 21, 2023, a staffer in Cardin’s office told a group of activists, “At this time, our office will not be moving forward with this bill,” following an extended back-and-forth over email, a Zoom meeting and multiple petitions urging Cardin to support the bill. A screenshot of the email was provided to JI by an activist who goes by the pseudonym Hope, and the Twitter handle @HopeIranian. She, and other activists who spoke to JI, requested to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation against themselves and family members in Iran by Iranian agents.
Response: Melika Bolourchi, another activist involved in the campaign, told JI that the bill’s supporters “will remain committed” to pushing for the legislation. “MAHSA Act represents a crucial first step in Congress towards justice for innocent lives,” she said. “The urgency of this legislation cannot be overstated, as it seeks to address the ongoing human rights violations and the funding of terrorist groups such as Hamas [and] Hezbollah.”
Voting today: The Senate is set to vote on Tuesday on a resolution by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) requesting a State Department report on potential violations of international law and human rights in Israel’s military campaign. The report would set up a potential vote to cut off U.S. aid to Israel, but even some lawmakers critical of Israel’s tactics have said they think Sanders’ resolution goes too far.
Bibi’s Bind: The New Yorker’s David Remnick looks at the political decisions facing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he faces the dual challenges of a drop in support as well as the ongoing war against Hamas. “The longer the war goes on — and, according to top military analysts, it is not going nearly as well or as quickly as the I.D.F. had hoped —the more time Netanyahu will have to rebuild his base and undermine potential challengers. ‘Netanyahu has an interest in never finishing this stage of war,’ [Israeli journalist] Nahum Barnea said. The Prime Minister’s announced ‘prerequisites for peace,’ certainly, do not suggest he is looking for an off-ramp: ‘Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarized, and Palestinian society must be deradicalized.’ Yet Hamas has always been a product as well as a purveyor of brutality, and the Prime Minister hardly needs to be instructed in the gap between his political interests and the larger realities. Recounting a previous crisis in his memoir, he took pains to edify his readers on the subject. A full-blown war with Hamas, he wrote, would be a ‘hollow’ spectacle with no satisfying end. “The Hamas leaders would come out from their holes and declare victory among the ruins.’” [NewYorker]
Court Concerns: The Washington Post’s Max Boot considers the ramifications of the “false charges” leveled by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice, in which the Jewish state stands accused of committing genocide. “But, however the case turns out, one thing is certain: It will do nothing to relieve the suffering of Palestinians. These incendiary accusations only serve, for many Israelis, to discredit more legitimate, more measured criticism of Israel’s actions. They play into Netanyahu’s ‘us vs. the world’ narrative in which the right-wing prime minister is the only person who can protect Israelis. Many of whom, no doubt, will wrongly conclude that self-restraint on the part of their forces is pointless if they are going to be accused of genocide no matter what they do. Then there is the damage that the South African case will do to Jews around the world at a time when antisemitism is already surging. ‘I believe it will be used against Jews and Israel’s supporters around the globe,’ Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, told me. ‘At a time of historically high antisemitism around the world, much of it in the context of the current war between Israel and Hamas, weaponized terms like ‘genocide,’ which criminalize and delegitimize Israel, often lead to situations where Jews are singled out, isolated, and even attacked.’” [WashPost]
DEI Deception: New York Times columnist David French suggests that the push for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts are being undermined by the ways in which they are being propagated. “To put it simply, the problem with D.E.I. isn’t with diversity, equity, or inclusion — all vital values. The danger posed by D.E.I. resides primarily not in these virtuous ends, but in the unconstitutional means chosen to advance them. … Our nation has inflicted horrific injustices on vulnerable communities. And while the precise nature of the injustice has varied — whether it was slavery, Jim Crow, internment or the brutal conquest of Native American lands — there was always a consistent theme: the comprehensive denial of constitutional rights. But one does not correct the consequences of those terrible constitutional violations by inflicting a new set of violations on different American communities in a different American era. A consistent defense of the Constitution is good for us all, including for advocates of D.E.I. The same Constitution that blocks D.E.I.’s excesses protects its supporters from the vengeful right-wing politicians and activists who are now attempting to impose speech codes of their own.” [NYTimes]
Threat Assessment: Commentary’s John Podhoretz writes about the unprecedented threats facing both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks. “[L]eaders of Israel tours love to take Gentiles to Yad Vashem, the original Holocaust memorial, to provide them with a reminder that the impressive country they’re visiting came into being only a few years after European Jewry was all but wiped out. For some of us, this has always left a sour taste in our mouths, as if Jews are saying, ‘Do not view our present success and think us admirable for it; rather, pity us our horrific past and see us as no threat.; But in Israel and across the world, Jews-as-victims had become a community-consensus approach toward non-Jews, with the implicit message that they should help us, or at the very least, not fear us. The global response to October 7 changed all that, and in all but an instant. What we learned, and with shocking speed, is that people just don’t love dead Jews the way we thought they did. Or, to put it another way: Rather than serving as morbid protection for the living, the 1,200 dead Jews of the Gaza envelope had instead become the wellspring of a new and unprecedented series of assaults against Jews in the United States.” [Commentary]
Around the Web
Davos Dish: The World Economic Forum kicked off in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday — read our roundup of the confab’s top sessions.
