Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: July 10, 2019

White House disinvites artist who drew anti-Semitic cartoon; Boris Johnson censures Iran; Twitter makes Farrakhan delete comment comparing Jews to termites

Conservative MP and leadership contender Boris Johnson takes part in a  Conservative Party Hustings event in Perth, Scotland, on July 5, 2019. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)
Conservative MP and leadership contender Boris Johnson takes part in a Conservative Party Hustings event in Perth, Scotland, on July 5, 2019. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)

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DRAW BACK — The White House has disinvited cartoonist Ben Garrison to a social media summit on Thursday, Politico Playbook reported. People in the administration reportedly privately defended the invite at first, before the White House reversed course on Garrison’s attendance.

Garrison’s invite was widely criticized after his cartoons depicting classic antisemitic tropes were circulated.

TWITTER TAKES ACTION — On Tuesday, Twitter said that under new rules, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was required to delete a 2018 tweet comparing the Jewish people to “termites.” The antisemitic comment now violates a new rule prohibiting language that would “dehumanize others based on religion,” the company said. The tweet was removed on Tuesday.

“While we have started with religion, our intention has always been and continues to be an expansion to all protected categories,” Jerrel Peterson, Twitter’s head of safety policy, told The New York Times. “We just want to be methodical.”

IRAN WATCH — The Trump administration is seeking to achieve a Congress-approved deal with Iran to replace the 2015 nuclear deal, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Al-Jazeera on Wednesday. Hook also maintained that “right now, there are no back-channel talks between the U.S. and Iran.”

Reuters reported that last month Iran released a Lebanese businessman with U.S. permanent residency, Nizar Zakka, after four years in prison as a gesture that could lead to U.S.-Iranian talks, but the overture failed.

Speaking to reporters during a meeting with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in the Oval Office on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said: “Iran is doing a lot of bad things right now and they better be very careful.”

WHAT’S NEXT? European powers called for an urgent meeting of the remaining parties to the 2015 Iran deal: “These compliance issues must be addressed within the framework of the JCPOA, and a Joint Commission should be convened urgently,” the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, plus the European Union’s top diplomat, said in a statement Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said it “welcomedFrance’s role in reducing tension and implementing the accord… The French are part of efforts… to keep the nuclear deal alive.”

United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace tells JI: “How can it be that Europe will facilitate Iran’s breach of the JCPOA? INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) now becomes a tool for Iran’s nuclear program, [the] spread of terrorism, and regional expansionism.”

HEARD YESTERDAY — Ambassador Eric Edelman, former undersecretary of defense for policy under George W. Bush, on a conference call hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA): “I think the Europeans know that they don’t have much room to maneuver here. The Europeans know that banks and businesses are being put in a position of having to choose between doing business with the United States of America or doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nine out of ten banks or business entities are going to obviously choose to continue to do business with the United States. So there’s not much they can do. I think what [French President Emmanuel Macron] is hoping to do is take advantage of the fact that the president, and more recently Secretary Pompeo, have made it clear that they’re prepared to negotiate with the Iranians and get some kind of talks going between the United States and Iran, either indirectly or directly.”

Edelman added: “I, right now, don’t think we’re necessarily headed for a conflict… My fear is that we may be headed towards a negotiation that replicates some of the deficiencies of the Obama era in negotiation, which is to say it’s all going to be about the nuclear issues — which are important — but cannot be treated, in my view, in isolation or alone.”

Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “What the Iranians are doing is essentially trying to rebuild some leverage to try to get the administration to back off of sanctions, and I think that that’s what they’re going to continue to do. My view at this point would be to see if there’s a number of different European tracks ongoing. I don’t think the Iranians have any interest in direct negotiations with Trump right now on a bigger deal, but they might be open to some kind of freeze for freeze or pullback for pullback, where in exchange for the U.S. suspending or pulling back on certain sanctions, Iran would resume abiding by the nuclear agreement and not continue to violate the deal.”

