Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: July 17, 2019

Ilhan Omar expects to introduce her own pro-BDS legislation; Former CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill calls ABC and NBC ‘Zionist organizations’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., responds to remarks by President Donald Trump after he called for four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their "broken" countries, July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
US Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., responds to remarks by President Donald Trump after he called for four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their "broken" countries, July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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TOP TALKER — Former CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill claimed that news outlets like NBC and ABC were “Zionist organizations” that produced “Zionist content,” during a panel discussion on Friday. The comments, made at the annual Netroots Nation summit held by progressive activists in Philadelphia, were first revealed by JI’s Ben Jacobs.

The summit describes itself as “the largest annual conference for progressives” and has long been a stop for Democratic presidential hopefuls, including this year.

Hill’s comments came less than a year after he lost his CNN perch after calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” during an appearance at the U.N. 

In response to a question from the audience on Friday, Hill described the choices faced by young journalists when they tell stories about Palestinians. “They’re like, I want to work for Fox, or I want to work for ABC or NBC or whoever. I want to tell these stories,” he said. “You have to make choices about where you want to work. And if you work for a Zionist organization, you’re going to get Zionist content. And no matter how vigorous you are in the newsroom, there are going to be two, three, four, 17, or maybe one powerful person — not going to suggest a conspiracy — all news outlets have a point of a view. And if your point of view competes with the point of view of the institution, you’re going to have challenges.” 

Also at the summit, t-shirts were sold grouping Zionism with racism, sexism, homophobia and antisemitism as maladies to be “resisted.” [JewishInsiderPic]

After publication, Hill disputed Jewish Insider‘s characterization of his statement via Twitter: “This is not what I said, nor what I believe. The idea of ‘Jewish controlled media’ is an antisemitic narrative that I wholly and unequivocally reject. My instinct is to ignore this, but I care too much about the subject to do so. First, I told the student that if they wanted to do radical work, they may not be able to so inside a mainstream outlet. Then I said, as an example, that you can’t do anti-Zionist work inside a Zionist org. I specifically said that there is NOT a conspiracy of media control.”

Watch the video of Hill’s remarks here [Video]

DRIVING THE CONVO — After a bitter, partisan fight on the House floor, the body voted 240-187 on Tuesday night to condemn President Donald Trump’s tweets about four U.S. congresswomen. Four Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash, who recently left the GOP, joined the Democrats in labeling the president’s comments racist, the first House rebuke of a president in more than 100 years.

HEARD ON THE FLOOR — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) during a debate on H. Res. 489: “I am more proud today, Mr. Speaker, than ever to be the daughter of Palestinian immigrants… This resolution chooses all of us… It chooses those who are marginalized, and more importantly, it chooses the values that we all must live up to.”

Speaking to reporters at the start of a cabinet meeting at the White House, Trump said, “You look at what they’ve said. I have clips right here. The most vile, horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others… The way they’re treating Israel is a disgrace. But not only Israel; it’s what they say about our country.”

Trump also pushed back against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s comments comparing detention centers to the Nazi concentration camps. “They’re not concentration camps. They’re really well-run,” he said.

HEARD ON CABLE — Jake Tapper to David Axelrod on CNN’s The Lead: How do Democrats deal with offensive comments, bigoted comments made within their own ranks — because… I mean, Congresswoman Omar has said things that a lot of Jewish Democrats in Congress found blatantly antisemitic — her and Congresswoman Tlaib? 

Axelrod: “Right. And the House voted on a resolution and there was a rebuke from the Speaker about that. The resolution wasn’t as strong as some wanted. I do think that you have to call out your own… Democrats need to be strong in condemnation of things that are viewed as antisemitic, or in any other way bigoted… Not everybody is the president of the U.S. Not everybody has issued blatantly racist tweets of this sort, and to make this sort like everybody does it, is really missing the point.” [Video]

Batya Ungar-Sargon writes… “Why does President Trump keep dragging Jews into his attacks? Feeding the base while ‘owning the libs’ has always been Trump’s campaign strategy. But dragging Jews or the Jewish state into it is terrible for Jews, like Trump’s other casually antisemitic comments. We don’t want or need to be defended with racism. Jews don’t want the Jewish state to be wrapped up in a racist screed.” [WashPost]

Zev Chafets writes: “No, Mr. Trump, the ‘Squad’ doesn’t bother Israel: Like most Israelis, I appreciate Trump’s willingness to stand up for Israel in international forums… But it seems the president would like to foment a civil war among Democrats, using Israel as a wedge… Nothing [the congresswomen] say about this country will be any worse than the things you can hear in Israel’s own legislature, the Knesset, every day.” [Bloomberg]

