Good Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the emergency aid bill passed in the Senate this morning, spotlight Tucker Carlson’s eyebrow-raising remarks in Dubai and look at how Reform and Conservative rabbinical schools in the U.S. are addressing issues of anti-Zionism. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis, Samantha Power and Elie Wiesel.
President Joe Biden has publicly continued to insist that any Israeli operation in Rafah, where two hostages were rescued by Israeli forces early Monday, should not proceed without clear plans for safeguarding Palestinian civilians in the area. That’s what he reiterated on Monday when speaking to reporters at the White House alongside Jordanian King Abdullah II, who used his appearance in front of Western media to strongly denounce any Israeli attacks in Rafah.
But the White House’s top national security spokesperson, John Kirby, told reporters that the White House is not opposed to any Rafah operation, Jewish Insider’s senior national correspondent Gabby Deutch reports. In fact, the opposite is true, Kirby said. There are legitimate military aims for Israel in Rafah — but if Israel pursues them, Kirby added, the IDF must protect Palestinians living in the southernmost part of Gaza.
“We never said that they can’t go into Rafah to remove Hamas. Hamas remains a viable threat to the Israeli people, and the Israelis and the IDF, absolutely, are going to continue operations against their leadership and their infrastructure, as they should. We don’t want to see another October 7th,” said Kirby.
“What we’ve said is we don’t believe that it’s advisable to go in in a major way in Rafah without a proper, executable, effective and credible plan for the safety of the more than a million Palestinians that are taking refuge in Rafah,” Kirby clarified.
The difficulty of Israeli operations in a crowded area like Rafah was made apparent during the hostage rescue operation, which also reportedly resulted in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. The hostages were being held in an apartment building that also housed some civilians.
“While we’re very glad that two hostages are now back with their families where they belong, we certainly mourn any loss of innocent life as a result of those operations,” said Kirby. But, he added, Hamas continues to bear responsibility for the Palestinian civilians killed.
“We do know that Hamas leadership and fighters migrated south,” Kirby said. “By their very presence and their operations down there, they are further endangering the people of Gaza that are now settled or trying to find refuge down there in Rafah.”
Several reporters pressed Kirby on whether the Biden administration would consider limiting or restricting U.S. military assistance to Israel if Israel launches an offensive in Rafah. He insisted U.S. support for Israel would not change.
“We’re going to continue to support Israel. They have a right to defend themselves against Hamas, and we’re going to continue to make sure they have the tools and the capabilities to do that,” he said.
During his press conference with King Abdullah, Biden said the two discussed a U.S. proposal for a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, “which would bring immediate and sustained period of calm into Gaza for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build something more enduring,” said Biden. “There are gaps that remain, but I’ve encouraged Israeli leaders to keep working to achieve the deal.”
As Biden and King Abdullah discussed a potential IDF operation in Rafah, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz publicly threw his support behind expanding the IDF maneuvers, JI’s senior political correspondent Lahav Harkov reports. Gantz called the Monday morning rescue of two hostages “proof that we are keeping our promise that terrorism will not have sanctuary cities anywhere.”
“There is no question about the need to act in any place in which there is terror. Broad action in Rafah, as we said in the past, is not in question,” Gantz added.
At the same time, Gantz said that Israel will hold “conversations with our friends in the world,” specifically mentioning Egypt, which strongly opposes Israeli operations in Rafah and has deployed tanks on its border with Gaza. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry denied reports that Cairo plans to freeze its peace agreement with Israel over the matter.
Part of Gantz’s message appeared specifically calibrated towards the White House: “We will take all the steps we can to ensure our freedom to act: evacuating the population as well as securing borders and also preparing the territory for a ground entrance. We will not return [from Gaza] until we reach our goals.” Read the full story here.
On our radar: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting Israel this week, his first visit to the country since the Oct. 7 attacks.
Poll: Roughly half of U.S. Jews changing behavior because of antisemitism
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Jewish adults say that American Jews are less secure than they were a year ago. A quarter of U.S. Jews have personally experienced targeted antisemitism. And about half of American Jews have changed their behavior, including where they go or what they wear, because of their fear of antisemitism. Those were some of the findings of a survey released this morning by the American Jewish Committee, which measured attitudes on antisemitism both within and outside of the Jewish community, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports.