Goldenberg on where things could go wrong: “I don’t think that either side really wants a major confrontation. But we almost got there a month ago even with both sides not wanting it. And so Iran might do something which it thinks is sort of below the threshold of a major American retaliation and miscalculate, which would then result in a major American retaliation. The United States might take military action, which it thinks would be limited in scope, and not realize that that might trigger a major Iranian retaliation. So this is the problem. And so that’s why you’re better off having some kind of difficult process going and some kind of direct communication channel to avoid those kinds of problems.”

“The most likely scenario is we sort of continue to muddle along like this for the next year and a half, and then either Trump is reelected, at which point the Iranians feel like they have no choice but to deal with him; or he’s not reelected, in which case they feel like maybe they have a better chance with somebody they can engage with — a Democrat.”

VIEW FROM LONDON — Boris Johnson, the front-runner in the race to replace outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May, said in an interviewwith the Jewish News that he is “prepared” to reimpose sanctions against Tehran if the international community confirms that it has breached the nuclear deal. “I don’t want people to think I’m in any way soft on Iran,” Johnson stressed. “We face a very difficult situation and I am certainly prepared to go down that route if they have breached the nuclear deal. My strong, strong advice to the Iranians would be to cease this madness, not to take any further steps that would break the terms of the agreement, and not to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

ON THE HILL — Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are seeking to seize the opportunity to kill the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) once and for all now that Iran has moved toward formally breaching the international accord, The Atlantic’s Kathy Gilsinan reports.

Last week, the group sent a letter to President Donald Trump, urging him to revoke civil-nuclear waivers and restore U.N. sanctions on certain nuclear-related technology transfers to Iran. “Unless Trump acts, the last realistic chance to keep international pressure on Iran will go away under his administration,” a GOP aide told the magazine.

HEARD AT CUFI — Sen. Cruz, speaking at the Christians United for Israel summit on Tuesday morning: “Right now, the pressure on the president is enormous, the pressure from Europe. Europe believes it stands to make a lot of money by doing business with Iran. And if that means the Ayatollah gets billions of dollars to develop nuclear weapons that could murder millions of people across the globe, well that’s the cost of doing business.” [Video]

Sens. Cruz, Kaine call for House vote on antisemitism resolution — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday called for the House of Representatives to take up his bipartisan resolution — co-sponsored by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) — condemning antisemitism, which passed the Senate unanimously last month.

“Now that the Senate has passed this resolution, the House of Representatives needs to take it up and vote,” Cruz told CUFI. “And by the way, [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), can’t say this is some right-wing conspiracy, it is the Cruz-Kaine resolution.”

Kaine told JI that while he hopes the House takes up his resolution, it isn’t completely necessary. “I hope that they will. It was a Senate resolution, it wasn’t one that had to go to the House,” he said. “It was our statement, as a Senate, that antisemitism anywhere, but especially in the United States, is on the rise and its unacceptable.” [JewishInsider]

ACROSS THE POND — Three Labour members of the House of Lords resigned from the party on Tuesday over its handling of antisemitism complaints, BBC reported. Lord David Triesman, Lord Ara Darzi and Lord Leslie Turnberg left the party over what they termed its institutional antisemitism. Lord Triesman said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “and his circle are antisemitic, having never once made the right judgement call about an issue reflecting deep prejudice. My sad conclusion is that the Labour party is very plainly institutionally antisemitic,” he wrote in his resignation letter. Lord Turnberg told BBC that he was leaving due to “the overt antisemitism that permeates the party machine that is no longer possible for me to tolerate.”

JI’s Laura Kelly asked members of Congress on Tuesday whether they could work with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn if he became prime minister, given his history of antisemitism. See their full remarks here [JewishInsider]

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who praised Corbyn following a phone conversation earlier this year tells JI: “I’m not super familiar with the internal workings, but I certainly think that all communities have to be protected and every community needs to be assured and feeling that they are safe from bigotry. I think that’s the main deal.”

Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL): “I’m afraid I don’t know enough about [Corbyn’s] history to have anything intelligent to say there. But I am horribly opposed to antisemites… We got enough of them on our side of the pond.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)“I’m not an expert enough on it to really focus on it. I will say this, it is a global trend and problem,” he said, and referenced his sponsorship of 2017 legislation that provided additional funds to the State Department to combat antisemitism in Europe. “But frankly, that concern in my brain has been eclipsed by antisemitism in the U.S.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “I know we’re trying to work with whoever the foreign leaders are, but I don’t think that’s going to happen over there, from what I read about the politics.”

