Good Friday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the criticism faced by the Washington Post over its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, and report on a meeting between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. and Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur.
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent Jewish Insider, eJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit stories, including: Assassinated Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri was key conduit between Hamas, Iran; Washington Post under fire for repeated anti-Israel bias, systemic sloppiness in Middle East coverage; Lihi Lapid: ‘I expect all women to support all women’Print the latest edition here.
To CAIR or not to CAIR?
That’s the question facing Democrats as leadership of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) comes under increased scrutiny for comments its top official made defending the barbaric Oct. 7 terror attacks.
While most Democrats are now distancing themselves from the controversial Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, the organization has previously been welcome in some of the party’s circles despite a history of antisemitic rhetoric.
Just this week,Jewish Insider reported that a 2023 Maryland law required CAIR to be represented on a hate crimes commission — an embarrassing provision that some Maryland Democratic lawmakers are scrambling to fix. We reported yesterday that California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with statewide CAIR leaders even after the group’s national executive director, Nihad Awad, said he was “happy to see” Hamas’ terror attack against Israel.
Even the Biden White House included CAIR in afact sheet that listed the group as committed to helping implement its strategy to combat antisemitism — a fact that was downplayed as an administrative snafu. After JI reported on Awad’s extremist comments, the White House removed CAIR from the document on the White House website and pledged not to include the group in conversations about an upcoming national strategy on Islamophobia.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was one of the most prominent progressive Democrats to condemn Awad’s comments, completely cutting ties with the group. Baldwin said at the time that Awad’s remarks had led her to “completely losing faith in the organization and its work.”
That CAIR officials are engaging in antisemitic rhetoric is not new — CAIR San Francisco Executive Director Zahra Billoo, speaking at an American Muslims for Palestine conference in 2021, infamously referred to “Zionist synagogues,” the Anti-Defamation League, Hillel International and other organizations as “enemies.”
Newsom’s Dec. 15 meeting with CAIR was notable because it has become rare for elected officials to hold an event with the group since Awad’s comments. Newsom met with CAIR California Director Hussar Ayloush during the event — a meeting that was not included on the governor’s public schedule. On social media, Ayloush has drawn comparisons between the plight of the Palestinians and the Holocaust, sharing an Al Jazeera op-ed headlined “Gaza 2023: Our Warsaw Uprising moment.” Read our full story about the Newsom meeting here.
That the meeting was kept under wraps is indicative of the challenges Democrats will have to navigate in the run-up to November. One of the biggest: Finding an alternative Muslim civil rights organization to work with that represents the political mainstream.
wapo and the war
Washington Post under fire for repeated anti-Israel bias, systemic sloppiness in Middle East coverage
As leading mainstream news outlets continue to navigate the pitfalls of covering the Israel-Hamas war, The Washington Post is facing particularly intense scrutiny over a growing number of issues connected to its reporting on the conflict, fueling mounting concerns among Jewish leaders, foreign policy experts and even some staffers, among other critics, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Acknowledging errors: The most prominent source of contention has in recent weeks centered on a factually challenged front-page story, published in mid-November, that detailed the struggles of premature Palestinian infants born in the West Bank and Israel who were separated from their parents amid Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza. In an extensive editor’s note added to the story last week after more than a month’s delay, the paper listed multiple inaccuracies in the original article, effectively undermining its core thesis — that Palestinian mothers were required by the Israeli government to return to Gaza when their travel permits had expired. Meanwhile, the note also acknowledged that the triple-bylined feature had not initially sought comment from Israeli officials, “an omission that fell short of the Post’s standards for fairness.”
More corrections: In addition to the story on Palestinian infants, at least two other articles authored by its lead reporter, Louisa Loveluck, have drawn significant corrections in recent weeks, raising questions about the paper’s commitment to accurate and balanced coverage of the evolving war between Israel and Hamas. The paper has also faced accusations that its Middle East coverage has veered into activism, presenting a one-sided picture of the conflict that has differed in many ways from the stories seen in competing outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal — which have produced some of the most searing coverage of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack while also reporting aggressively on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Wider problem: Robert Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy whose sustainedcriticism of the recent Post story helped contribute to the publication of the editor’s note, said he was pleased that the paper had ultimately recognized some of its mistakes. But he added that he remains frustrated with the broader thrust of its Middle East coverage, which he views as flawed. “I believe the egregious violations of journalistic standards I highlighted in my critique of the Nov. 17 story is regrettably not limited to this article,” he said in an email to JI.