Turning point: The results are a compilation of data from two surveys. The AJC’s fifth annual survey of 1,528 American Jews was initially conducted on Oct. 5, 2023, with the goal of fully launching the following week; however, fieldwork was paused when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. In response to the attack, and the subsequent increase of antisemitism and anti-Israel activity nationwide, especially on college campuses, the questionnaire was adjusted to add survey items to measure awareness of the terrorist attacks and the impact of those attacks on feelings of safety in the U.S. The revised survey ran from Oct. 7- Nov. 21, 2023.
Generational gap: The report found a sharp disconnect between younger American Jews (18-29) compared to adults over 30. Forty-four percent of the younger demographic said antisemitism is a very serious problem in the U.S., while 55% of those over 30 reported the same.
‘Five-alarm fire’: AJC CEO Ted Deutch told eJP that given the dramatic rise of antisemitism in the wake of Oct. 7, the findings were expected but “it’s shocking how they appear even expecting the results. The fact that over 60% of Jewish adults feel less secure living in America than they did before, says this is a problem for all of America, not just the Jewish community.” Deutch continued. “Big picture is that what had been an enormous challenge for our community already has become a five-alarm fire, and it requires everyone to do something about it.”
big tent approach
At Conservative and Reform rabbinical schools, a debate over red lines on anti-Zionism
The global Jewish community is in crisis. But in the U.S., there is a severe shortage of rabbis to help American Jews make sense of it all. And among the up-and-coming generation of Jewish leaders, a small but outspoken number of young rabbis are pushing back against the deep-seated support for Israel that has been a hallmark of American Jewish leadership for decades, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports after speaking to more than a dozen rabbis and rabbinical students — including top leaders in the Reform and Conservative communities.
Avoiding alienation: Officially, Zionism is a key pillar of all three major Jewish denominations in the U.S. But in the more progressive Reform and Conservative movements, some prominent rabbis are raising the alarm about a small but significant number of rabbinical students and early career rabbis who identify as non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, and who lack the connection to Israel that has for decades been a key part of what it means to be Jewish in the diaspora. Administrators at the seminaries are stuck between competing priorities: If they set clear boundaries about the centrality of Israel to their religious movements, they risk alienating some of the already small number of young Jews seeking to enter the rabbinate.
Kosher conversations: Setting clear ground rules around Israel — explaining it’s downright unkosher to believe Israel shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state — is rare. The leading liberal rabbinical schools and Jewish movements have instead taken a big-tent approach to Israel that keeps everyone in the tent, even those students who take a position that is firmly at odds with the Zionism espoused by their seminaries. The result is that many students emerge from these schools with an approach to Israel that may put them at odds with their future congregants.
Divergent Israel attitudes: “There’s still a pretty pronounced gap in most sectors of the Reform and Conservative Jewish world between the rabbis being trained now, and their ambivalence around Israel, and the people that they’re serving,” said Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. “This could create a real problem if the schools are effectively putting people out of the system who hold these views, but they can’t get hired and sometimes get fired, because their views don’t align with what the laity basically believes.”
Bonus: For The Atlantic, Shira Telushkin examines the impact of the rabbi shortage on Jewish life in the U.S.
on the hill
Johnson rejects Senate’s Israel aid bill without border security hours ahead of its passage
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) effectively declared that the Senate’s emergency aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan is a nonstarter in the lower chamber, hours ahead of the bill’s passage early Tuesday morning in the Senate by a 70-29 vote, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The moves come amid emerging support from Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, for restructuring aid to Israel and other allies as a loan.
Johnson weighs in: “House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border,” Johnson said. “The mandate of national security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid around the world… Now, in the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”
Senate vote: Twenty-two Republican senators voted for the foreign aid bill, which also provides security funding for U.S. religious institutions. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Peter Welch (D-VT), who oppose additional lethal aid to Israel, voted against it.
Scheduling: Johnson’s statement once again leaves aid to Israel in limbo for the near future, given that the House failed to pass a stand-alone Israel aid bill last week. The House is currently not scheduled to consider aid to Israel this week, and will be in recess next week. It’s set to return in the final week of February ahead of government shutdown deadlines looming on March 1 and March 8, and the State of the Union address on March 7. Given that, it looks likely that the House won’t be able to make a new attempt to advance Israel aid until at least early March.