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA): “Well, Mr. Corbyn needs to have a long heartfelt discussion with himself and with his party about what they stand for. And if they stand for antisemitism, then they don’t deserve, in my judgment, to govern one of the finest countries in the history of the world, the United Kingdom. Don’t interpret that as me trying to tell our friends overseas how to do their business. America has enough trouble right now paddling its own canoe. But these antisemitism allegations — and in some case facts — keep bubbling up.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will introduce legislation this week providing grants for Holocaust education programs in schools, announcing his intention on Twitter in response to news that a Florida principal refused to acknowledge as historical fact the genocide of six million Jews. “This week I will file the Never Again Education Act to help states obtain resources through @usedgov so our students learn about the historical fact that Nazi Germany systematically murdered over 6 million Jews,” Rubio tweeted.

The bill is expected to mirror House legislation introduced in January by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). It’s currently sitting in the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) writes… “On human rights, facts are stubborn things: Like that of all nations, Israel’s leadership is not perfect, and I certainly disagree with some of its decisions. But our relationship should transcend individuals and center on the fact that Israel, unlike others in the Middle East, remains the most vibrant and stable democracy in the region, with a remarkable human rights record.” [JewishStandard]

LEGAL CHIRPING — Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for blocking him on Twitter. Hikind said that “Ocasio-Cortez is acting cowardly and should be ashamed of her attempts to silence me.”

TALK OF OUR NATION — Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz said during a cabinet meeting on July 1 that the rate of intermarriage and assimilation among U.S. Jews is “like a second Holocaust,” Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Tuesday in Axios. Peretz’s remarks were made during a presentation of the Jewish People Policy Institute’s 2019 annual report by Ambassador Dennis Ross.

American Jewish groups were quick to criticize Peretz over the reported comments. Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL tweeted: “It’s inconceivable to use the term ‘Holocaust’ to describe Jews choosing to marry non-Jews. It trivializes the Shoah. It alienates so many members of our community. This kind of baseless comparison does little other than inflame and offend.” And the American Jewish Committee said that while “assimilation challenges Jewish continuity,” Peretz’s comments “are offensive and unhelpful.”

Ravid also reported that Foreign Minister Israel Katz will attend an international ministerial meeting on religious freedom hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, D.C. on July 16-18. 

Pompeo taps an abortion foe and a rabbi for a fresh look on human rights: “Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who often speaks of his faith, announced the creation of a State Department commission on ‘unalienable rights’ that has already drawn suspicions among gay and women’s activists… Pompeo named as head of the commission Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor under whom he studied, who is one of the intellectual leaders of the anti-abortion movement. One of the panel’s members is Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik.” [ToI]

INTERVIEW — Ari Fleischer explained why former Republican critics of Trump are now embracing him ahead of his re-election bid, in an interviewwith Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker: “When I add up Donald Trump, as offensive as he can be, as inappropriate as he can be, and combine it with his policy accomplishments, and I compare it to the Democrats and their statements and their policies and their rush to the far left, I will take Donald Trump any day,” Fleischer said.

2020 BRIEFS — Tom Steyer plans to spend $100 million on his 2020 presidential bid… Joe Biden’s tax returns show more than $15 million in income after 2016… Here’s how much the 2020 presidential candidates have raised so far…

BOYCOTT BERNIE? — Social-media users have started the hashtag#boycotthomedepot after Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus announcedthat he expects to donate to President Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.

Trump tweeted Tuesday evening: “A truly great, patriotic & charitable man, Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot who, at the age of 90, is coming under attack by the Radical Left Democrats with one of their often used weapons. They don’t want people to shop at those GREAT stores because he contributed to your favorite President, me! These people are vicious and totally crazed, but remember, there are far more great people (“Deplorables”) in this country, than bad. Do to them what they do to you. Fight for Bernie Marcus and Home Depot!”

RACE TO THE KNESSET — A day after it was reported that Kachol Lavan had hired a former Obama pollster ahead of the election, The Jerusalem Postreported that Likud is once again working with John McLaughlin, who recently worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign. McLaughlin has been back in Israel recently to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepare for the September 17 election.