Embassy meeting: The paper’s approach to Middle East coverage has been an ongoing source of frustration among Israeli officials in Washington. In an early November meeting, for instance, top Israeli Embassy officials met with newsroom leadership — including Sally Buzbee, the paper’s executive editor, and Douglas Jehl, who directs international coverage — to privately air their concerns, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Amid growing scrutiny of Qatar, U.S. renews military base agreement
Amid growing scrutiny of Qatar’s role in harboring Hamas leadership and funding the terrorist group, the Biden administration earlier this week reportedly renewed the agreement keeping a key U.S. airbase in the country for another decade, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The Al Udeid Air Base is home to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East. The renewal of the base agreement comes as a growing number of lawmakers call on the administration to exercise more pressure on Qatar to accelerate hostage release talks with Hamas, turn over the Hamas officials on its soil and otherwise temper its publicly aggressive stance toward Israel. But the U.S.-Qatari military relationship and the air base have also contributed to reluctance from some lawmakers to openly or aggressively criticize Qatar or its relationship with Hamas.
Leverage: Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI that the U.S. should have pushed for concrete commitments from Qatar before extending the base agreement. “It’s troubling that we’re just on autopilot in our relationship, as if nothing has happened, as if there’s no conditions being set for the future, no expectations being set for what has to change and no attempt to use our leverage to achieve that change,” Goldberg said.
Other side: Others in Washington see the situation differently, describing the air base agreement as a generally apolitical move geared toward military interests and needs. “It’s a bit of unfortunate timing,” Jonathan Lord, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told JI. “Typically these basing agreements are contracted out and negotiated [and] discussed with very long lead times. So it wouldn’t surprise me if this has been something the department has been working on for quite some time, well before Oct. 7.”
roadmap for gaza
Israeli Defense Ministry’s ‘day after’ plan for Gaza: Int’l forces working with local Palestinians, not the PA
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant plans to present the war cabinet with a road map for the administration of Gaza after the end of the war, in which Israel, an international force, Egypt and local Palestinians — but not the Palestinian Authority — would all play a part, Gallant said in a briefing on Thursday. After the war, he said, “Hamas will not rule Gaza, and Israel will not rule Gaza.” Gallant’s plan, drawn up by the Defense Ministry with input from the IDF, is based on four major partners, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov reports.
Israel: First is Israel, which would need full freedom to act militarily in Gaza to ensure that Hamas and other hostile groups cannot threaten Israel or the people of Gaza, Gallant said. Israel would also provide relevant intelligence to the other partners and would inspect all goods entering Gaza. Gallant ruled out any Israeli civilian presence in Gaza. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich floated the idea of Israelis resettling Gaza and, together with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, has called for hundreds of thousands of Gazans to migrate elsewhere, ideas that the State Department earlier this week called “inflammatory and irresponsible.” On Tuesday, a senior Israeli diplomatic source called Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s comments “baseless delusions,” saying that “no country is going to absorb” any significant number of Palestinians.
Egypt: The second prong of the Defense Ministry’s “day after” plan is Egypt, “a central player in any solution,” Gallant said, noting that there are ongoing talks on the matter with Cairo. Egypt would be the point of civilian entry into Gaza and would share control with Israel over who and what is permitted to enter.
International coalition: An international force that would be led by the U.S. and include Western European states including the U.K., France and Germany, as well as moderate Arab states – likely the UAE and Bahrain – would be responsible for the physical and economic rehabilitation of Gaza.
Palestinian players: Finally, local Palestinians would handle the everyday administration of Gaza. Gallant cited 30,000 Palestinian civil servants who currently reside in Gaza, handling matters such as sewage and electricity. The Defense Ministry has lists of such people who are not hostile to Israel or otherwise affiliated with Hamas, and would share such information with the international force.