Trump’s tactic: Trump threw an additional wrench into the foreign aid debate over the weekend with a call that any further U.S. foreign aid should come in the form of a “loan” with “strings attached.” Trump had a “very serious” phone conversation with several Republican senators on Monday to further discuss the idea, which Trump apparently intends to pursue further, according to Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Given Trump’s support for the proposal, it’s likely that it will receive broader support among Republicans in upcoming efforts to move Israel and other foreign aid forward. Mullin said House Republicans have also been involved in discussions about it.
Bonus: In The Jerusalem Post, Julie Platt, chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, writes in support of the Senate’s Israel aid package.
tucker’s world tour
Asked why U.S. continues to back Israel, Tucker Carlson says U.S. spreading ‘destruction for its own sake’
Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host and right-wing media personality, suggested on Monday that the U.S. had lost its “moral authority” because it has refused to call for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas. “If you see a nation with awesome power abetting war for its own sake, you have a leadership that has no moral authority, that is illegitimate,” Carlson said at the World Governments Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he was participating in a discussion on the future of “storytelling.” The answer came in response to a question asking him to assess why the U.S. had vetoed a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Father role: Carlson used a family-related analogy to illustrate his point. “The United States is for this moment the most powerful country in the history of the world,” he told the crowd, “so if you were to frame this in terms we’re all familiar with, which are the most basic terms, the terms of the family, the United States would be Dad, it would be the father, and the father’s sacred obligation is to protect his family and to restore peace within his walls. If I come home and two of my kids are fighting, what’s the first thing I do, even before I assess why they’re fighting, before I gather the facts and know what’s happening? ‘Stop the fighting,’” he continued. “So if I come home and I have two kids fighting and I say ‘Go, go, beat the crap out of him!,’ I’m evil, because I’ve violated the most basic duty of fatherhood, which is to bring peace.”
House Education committee’s antisemitism investigation expands to Columbia University
Columbia University on Monday became the latest target of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s investigation into antisemitism on U.S. college and university campuses, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to Columbia’s leadership requesting documents relating to the school’s handling of antisemitism, following similar requests sent to Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.
In the letter: Foxx, in her letter, traces Columbia’s “environment of pervasive antisemitism” back to 2004, in addition to numerous alleged incidents — detailed over more than eight pages — of antisemitic and anti-Israel comments and assault, harassment and vandalism targeting Jewish students on Columbia’s campus since Oct. 7. The chairwoman also noted that events by Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have continued “with apparent impunity” on Columbia’s campus even though both groups have been officially suspended.
Document request: Foxx requested a slew of documents including those relating to reports of and responses to antisemitism on Columbia’s campus, funding from Qatari and other foreign donors to Columbia and funding for pro-Palestine and anti-Israel groups on campus.
On the campaign trail: Former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) spoke at a Democratic Majority for Israel Zoom event on the eve of Suozzi’s special election race on Tuesday. “When I served in Congress, I really did everything I could to support Israel in every single way,” Suozzi said. “I will always be there for Israel. My support is unequivocal during this very difficult time.” He dismissed calls for a cease-fire as unrealistic and ridiculous. “We must do everything we can to stop [Hamas],” he continued.
Van Hollen accuses Israel of ‘war crime,’ says U.S. aid should be suspended
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) accused Israel of a “textbook war crime” in a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, calling on the administration to suspend aid to the U.S. ally, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Van Hollen’s accusation: Van Hollen accused Israel of deliberately obstructing food aid from being provided to Gaza for the purpose of causing starvation deaths inside the territory. “Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food,” he alleged. “That is a war crime — it is a textbook war crime. That makes those who orchestrate it war criminals. So now the question is, what will the United States do?”
Aid cut-off: Van Hollen said the administration must “demand that the Netanyahu government” allow more food, water and humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Until that happens, Van Hollen continued, the administration should invoke provisions of U.S. foreign assistance law banning arms exports to any country that impedes U.S. humanitarian assistance delivery. Even so, Van Hollen said he’d vote for additional aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan because he supports Ukraine assistance.
Israeli reaction: In response to Van Hollen’s remarks, an Israeli government official told JI, “The only people withholding food from kids in Gaza are Hamas, which is hijacking aid. That’s a war crime, and UNRWA is complicit with it by covering it up. Israel has excess capacity at its crossings for as much food, water, medicine and shelter equipment as international donors want to send.”