Meanwhile, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party, whose refusal to compromise with Netanyahu was a leading cause of Israel’s repeat election this year, unveiled a new campaign slogan on Tuesday: “Make Israel Normal Again.”

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — While Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan was dining with President Donald Trump and the Qatari emir this week, his name was back in the headlines in Israel in relation to Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption scandals. Newly leaked transcripts of police interrogations revealed the prime minister said he couldn’t recall if he once arranged a military helicopter to take the Israeli billionaire to Jordan. But Milchan’s aide reportedly told police that while the Mossad chief helped organize the ride, the helicopter itself belonged to the Jordanians. Netanyahu, meanwhile, said that while he may have received gifts of cigars and champagne from Milchan, the financier also handed them out to people like Shimon Peres and Yair Lapid. 

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Victoria’s Secret founder Les Wexner loses $53 million over ties with Jeffrey Epstein [Observer] • Google acquires enterprise cloud storage provider Elastifile, founded in 2014 by Amir Aharoni, Roni Luxenburg, and Shahar Frank [VentureBeat] • ‪Harbor Group International snaps up Toby Moskovits and Michael Lichtenstein’s 564 St. John’s Place property for $118.5M [CommercialObserver]‬ • Israeli defense contractor IAI partners with space launch vehicle Company Firefly [Calcalist] • Israeli digital customer platform Lightico raises $14.5m [Globes]

SCENE AT SUN VALLEY — An impressive slate of tech moguls and media magnates began to arrive in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Tuesday for the upcoming invite-only Allen & Company conference, nicknamed “billionaire summer camp.” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, Paypal CEO Daniel Schulman, Vice Chairman of CBS and Viacom Shari Redstone, Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban and Hollywood executive Brian Grazer are among the many already spotted at the event. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Disney CEO Bob Iger are also slated to attend. [Pics]

SPORTS BLINK — Billionaire Blavatnik wants a piece of America’s biggest sport — by David Hellier and Christopher Palmeri“Billionaire Len Blavatnik’s streaming company DAZN is eyeing a bid for rights to show live U.S. National Football League games… NFL authorities are thinking of ending AT&T’s 25-year grip on some Sunday afternoon broadcasts to accommodate companies that show content via ‘over-the-top’ apps on internet-enabled televisions.” [Bloomberg]

Yankees legend Mariano Rivera explains why he’s a strong supporter of Israel — by Philip Klein: “Rivera was on hand to appear at the annual Christians United For Israel summit [in D.C.]… In an interview with the Washington Examiner… Rivera said his bond with Israel was forged on two trips he made there: one with his family and one last summer with his church and a group of friends who are rabbis… Asked if he had received criticism for taking a position on what can be a polarizing issue, Rivera said he had not but that it wouldn’t matter if he did.” [WashExaminer]

MEDIA WATCH — A day after publishing a letter purporting to show Jewish support for suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson, the Guardian pulled the letter “pending investigation.” The decision came after a complaint from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which said the newspaper was “misleading and inaccurate in its description of the signatories, some have been suspended or expelled from the Labour Party and one of whom has called for Zionists to be exterminated.”

Daniel Sugarman writes… “The Guardian’s longstanding and shameful tradition of promoting antisemitism denial: For decades, any time any issue of antisemitism on the Left has reared its head (including but not limited to the subject of Israel), the paper has printed the exact same line from the exact same tiny group of far-left people on the outmost fringes of our community… Readers of the Guardian over the decades may well have come to the conclusion that this small group accurately represents British Jews, when it does nothing of the sort.” [TheJC]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Billionaire insists he has legal parking spot on West Village street, infuriating neighbors who say he created a fake space for himself — by Esha Ray, Ennica Jacob and Stephen Rex Brown: “Deep-pocketed investor Noam Gottesman — who built himself a corner compound on Jane and Washington Sts. over a decade ago — gave himself the ultimate upgrade during the renovation process: his own private parking spot on one of the city’s most coveted streets. The sleight-of-hand was achieved thanks to what the Department of Buildings says is an illegal curb cut…  His team insisted in a city court hearing in May that the building has the right to a curb cut ― but in fact Gottesman, 58, installed his personal perk without the proper permits.” [NYDailyNews]

