Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: June 6, 2019
Cory Booker defends his support for anti-BDS bill; Inside the meeting between Jewish leaders and Senate Democrats; How X-Men’s Magneto became Jewish
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ON THE TRAIL — Booker defends support for anti-BDS bill — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: In an interview, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) defended his support of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which he co-sponsored last year. The interview with the Huffington Post took place in the Booker campaign’s RV, while driving through Southeastern Iowa, and was published on Wednesday.
According to Booker, the current version of the Senate bill actually “protects American companies” from being forced to comply with actions that undermine the state of Israel. “I am sorry, the BDS movement is something that I do not support, and I think that we should do what we can to protect American companies, and other Americans, from being attacked in a way that undermines their ability to stand up for what they believe is right,” Booker said.[JewishInsider]
HEARD THE OTHER DAY — On Tuesday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio discussed BDS, anti-Israel critics within the Democratic Party, and the rise of antisemitism during a press conference announcing the NYPD crime stats in Brooklyn.
“To have a place that is a refuge for the Jewish people is absolutely necessary. I believe 100 percent in protecting the state of Israel and I believe that the BDS movement – very misguided – is undermining the economy and the existence and the survival of the State of Israel. I also believe in a two-state solution, and I’ve always believed in a two-state solution. As President, I would work very hard for [a] two-state solution, which I think is still within reach. But I want to convince my fellow Democrats and fellow progressives who have moved in a different direction that they’re making a mistake. I also want to say, that is by far a minority of the Democratic Party. The vast majority of the Democratic Party, the vast majority of Democratic office holders are pro-Israel.”
De Blasio also appeared to suggest that the threat of antisemitism comes only from the right: “I think the ideological movement that is antisemitic is the right-wing movement. That’s just abundantly — it’s been clear down the history… After World War II, a huge number of the former Nazis and former fascists were allowed to reintegrate into society. Right-wing parties developed even in the 50s and 60s in the same countries that had experienced fascism and Nazism. They have continued to grow… So, I want to be very, very clear — the violent threat, the threat that is ideological is very much from the right.”
Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the NYC Jewish Caucus, tells Jewish Insider, “I don’t agree with the mayor’s comments. Hate knows no political party — it can come from both sides of the aisle. On a national level, we see neo-Nazis on the far-right, and we see the hateful, anti-Israel sentiments on the far (and not so far, sadly) left. Locally, there is absolutely no evidence of far-right white supremacists committing these acts.”
“It’s frankly upsetting that the mayor is using Jewish victims of assaults in Brooklyn to perpetuate an ideology that he feels will further his national campaign.”
John Podhoretz writes… “De Blasio’s whitewashing on anti-Semitism: To speak as though the progressivism he claims to represent has nothing for which it needs to account when it comes to the rise of antisemitic acts is, quite simply, an act of shameful ideological whitewashing on the mayor’s part.” [NYPost]
REPORT — Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have teamed up to introduce a bipartisan resolution endorsing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ch. 13’s Barak Ravid reportedon Wednesday. According to the report, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and other embassy officials have been lobbying Graham and Van Hollen to remove the term “two-state solution” from the text, but with little success.
Van Hollen’s spokesman Bridgett Frey told Axios in a statement:“Both Senators Van Hollen and Graham are long-time supporters of a two-state solution and are working on the best way to advance that commitment in Congress.”
YESTERDAY — Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Cory Gardner (CO) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), introduced the Partnership Fund for Peace Act of 2019. “This legislation would create the Partnership Fund for Peace to facilitate and finance joint economic ventures and people-to-people exchanges between Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans,” Rep. Lowey related in announcing the bipartisan initiative.
“The legislation is supported by the following organizations: Alliance for Middle East Peace, AIPAC, J Street, AJC, Americans for Peace Now, ADL, Churches for Middle East Peace, JFNA, Alliance for Peacebuilding, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and IAN,” Lowey’s statement read.