James Kirchick writes… “Leave Jews out of it: [Trump’s attack] was also of a piece with traditional antisemitism. Trump’s line of attack — instructing a group of American citizens to ‘go back’ from where ‘they came’ — is one that can easily be, and often is, deployed against Jews… If Trump & Co.’s intent is to spark a ‘Jexodus’ from the Democratic Party, it would be hard to find a less effective catalyst.” [TheAtlantic]

WATCH — Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway questioned Andrew Feinberg, a correspondent for Breakfast Media who asked a question about Trump’s tweets: “What’s your ethnicity?” Feinberg, who is Jewish, responded: “Um, why is that relevant?”

Conway: No, no, because I’m asking you a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.

Feinberg: “Kellyanne, my ethnicity is not relevant to the question I’m asking.” [Video]

Conway later tweeted that her question was “meant with no disrespect. We are all from somewhere else ‘originally.’”

ON THE HILL — by JI’s Laura Kelly: A Democratic-led resolution supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was overhauled ahead of a markup by the House Foreign Affairs Committee today.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal’s (D-CA) resolution supporting the two-state solution will be replaced with new text introduced by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), removing references to Israel’s “occupation” and “settlement activity.” The new text also acknowledges that unilateral moves, including by Palestinians, make it difficult to achieve a two-state solution. The bill cites attempts by Palestinians to achieve recognition of statehood, outside of bilateral negotiations with Israel, as an unacceptable unilateral move. 

While the Bass amendment replaces the entire text of Lowenthal’s bill, the resolution will retain its original 145 co-sponsors.

A bipartisan group of senators including James Lankford (R-OK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the “Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019,” legislation aimed at strengthening the ability of American victims of international terrorism, specifically of acts committed by Palestinians, to seek justice in U.S. courts.

The legislation is similar to efforts underway in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), whose own bill – “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East” – includes a provision meant to achieve two goals: restore funding to key security and humanitarian projects for Palestinians, and hold the PLO and P.A. accountable in U.S. courts for claims by American victims of Palestinian terror. 

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is challenging bipartisan efforts in the House to oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, and expects to introduce her own pro-BDS legislation, Al-Monitor reported Tuesday.

“We are introducing a resolution… to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our first amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar told Al-Monitor. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-IL) anti-BDS bill, which has over 336 co-sponsors, will be voted on in the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. According to a report in Politico, a small group of senior progressive Democrats are hoping the House will abandon the bill altogether. Many in the party are worried debate over the bill could fracture the party that just united in a vote against President Donald Trump. Others, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), have been “vocal about demanding a vote on the resolution.”

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told the White House that he is concerned about a proposal in the Trump peace plan for a $5 billion highway and railway system between the West Bank and Gaza. According to Israeli Channel 13’s Barak Ravid, Netanyahu’s main reservation is over security, and the ease of transfer between the two areas potentially fueling terrorist activity.

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — Netanyahu met on Tuesday with a delegation of Orthodox Union leaders from the U.S. and Canada — headed by OU President Moshe Bane, Allen Fagin, Chair Zvi Sand, Nathan Diament, Avi Berman and Rabbi Micah Greenland. The group “discussed the need to increase and expand initiatives focused on Diaspora Jewish education and identity.” [Pic

IRAN WATCH — Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to further breach the 2015 nuclear deal on Tuesday, at the same time that President Donald Trump cited “a lot of progress” in negotiations. Khamenei said Tehran would continue with its “trend” of reducing its commitments to the deal. At a White House cabinet meeting, meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had signaled it was ready to negotiate about its ballistic missiles, and Trump said: “We’ll see what happens. But a lot of progress has been made.”

The offer was immediately rejected by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Iran’s missiles “are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period,” Zarif’s spokesman said.

2020 BRIEFS — Some presidential candidates are spending cash faster than they raise it… The 2020 Democratic field is about to get a whole lot smaller, writes Eric Lutz… Joe Biden: I’ll challenge Trump to do push-ups onstage if he makes fun of my age or mental state… Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) considering a presidential run against Trump.