CULTURE — Long lost WWII-era Soviet songs brought to life in Israel — by Aron Heller: “In its first performance in Israel, a Grammy-nominated concert had arrived to play the lost songs of lost Jews in a nearly lost language… The result is ‘Yiddish Glory,’ a collection of songs describing the harrowing World War II experience of Soviet Jews. Even amid the horrors of the Holocaust, Jewish musicians created a vibrant cultural life in camps and ghettos, with the arts providing a refuge, a sense of meaning and even a form of resistance.” [AP]

How Sweden became the epicenter of Yiddish children’s media — by Marjorie Ingall: “To become an official minority language in Sweden, a language has to have been spoken in Sweden for hundreds of years. Yiddish fits the bill: The first official Jewish community was established near Goteborg in the 1770s… Because there’s a government mandate in place, publishers, broadcasters, videographers, and animators now create media in the country’s minority languages. One such creator is Niklas Olniansky, who runs a Yiddish children’s publishing house. Now that there’s a Yiddish renaissance among hipster and queer-identified Jews, there are once again wider markets for secular Yiddish children’s books.” [Tablet

DESSERT — ‪There are only a handful of Kosher food carts in America, and one of them is in a gas station parking lot in Southwest Portland — by Andi Prewitt: “Holy Smokes Righteous Eats… has won no prestigious culinary awards nor boasts an opulent dining room. In fact, the handful of wooden folding chairs wedged between the candy-apple red trailer that serves as the kitchen and the neighboring gas station convenience store may mean your lunch comes with a whiff of unleaded. What’s driving crowds to [Steven] Goldsmith’s business on the far edges of Southwest Portland is that he’s making barbecue that abides by Jewish dietary restrictions. Holy Smokes is one of only four kosher food trucks Goldsmith knows of in the nation — though that’s not what he set out to be known for.” [WillametteWeek]‬

REMEMBERING — Robert Bernhard Dies; last Lehman partner from founding family — by Laurence Arnold: “Robert Bernhard, the last partner at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. who was a direct descendant of the firm’s founding family, has died… His maternal great-grandfather was Mayer Lehman, one of the three Jewish brothers from Bavaria who immigrated to Montgomery, Alabama, where, in 1850, they founded a cotton-trading and dry-goods business called Lehman Brothers. They would move to lower Manhattan, and start trading more broadly, in 1868.” [Bloomberg]

BIRTHDAYS: Broadway composer, whose scores include Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles, Jerry Herman turns 88… Robert D. Gronke turns 77… Stan Udaskin turns 73… NYC-born author of 11 novels, she has been living in Israel since 1971, Naomi Ragen turns 70… Founder of the Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County (MD), she is a partner in consulting firm Quorum, LLC and president at Regal Domestics, Barbara Goldberg Goldman turns 70… Managing editor of the Cleveland Jewish News, Bob Jacob turns 63… President of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey (2014-2017), now chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Network Advisory Committee, Leslie Dannin Rosenthal turns 62…

Member of Holland & Knight’s public policy group, he was previously a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida (2007-2011) and Chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Ronald “Ron” Klein turns 62… One of the chief film critics for The New York TimesAnthony Oliver (A.O.) Scott turns 53… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2019 (D-MI-8), she is a former CIA analyst and Department of Defense official, Elissa Blair Slotkin turns 43… NYC-based public affairs and strategic communications consultant, he was previously in the post-presidential office of President Bill Clinton, M Public Affairs and Glover Park Group, Elie Jacobsturns 41…

Member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Yinon Azulai turns 40… Head of politics and public affairs at Altice and a4 Media, Rena Shapiro turns 39… Writer and comedian based in Los Angeles, H. Alan Scott turns 37… Long-time HuffPost reporter now at The Daily BeastSam Stein turns 37… Founder, creative director and designer for a fashion line bearing her name, she is the daughter of CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz, Kimberly Ovitz turns 36… Dance teacher at John Foster Dulles High School in Missouri City, Texas, Kayla Sokoloff turns 26… Michael F. Lewis

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