The ‘Linkage’ Lie: In his Substack “Clarity with Michael Oren,” Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. considers how the concept of “linkage” has influenced successive Democratic administrations. “Linkage meant, simply, that while the Middle East was rife with violence of every stripe, the core conflict was not between Sunnis and Shiites, Iranians and Arabs, and even between the Arabs themselves, but between Israelis and Palestinians. Solve that — so the advocates of linkage held — and all the region’s other disputes would cease. And the core cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not Palestinian rejectionism and terror, but rather Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the expansion of Israeli settlements. … A half million Syrians could be massacred in recent years, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and Sudanese can be killed, but for the disciples of linkage Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians remains the nucleus. Forget, too, that the signing of the Abraham Accords without the creation of a Palestinian state definitively disproved linkage. That dogma, defying all logic and flying in the face of thirty years of facts, calls to mind another irrational, myth-based belief: Jew-hatred.” [Clarity]
Social-Justice Jews: In Commentary, Eli Lake looks at the impact of what he calls “AsAJews” — individuals who lean on their Jewish faith to push policy outcomes in the broader community. “Today, there is no serious threat to Jewish texts. But there is a threat to the Jewish state. In the Middle Ages, AsAJew converts were pawns the Church used to spread lies about the Talmud. In 2024, the AsAJews are not converts to Christianity. They are instead converts to the false prophecy of left-wing social-justice activism. … These libels matter. They justify, rationalize, and incite atrocities large and small. Jews do not learn black magic from the study of Talmud, but millions of Europeans believed this lie for centuries. Israel does not target Palestinian children; rather, Hamas endangers them by shooting rockets from schools and mosques. But millions of people around the world believe that Israel does. The anti-Semites of the Middle Ages needed AsAJews to provide credentials for the lies that justified their pogroms and expulsions. Today, Hamas and its allies in Iran need the AsAJews to persuade the Hague, European governments, and the White House to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense.” [Commentary]
Special Needs: In eJewishPhilanthropy, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash highlights the unique struggles faced by displaced Israelis with disabilities and their families since Oct. 7. “The sudden and brutal disruption to life for more than 200,000 Israelis — the majority of whom are still living in temporary accommodations such as hotels — has been enormous, with people struggling both emotionally and financially. But for people with physical and mental disabilities, such as Lior, and their families, the sudden disruption to their daily routine and to their familiar surroundings has been especially traumatic. For Lior, the war that landed on her doorstep meant not only leaving behind the comfort of her family home, but also the shuttering of the special work program she attended daily in Sderot. In the weeks that followed Oct. 7, she had no daily framework, and the family had no assistance in caring for a frightened young woman struggling to communicate her thoughts and feelings.” [eJP]
Around the Web
Cairo Meeting: Mossad head David Barnea and CIA Director Bill Burns are slated to meet with Egyptian and Qatari officials in Cairo today for discussions on securing the release of the remaining hostages.
Call on Settlers: In his phone call on Sunday with President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced concern about the recent executive order put forth by the White House that levied sanctions against four Israeli settlers tied to attacks in the West Bank.
Rapping the Rapporteur: Two senior U.S. officials — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council Michele Taylor and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism — excoriated Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur focused on the Palestinians, over antisemitic comments she made that appeared to offer justification for the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel. Israel barred her from the country.
No Meeting: Recently revealed emails show that USAID Administrator Samantha Power declined to meet with then-Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza in May 2021, saying she wanted to wait until the conflict had ended before meeting.
Santos Saga: Residents of New York’s 3rd Congressional District will head to the polls today — despite a blizzard predicted to dump up to eight inches on the region — to vote in the special election between former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Mazi Pilip to replace former Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
Bell’s Ringing: AIPAC endorsed St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell in his primary challenge to embattled Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO).
Backing Lake: The Senate Republicans’ campaign arm endorsed Kari Lake’s candidacy in Arizona, in an effort to consolidate party support behind the former gubernatorial candidate.
Texas Church Shooter: A woman who opened fire in a Texas megachurch using a gun that had a “Free Palestine” sticker on it had a history of mental illness and documented antisemitic writings.
Artwork Returned: The Museum of Modern Art acknowledged that it had quietly returned a Chagall painting to the heirs of a German-Jewish gallerist whose property was looted by Nazis during the Holocaust; the heirs later sold the work for $24 million, giving $4 million to the museum for having returned the work.