Pete Buttigieg has raised more money from NYC residents than Bill de Blasio got nationwide — by Julia Marsh, Theo Wayt and Bruce Golding: “Buttigieg’s local supporters include such quintessential Gothamites as longtime Vogue editor Anna Wintour, media tycoon Barry Diller and financier Bill Ackman, who each made maximum, $2,800 contributions, with Ackman doubling down for both the primary and general elections. Other bold-faced names who used their city addresses to back Buttigieg include Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jesse Eisenberg and Jane Lynch.” [NYPost

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Former Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich announced Tuesday that she is taking a break from politics and will not run in the September 17 election. Yacimovich, who has been an MK since 2006, said she has “grown very tired of the political part… unfortunately these are not normal times.”

Another ex-Labor leader, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, is continuing to be drawn into the center of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. On Tuesday the Daily Mail published new photos of Barak entering Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse in 2016, the same day that four young women were also photographed entering. Barak is seen wearing a scarf pulled over his face. The former prime minister vowed to sue the Daily Mail for its implications, saying he merely covered his face on the January day in New York City because of the chilly weather.

COURT BATTLE — Lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein argued in a court filingTuesday that their client should be released on house arrest, and that an Austrian passport in his possession was merely to protect him from hijackings. “Epstein — an affluent member of the Jewish faith — acquired the passport in the 1980s, when hijackings were prevalent, in connection to Middle East travel,” the court filing states. “The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur.”

Scandal-plagued Education Minister Rafi Peretz has walked back comments he made recently about both intermarriage among Jews in the United States and about gay conversion therapy. Peretz wrote to Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog to convey his regret to the American Jewish community for his “inappropriate” remarks that intermarriage is “like a second Holocaust.” Also Tuesday, he backtracked on his earlier support for gay conversion therapy: “I know that conversion therapy treatments are unacceptable… this is my position and it is unequivocal.”

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Steve Cohen’s Point72 Loses Long-Tenured Money Managers [WSJ] • Israel Q1 growth revised upwards [Globes] • Israel Aerospace signs $50 million follow-up deal with Indian navy [Reuters• Israeli cancer treatment co P-Cure raises $15 million [Globes] • Israeli tech companies raised record $3.9b in second quarter of 2019 [Globes] • Haredi software services startup Ravtech raises $4 million [Calcalist

Trial opens for Israeli woman charged in $145M fraud scheme: “A federal trial begins this week for an Israeli woman charged in the U.S. with directing a scheme to defraud tens of thousands of investors across the globe out of tens of millions of dollars… Elbaz was CEO of an Israel-based company called Yukom Communications.” [AP]

HOLLYWOOD — After years of anticipation, Netflix on Tuesday finally revealed a trailer and a release date for its upcoming film, “The Red Sea Diving Resort.” The movie, starring Chris Evans and telling the story of a Mossad operation in the 1980s to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel, will hit the streaming platform on July 31. Ben Kingsley also stars as a Mossad boss, alongside Haley Benett and Greg Kinnear, with Israeli Gideon Raff directing. [USAToday]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Oregon passes law saying schools must teach the Holocaust — by Sarah Zimmerman: “Oregon public school students will be required to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides under a bill signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown on Monday… The law was introduced by 14-year old Claire Sarnowski from suburban Lake Oswego. She came up with the idea through an unlikely friendship with 92-year-old Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener, who died last year.” [AP]

Donors suspend funds for Poland’s Jewish museum — by Monika Scislowska: “A Jewish association says some private donors to Poland’s renowned Jewish history museum have suspended funding out of concerns about the government’s failure to renew the term of its director. A special commission in May approved Dariusz Stola for another five-year term, but Culture Minister Piotr Glinski hasn’t yet officially reappointed him… Stola had allegedly refused to make the museum available for a conference that was to be dedicated to the late twin of ruling conservative party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski… The government also criticized the tone of an exhibit last year that mentioned Poland’s antisemitic campaign in March 1968.” [AP]

DEEP DIVE — Jews are routinely being attacked in the streets of New York City. So why is no one acting like it’s a big deal? — by Armin Rosen: “The increase in the number of physical assaults against Orthodox Jews in New York City is a matter of empirical fact… In late 2018, [Councilman Chaim] Deutsch and Council Speaker Corey Johnson began pushing for the creation of an office of hate crime prevention, which [Mayor Bill] de Blasio announced this spring. In June, the mayor said he would move up the anticipated launch date from November to an unspecified point later in the summer…  in mid-June there was no director, no dedicated staff, and nothing to show of the office outside of fairly preliminary efforts.” [Tablet