Soleimani Takeaways: In The Wall Street Journal, retired Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who until 2022 was the head of CENTCOM, reflects on the lessons learned in the four years since the targeted killing of Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. “Iranian leaders work with Lenin’s dictum that ‘you probe with bayonets: if you find mush, you push. If you find steel, you withdraw.’ Tehran and its proxies are pressing their attacks because they haven’t confronted steel. The ability to stop such probing generally depends on a swift and violent counterattack. Delaying and equivocating usually means the response needed to re-establish deterrence has to be much larger than it would have been if it had been applied in a timely manner. As a military officer, I have observed such hesitancy and lack of strategic clarity across several presidential administrations. In 2019, an early and sharp response to Iranian provocation might have ended the escalatory spiral well before the U.S. had to strike Soleimani and accept the possibility of theater war.” [WSJ]
Tangled Up in the Mideast: In her Substack “Cosmopolitics,” Elise Labott looks at the evolution of the U.S.’ policy toward the Houthis. “So, to sum it up: The U.S., after initially downplaying the Houthi threat, is now in the ring, trading blows with them. And Saudi Arabia, once the Houthis’ punching bag, is now shielding Israel from the same fists. Everyone is essentially fighting a proxy war against Iran, the Houthis’ backer, while the U.S. tries for a nuclear deal with Tehran and Riyadh tries to keep its fragile truce with Iran. It’s a geopolitical Twister game, with everyone contorting to keep up with the ever-shifting rules of engagement. In the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics, the enemy of my enemy can sometimes be my friend – but only when convenient. Today’s crisis can be tomorrow’s footnote, depending on who’s involved and what’s at stake. The rules are rewritten on the fly, players switch sides, and the consistent losers in this game are, tragically, the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.” [Cosmopolitics]
Rabbi’s Reflections:Politico’s Matthew Kaminski interviews French Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur about how her life has changed since Oct. 7, and how the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. is reflective of French history. “For years, her different approach brought her applause from a wider French audience and criticism from more traditional Jews who regarded her as too far to the left, too willing to call out Israel’s policies, somehow not Jewish enough. Oct. 7 was a turning point for her in a way that she believes it was for many of her American Jewish friends, going back to the years she spent at New York’s Hebrew Union College. While Jews had experienced rising hatred in France since the early 1990s, and were killed for being Jewish there, Gaza changed her perspective by making her more aware of Israel’s fragility. Then the outrage over Israel’s conduct during the war, in particular from allies on the progressive wing of politics, suddenly left her with fewer friends. She sees the human toll in Gaza but speaks more of the hurt she feels by the lack of condemnation of what Hamas did and of understanding for the hurt of the Jews. She makes sure to say she doesn’t believe ‘every criticism of Israel is antisemitism.’ Israel ‘has always needed criticism, especially from the Diaspora,’ and ‘is still threatened by a lack of criticism.’ She never hid her distaste for Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies in government. Yet she is more reticent to criticize now. She is asked repeatedly to join calls for a ceasefire in Gaza — and demurs.” [Politico]
A Son Speaks: In The Free Press, Ala Mohammed Mushtaha, the son of an imam in Gaza, relates how his father, who was seized by Hamas last weekend, was forced to use his mosque to hide and store away money and weapons and deliver Hamas-approved sermons. “I know that if Hamas kills my father, they’ll say that the Israeli army did it. But my father was very keen that even if he died, we should make known the despicable demands they made of him. It was his last request to us, literally as he was being carried out of the door, that should he die, we should publicize the real reason for his death, and it is this: He wouldn’t preach what Hamas told him to. He refused to tell Gazans that violent resistance, and obedience to Hamas, is the best way out of our current hell.” [FreePress]
Around the Web
Moral Clarity: GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley offered stalwart support for Israel at a CNN town hall in Iowa on Thursday night. “I know, and I trust, that Israel would do whatever it takes to make sure that they save as many people as they can. You have to know the difference between terrorists and civilians. That’s what civilized countries do. America’s a civilized country. Israel’s a civilized county. Hamas is not civilized,” Haley told the audience.
Fundraising Swing: Haley is holding three fundraisers in South Florida at the end of January, with Dan Och and Barry Sternlicht among the events’ hosts.
Biden Buy: The first ad from President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, set to coincide with an upcoming speech by the president focused on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, will highlight “the existential threat our country’s democracy faces from the MAGA extremism that now defines the Republican Party.”
Terror in Iran: ISIS claimed responsibility for twin bombings at a ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of the death of Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani in which at least 84 people were killed.
IDF Update: The IDF said that three Israelis missing since Oct. 7 are believed to be in captivity in Gaza; one of them was determined to be killed on Oct. 7, and his body is being held in the enclave.