Doha’s View: Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said at the World Economic Forum that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “a very central issue not for the region, but for the entire world,” and any resolution needs to be “irreversible” so that future governments cannot interfere in longer-term efforts to achieve peace.
Israel Aid: The Senate is slated to vote tonight on a measure to freeze U.S. aid to Israel pending a State Department-produced report on Israel’s actions during the war, an effort that is almost certain to fail owing to lack of support from Republicans and most Senate Democrats.
Call Me, Maybe:Axiosreports on tensions between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who have not spoken in nearly a month.
Walkout Over War: Federal employees representing nearly two dozen government agencies are staging a walkout today in protest of the Biden administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) called for the firing of any government employee who participates in the walkout.
Missing Soldiers: Two Navy SEALs are missing following an attempt to board a ship off the coast of Somalia as part of a broader search for weapons and drugs aboard vessels in the Gulf of Aden; the mission uncovered Iranian-made missile warheads.
Back Home: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was released from Walter Reed Medical Center following his hospitalization for complications related to his recent treatment for prostate cancer.
Coalition Concerns: A group of Jewish House Democrats, including Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Greg Landsman (D-OH), met with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog last week to discuss concerns over recent inflammatory rhetoric by far-right Israeli officials.
Road Rage: Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill to make it illegal to block public roads or highways, responding to recent anti-Israel demonstrations.
Map Mess: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) called on the New York City school chancellor to institute safeguards “that prohibit DOE officials from indoctrinating students with anti-Israel propaganda,” following a report that a Brooklyn public school classroom displayed a map that erased the State of Israel.
Invoking MLK: Torres delivered the annual Martin Luther King Jr. sermon at New York’s Central Synagogue over the weekend, saying that he “cannot imagine anything more hostile to the teachings of Dr. King — more contemptuous of the nonviolent life he led and the nonviolent legacy he left behind — than the glorification of violence and terror that we have seen in the aftermath of October 7th.”
Media Matters: Voice of America is looking into complaints that two of its employees posted anti-Israel content, including one post that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.
Split Screen: As Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora marked 100 days since the Oct. 7 terror attacks, The New York Timesran a think piece titled “Is Israel Part of What It Means to Be Jewish?”
100 Days: In The Atlantic, authors Joshua Cohen and Ruby Namdar reflect on the 100 days since the Hamas terror attacks and ensuing war.
Indiana Initiative: In Indiana, a bill to define and ban antisemitism in the state’s public education institutions passed unanimously out of a House committee Wednesday.
Hummus Haul: Mike Solomonov’s Zahav Hummus is now being sold in 150 Whole Foods locations across the Mid-Atlantic and New England.
Levy on Loss: The Wall Street Journalinterviews actor Dan Levy about his new Netflix project, “Good Grief.”
Across the Pond: Authorities in the U.K. arrested six individuals affiliated with the anti-Israel Palestine Action group who were plotting to disrupt the London Stock Exchange.
Cleverly’s Call: The U.K. announced its designation of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terror group, attributing the move in part to the organization’s celebration of the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Terror Attack: One woman was killed and 17 people injured in a terror attack in Raanana, Israel.