ACROSS THE POND — More than 60 Labour peers, members of the House of Lords, signed their names to a full-page ad in The Guardian on Wednesday slamming party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the issue of antisemitism. “The Labour Party welcomes everyone irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Except, it seems, Jews,” the advert reads. “This is your legacy Mr Corbyn.” The 67 signatories make up about a third of Labour members in the House of Lords. [BBC]

TOP-OP — Deborah Lipstadt writes… “She survived Auschwitz — and eventually forgave her persecutors. Should others? [Eva Mozes] Kor, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz for 10 months, was among the 1,500 sets of twins upon whom the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele conducted horrific experiments. That alone would have rendered her an iconic figure. But Kor did something else, and it made her controversial. She declared that she forgave those who had tortured her, together with all who had participated in the genocide… Kor always insisted she was forgiving these perpetrators in her name only. Nonetheless, many survivors were troubled by her actions.” [WashPost]

How antisemitism corrupts democracy; Argentina’s refusal to face its antisemitic past continues to damage the nation — by Federico Finchelstein and Rebecca Kobrin: “On July 18, 1994, unknown attackers bombed the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association… a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires… This week, as we mark the 25th anniversary of the greatest single loss of Jewish lives outside Israel since the Holocaust, it is imperative that we grapple with antisemitism as a global issue. An ideology that combines racism and right-wing politics, antisemitism has long pervaded Europe and the United States — and South America. This region’s antisemitism, however, has long been neglected and ignored by international bodies like the United Nations.” [WashPost

TRANSITION — Rhoda Smolow was elected national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Smolow will replace Ellen Hershkin, whose term ends on December 31st.

DESSERT — On the menu soon: lab-grown steak for eco-conscious diners — by Lianne Back and Tova Cohen: “Diners in some upmarket restaurants will soon be able to tuck into laboratory-grown steak, thanks to an Israeli startup that seeks to tap into consumer concerns about health, the environment and animal welfare. While lab-grown hamburgers and chicken are already in development around the world, Israel’s Aleph Farms claims to be the first company to have developed steak in a laboratory… Aleph Farms hopes to have its product on a limited number of restaurant menus from 2021 in a trial phase, aiming for an official launch in 2023, first in restaurants and then in stores.” [Reuters

REMEMBERING — Mark Talisman, advocate for Jewish causes, dies at 77 — by Bart Barnes: “Mark E. Talisman, a leader, supporter and advocate of several Jewish organizations and causes as well as a founder of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, died July 11 at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 77… Mr. Talisman spent much of his early career as chief of staff to Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D-OH), and his most notable impact in Congress was helping draft legislation aimed at removing official emigration barriers for Jews in the former Soviet Union.” [WashPost]

BIRTHDAYS: Chair of Samson Energy Company, co-founder of Granite Properties and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Stacy Helen Schusterman turns 56… Travel writer, publisher, consumer advocate and the founder of the Frommer’s series of travel guides, he is a graduate of Yale Law School, Arthur Frommer turns 90… Israeli politician and historian, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv U., he served as a member of Knesset (1996-2002), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2000-2001) and as ambassador to Spain (1987-1991), Shlomo Ben-Ami turns 76… Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Charley Steiner turns 70… Retired VP and assistant general counsel of The Hartford and former chairman of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, Robert K. Yass turns 68…

Baltimore-born, HUC-JIR educated, rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA, author, historian and college professor, Lance Jonathan Sussman, Ph.D. turns 65… Annapolis, Maryland-based research consultant performing litigation support, commercial and political research, Steven Lebowitz turns 54… Treasurer of Australia, he has previously served as Minister for the Environment and Energy, Joshua Anthony “Josh” Frydenberg turns 48… Founder and CEO of Zeta Global, David A. Steinberg turns 49… Stand-up comedian, he was a finalist on the NBC reality-talent show “Last Comic Standing” in two seasons, Gary Gulman turns 49… VP of communications at Hillel International, Matthew E. Berger turns 41…

Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party (2013-2015), elected to the Knesset in 2019 for the Blue and White party, Boaz Toporovsky turns 39… Healthcare reporter for Barron’s since 2019, he was previously a staff writer at The Forward (2010-2019), Josh Nathan-Kazis turns 34… Corporate advisor at Institutional Shareholder Services since June 2017, he was previously at The Israel Project (2014-2017), Jared Sorhaindo turns 33… Senior strategy associate at JPMorgan Chase, she is a Young Leadership Division board member at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Melanie Beatusturns 29… Daughter of Jared and Ivanka, Arabella Rose Kushner turns 8..

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