On Target: The Israeli Defense Forces posted video of a successful strike against Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Mamdouh Lulu in the Gaza Strip.
Hostage Account: In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, freed Israeli hostage Nili Margalit, a nurse, recounts her experiences being sold by a Palestinian civilian to Hamas in Gaza, where she provided medical care to injured hostages.
Pence in Israel: Former Vice President Mike Pence visited yesterday communities in southern Israel that were hit by the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.
Ticking Clock: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said yesterday, following a meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that he believes the window of opportunity for a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia will expire in June.
Penn Profs: More than two dozen University of Pennsylvania faculty traveled to Israel this week on a solidarity mission, weeks after the resignation of the Ivy’s president over her handling of antisemitism on campus.
California Concerns: Politicointerviews California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, an Encino Democrat who co-chairs the Legislative Jewish Caucus, after a cease-fire demonstration this week shut down a legislative session.
Zucker’s New Gamble: Former CNN head Jeff Zucker is investing in independent film studio Media Res, his first foray into scripted programming in roughly two decades.
Media Moves: A group of conservative media and business executives are mulling buying a majority stake in The Messenger.
Kim’s Haul: Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) has raised $2.75 million since launching his bid for the New Jersey Senate seat held by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who is facing federal bribery charges.
Musk to Auschwitz: X owner Elon Musk is planning to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp later this month during the European Jewish Association’s annual conference in Krakow, Poland.
Ad-dendum: The promotional materials for Anthony Hopkins’ upcoming film “One Life,” about a British man who saved hundreds of Jewish children in pre-WWII Europe, will be amended after being criticized for not mentioning Jews or the Holocaust.
Mall Menace: Authorities in New Jersey are investigating an incident caught on film at the American Dream mall in which a Jewish family was harassed because a member of the family was wearing an Israeli Defense Forces shirt.
Hate Rising: A new report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found a surge in hate crimes in a majority of the country’s 10 largest cities.
Fire Probe: Police in Toronto are investigating a fire at a Jewish-owned grocery store where graffiti reading “Free Palestine” was scribbled on the premises as a suspected hate crime.
Turned Away: Turning Point USA removed as a volunteer ambassador a woman who said that “Zionist Jews who control our planet” are “pedophiles,” suggesting that her followers “read the Talmud and it will all make more sense.”
Eliminated: The U.S. confirmed it killed an Iraqi militia leader with ties to Iran in a drone strike in Baghdad.
Syria Strikes: Jordan conducted airstrikes on suspected warehouses and hideouts of Iran-linked drug smugglers in Syria.
No Change: Anwar Gargash, an advisor to UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said at a conference in Dubai that the Gulf nation intends to stick by its “strategic decision” to normalize relations with Israel.
Transitions: Houston Mayor John Whitmire tapped venture capital executive Jay Zeidman as the new board chairman of the Houston First Corporation following the resignation of David Mincberg. The Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Gabe Friedman is moving into a new role at JTA parent company 70 Faces Media as director of editorial experiences.
Mazal Tov!: Cole Aronson and Hana Tzivin are engaged.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (third from left) met with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (second from right) at the Kiryah, the Defense Ministry’s headquarters, in Tel Aviv on Thursday during the senator’s second trip to Israel since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.