Learning Library: The Florida Holocaust Museum will recreate the workspace of Elie Wiesel and plans to digitize the Nobel Peace laureate and author’s unfinished writings and written correspondence with world leaders.
Campus Beat: The Providence Police Department found “no imminent threat” after an unknown individual emailed threats to the director and assistant director of Brown-RISD Hillel.
Labour Pains: A U.K. Labour party minister is under fire for comments suggesting Israel gave a “green light” to Hamas to initiate the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Comedy Controversy: London’s Soho Theatre issued an apology after an Israeli man attending a comedy show was harassed and heckled with calls of “Free Palestine” and “Get out” — including by the evening’s performer — to the point that the man left the venue.
Amsterdam Arrête: A Dutch appeals court ordered the government to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns that they are being “used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
Ski Scandal: A ski shop in Davos, Switzerland, is under fire for posting a sign in Hebrew that it would not rent equipment to “our Jewish brothers” following what the shop said were “very annoying incidents” that included the theft of a sled.
Doxxed Down Under: Australia’s attorney general said Canberra was moving forward with anti-doxxing legislation after the personal details of hundreds of Australian Jews were published online.
Paris Proposal: France issued a proposal to Beirut to end the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah.
Hospital Horror: A New York Times investigation found that Hamas used Gaza City’s Al Shifa hospital “for cover, stored weapons inside it and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath the complex that was supplied with water, power and air-conditioning”; images shared with the Times included “underground bunkers, living quarters and a room that appeared to be wired for computers and communications equipment along a part of the tunnel beyond the hospital.”
Hezbollah Attack: Two Israelis — a mother and her teenage son — were injured in a Hezbollah rocket attack on the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.
Houthi Strike: Houthi militants fired on an Iran-bound ship in the Red Sea, the first time a vessel traveling to the Islamic republic has been attacked since the Iran-backed group scaled up its strikes on ships transiting through the area.
FM Sit-down: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian traveled to Doha for a meeting with his Qatari counterpart; a readout from Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the two “discussed Palestine and bilateral relations and emphasized the joint responsibility of strengthening economic and trade cooperation, as well as the need to end the Israeli #genocide in the region.” Amir-Abdollahian also met with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.
Live From New York: Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis was appointed the government’s consul general in New York, replacing Ambassador Asaf Zamir, who departed the position last year in protest of the government’s judicial reform proposals.
Remembering: Historian and cryptology expert David Kahn died at 93.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Monday.
Radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, Howard “Howie” Rose turns 70…
Rabbi, Talmudic scholar, and emeritus professor of economics at New York University, Yisroel Mayer Kirzner turns 94… Israeli film and theatre actress, Dalia Friedland turns 89… Former chair of the Mackenzie Institute, he was a North York and Toronto City councillor, Norman “Norm” Gardner turns 86… Professor at American Jewish University in Los Angeles and scholar of biblical literature and Semitic languages, Ziony Zevit turns 82… Newsletter editor specializing in U.S. intelligence, military and foreign policy issues, Jeff Stein turns 80… U.S. senator (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal turns 78… Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, author of I Did Not Know You Were Jewish and Other Things Not to Say, Ivan Kalmar turns 76… Former CEO of the Cleveland Browns and president of the Philadelphia Eagles, Joe Banner turns 71… Former president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, Ihor Kolomoyskyi turns 61… Casting director, Amy Sobo… President and CEO of the congressionally chartered National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Jeffrey Rosen turns 60… Member of the Knesset for United Torah Judaism, Moshe Shimon Roth turns 60… Internet entrepreneur and co-founder of Zynga, Mark Pincus turns 58… Immediate past chair of national women’s philanthropy of The Jewish Federations of North America, Rochelle “Shelly” Kupfer… Former senior speechwriter for Treasury Secretaries Geithner and Lew during the Obama administration, Mark Cohen… Retired Israeli soccer player, winner of nine league championships, Alon Harazi turns 53… Founding partner of Drowos Wealth Management Group at Center Street Capital Advisors, Bryan M. Drowos… Publisher of Southern California’s Jewish Link Magazine, Dov Blauner… Corporate crisis correspondent at Reuters, Mike Spector… Director of media relations for Columbia University, Samantha Slater… Principal at Health Supply America, Jonathan Neuman… Director of philanthropy at LPPE LLC, Daniel Sperling… Founder and owner at Miami’s Cadena Collective, Alejandra Aguirre…