Grim Task: The New York Times interviews the volunteers of ZAKA, the Israeli nonprofit that collects and identifies bodies, as they grapple with what they’ve experienced while working in the areas targeted by Hamas on Oct. 7.
Freed Hostage Speaks: Seventeen-year-old Agam Goldstein-Almog, who was released from Hamas captivity in November, recounted her time as a hostage and confirmed that women who remain in Gaza told her about the sexual assaults they endured.
Comic Relief: The Washington Post spotlights the Israeli sketch comedy show “Eretz Nehederet,” which has gained a global audience as it takes on tougher issues related to the Oct. 7 terror attacks and Israel-Hamas war.
Missile Strikes: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired missiles at a facility in northern Iraq that IRGC alleged was a Mossad spy base.
Houthi Hit: A Houthi missile struck a U.S. cargo ship off the coast of Yemen on Monday, following U.S. strikes against the Iran-backed group’s facilities last week.
Transitions: Former Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus is joining the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as a senior fellow. Federal prosecutor Eli Rosenbaum, who spent four decades bringing to justice Nazis living on American soil, retired last week.
Pic of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew said on Saturday night that the Biden administration “will not waver” in its commitment to secure the release of the remaining 133 hostages, including six U.S. citizens, who remain in Gaza, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
“To get this done, we’re working tirelessly with the governments of Israel, Qatar, Egypt and any other country that can help us reach a breakthrough to bring them home,” Lew, who was speaking at a rally in Tel Aviv’s Hostage Square as Israelis prepared to mark 100 days since the Oct. 7 attacks, said. Read more here.
Neurologist and psychiatrist, Maximilian Fink turns 101… Physicist and professor of materials science at Oxford, he escaped Germany in 1939 on the Kindertransport, Sir Peter Bernhard Hirsch turns 99… Founder of Jones Apparel Group and a film producer, in 2001 he donated $150 million to Johns Hopkins University, Sidney J. Kimmel turns 96… Author and editor-in-chief for 35 years and then editor-at-large for 15 years, all at Commentary magazine, Norman Podhoretz turns 94… Author of 12 novels for young adults, sports journalist for The New York Times, ESPN, CBS and NBC, he served as the ombudsman for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte turns 86… Real estate developer, a superfan of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, he is known for sitting courtside at every home game, Alan “Sixth Man” Horwitz turns 80… Socially conservative talk radio host, relationship advisor and author, Dr. Laura Schlessinger turns 77… Chef, food writer, culinary editor for the Modern Library, host of PBS’s “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth,” Ruth Reichl turns 76… Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel and dean of Yeshivat Hazon Ovadia, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef turns 72… Uzbekistan-born Israeli industrialist, Michael Cherney turns 72… VP for government affairs and director of the Washington, D.C., office of Agudath Israel of America, Abba Cohen… CEO of Belfor Property Restoration with more than 500 offices spanning 57 countries, he appeared in an Emmy-nominated episode of CBS’s “Undercover Boss,” Sheldon Yellen… Founder, Chairman and CEO of RealNetworks which produces RealAudio, RealVideo and RealPlayer, Robert Denis “Rob” Glaser turns 62… First employee and subsequently first president of eBay, philanthropist and movie producer, Jeffrey Skoll turns 59… Founder and CEO of Cognition Builders, Ilana Kukoff… Senior editorial producer at CNN, Debbie Berger Fox… Chapter leader of the Los Angeles chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, Amy Graiwer turns 51… San Francisco-based technology reporter for The New York Times, Sheera Frenkel… Assistant professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, he was a former speechwriter for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Sen. Chris Dodd, Rob Goodman… Canadian actor and singer, Jacob Lee “Jake” Epstein turns 37… Attorney working in South Florida real estate development, David Ptalis… Left wing for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, he won the NHL’s 2019 award for leadership based upon his philanthropic efforts, Jason Zucker turns 32… Israeli actress and singer, the eighth winner of Kokhav Nolad, the Israeli version of Pop Idol, Diana Golbi turns 32… Israeli professional Muay Thai and kickboxing fighter, Nili Block turns 29… Joseph Bornstein…