Former Philadelphia mayor for eight years, and then another eight years as Pennsylvania’s governor, currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr, Ed Rendell turns 80…
FRIDAY: Author of four novels including Mitzvah Man and five collections of short fiction including Minyan: Ten Interwoven Stories, John Jacob Clayton turns 89… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party and former speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon turns 87… Sports journalist, author and former ombudsman for ESPN, Robert Lipsyte turns 86… NBA superfan who attends over 100 basketball games nationally each season, James F. Goldstein turns 84… Former member of the Knesset for the National Religious Party, Eliyahu Gabai turns 81… Retired attorney from Latham & Watkins, Paul Israel Meyer… San Diego-based attorney, she served as a member of Congress and as chief of staff for California Gov. Gray Davis, Lynn Alice Schenk turns 79… Former attorney general of the U.K, now London co-managing partner and chair of the European and Asian litigation practice at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 74… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D…. Founder and principal of D.C.-based Mager & Associates, Mimi Mager… Retired chairman of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael), Daniel “Danny” Atar turns 66… Journalist John F. Solomon turns 57… Actress and television personality, Heather Paige Kent Dubrow turns 55… Partner of both the law firm Galper & Goldberg PLLC and the PR firm Trident DMG, Joshua P. Galper… Professional poker player, Michael Mizrachi turns 43… Producer of in-arena promotions and productions at Madison Square Garden, she also runs Alsall Studio, Alexandra Lauren Sall… Tennis player ranked No. 1 in Israel for most of 2022, Yshai Oliel turns 24…
SATURDAY: Retired EVP and senior counsel of the Trump Organization, George H. Ross turns 96… Professor of chemistry (now emeritus) at the University of Chicago since 1957, he is a member of the Board of Governors at Tel Aviv University, Stuart A. Rice turns 92… Canadian businessman and philanthropist, Seymour Schulich turns 84… Co-founder of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Henry R. Kravis turns 80… Chairman, president and CEO of Phibro Animal Health Corporation, Jack C. Bendheim turns 77… Yiddish-language author, journalist, playwright and lyricist, Boris Sandler turns 74… Attorney general of Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum turns 73… Interim provost and dean at Tennessee State University, he retired as a major in the IDF, Michael Harris turns 68… Retired television executive and political commentator, Mark E. Hyman turns 66… Consultant, writer, reporter and editor, Jodi Lynn Jacobson… Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Oleksandr Feldman turns 64… Daniel G. Slatopolsky… Founder of Pure California Beverages, Sarah Beth Rena Conner… Member of the Knesset for the Religious Zionist Party, Michal Miriam Waldiger turns 55… Actor, painter and fashion designer, he is the nephew of fashion designer, Ralph Lauren, Greg Lauren turns 54… Author of 13 spy fiction novels and four nonfiction books, Alex Berenson turns 51… President and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, he is the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns of the NBA and Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, Mat Ishbia turns 44… Founder and CEO at GTTFP Holdings and Jewish dating sites, Harei At and Jedding, Eli Ostreicher turns 40… Investigative reporter at WCCO/CBS in Minneapolis, Jonah P. Kaplan… Director of community engagement at CAMERA, Aviva Slomich Rosenschein… Philanthropic advisor at the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond, Sarah Arenstein Levy… One of the youngest to ever sign a Major League Soccer contract at age 15, he is now a senior associate at Acacia Research, Zachary “Zach” Pfeffer turns 29… Value accelerator lead at Goldman Sachs Growth, Anna Phillips… Rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Aiden Pink…
SUNDAY: U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan since 1994, he assumed senior status five months ago, Judge Paul D. Borman turns 85… Pulitzer Prize-winning sports reporter, columnist and writer, Ira Berkow turns 84… Co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jann Wenner turns 78… Scottsdale, Ariz. resident, Bruce Robert Dorfman… Retired president of the University of South Florida System, Judy Genshaft turns 76… Senior U.S. District Court judge in Miami, Joan A. Lenard turns 72… Former Israeli minister of Jerusalem affairs, he also served as chief rabbi of the IDF until 2016, Rafael “Rafi” Peretz turns 68… TV news broadcaster, Katie Couric turns 67… Former CEO of Glencore, Ivan Glasenberg turns 67… Dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, starting in 2011 he assumed control of his family’s nationwide real estate operations, Dr. Ezra Kest… Documentary filmmaker with a focus on social justice and Jewish history, Roberta Grossman turns 65… One of the heirs to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, Anthony Pritzker turns 63… U.S. senator (R-SD), John Thune turns 63… U.S. senator (R-KY), Rand Paul turns 61… Managing director and senior relationship manager at Bank of America, Zoya Raynes… Television and film actress, Lauren Cohan turns 42… Executive director of Keep Our Republic and author of Paths of the Righteous, Ari Mittleman… Concord, N.H.-based public affairs consultant, Holly Shulman… Assistant director at Hillel of Stanford University, Jeremy Ragent… Music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahav Shani turns 35… Drummer and founding member of The Groggers, a pop punk band from Queens, Nechemia “Chemy” Soibelman turns 33… Reporter on Haredi and Knesset affairs for Walla News, Yaki Adamker… Author of five books and host of the history podcast “Noble Blood,” Dana Schwartz turns 31… National chair of Israel Policy Forum Atid and senior account executive at Vizio, Jonathan Kamel… Baseball pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, the first Israeli player ever drafted by an MLB team, his great-uncle is Haim Saban, Dean Kremer turns 28…