ON THE HILL — Inside the meeting between Jewish leaders and Senate Dems — by JI’s Laura Kelly: Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Jewish leaders at the annual meeting with Senate Democrats that they expect a vote on S.1, Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, currently in the House, according to one attendee in the meeting. Some House Democrats have in recent months expressed concerns that a provision of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) violates the First Amendment.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) raised concerns with Jewish leaders that they weren’t doing enough to call out antisemitism coming from Republican circles, highlighting his own condemnation of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) use of antisemitic tropes, one attendee said.
Israel Policy Forum’s Susie Gelman expressed her strong opposition to any Israeli annexation of the West Bank and criticized President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in all but name, according to an attendee.
J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami stated his opposition to the BDS movement but raised concern over tagging criticism of Israel as anti-Zionist or antisemitic. “Susie made Jeremy look moderate,” the attendee remarked.
AIPAC’s chief executive, Howard Kohr, discussed the memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel. [JewishInsider]
Following the meeting, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told Jewish Insider: “I wish it had been longer. We had so many members of the Senate and leaders of the Jewish community from around our country and there are so many topics to discuss. It was a very productive hour, I only wish we had a second hour… There was a vigorous discussion about how we all need to fight bigotry and antisemitism in all its forms and finding a positive shared path.”
Mark Mellman, President and CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, who attended the meeting, tells JI: “Everybody expressed real gratitude to the Democratic caucus for their steadfast support for Israel. Their sustained efforts to fight anti-semitism and their strong commitment to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, repairing the world.”
On Wednesday, the Senate approved the nomination of David Schenker as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, in a vote of 83 to 11.
Schenker, the Aufzien fellow and director of the Beth and David Geduld Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also served as a senior advisor in the Department of Defense on the military and political dynamics of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. Schenker was first nominated in April 2018.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill providing grants for synagogues and non-profits to upgrade energy infrastructure to lower operating costs and decrease environmental impact, in a first-of-its-kind pilot program through the Department of Energy.
Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)introduced the legislation in the House while Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) put forth a companion bill in the Senate.
The bill calls for $10 million in funding, with houses of worship and non-profits eligible for grants up to $200,000 to update or add infrastructure to be more energy efficient.
Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union, one of the groups that spearheaded the legislation, said the legislation will benefit thousands of churches, synagogues and non-profits. “This legislation is a win-win because it will enable houses of worship, schools and other nonprofits to allocate more of their resources to programs that help their communities while at the same time becoming more energy efficient,” he said in a statement.
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt blasted Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh for comments he made to the New York Times warning about the Palestinian Authority on verge of collapsing for lack of foreign funds. “PM Shtayyeh is wrong, the PA isn’t ‘in a collapsing situation,’” Greenblatt tweeted on Wednesday. “The PA caused the situation. Time for the PA to step-up & take responsibility for their people & the economy. The PA can’t continue to blame the US & everyone else for a situation they caused.”
On Wednesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of committing “a big treason to the Islamic world” by attending the Kushner-led ‘economic workshop’ in Bahrain later this month. “We hope that Bahraini and Saudi rulers realize the quagmire they are stepping into,” Khamenei said in a speech marking Eid al Fitr in Tehran.
Meet The Trump Administration’s Man In Palestine — by Miriam Berger: “Ashraf al-Jabari, 45, is a man befitting the Trump show, the kind the president has cultivated around the country and now the world. He’s a largely unknown businessperson on the political fringe, a former member of Palestinian intelligence, bringing to Bahrain some heavy baggage in his questionable alliances and business practices and a whiff of scandal… He’s mostly unknown among Palestinians, but has been on the Trump administration’s radar since at least 2017… In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Jabari rejected accusations that the conference is ‘conspiratorial’ against Palestinian interests. He later claimed that 13 Palestinian businessmen would be attending, though he refused to name them.” [BuzzFeed]
BEHIND THE RECORDING — The Washington Post’s John Hudson details Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “off-the-record” meeting with Jewish leaders at the Conference of Presidents last week, which was later leaked: “During the private meeting, Pompeo expressed hesitation about answering particularly sensitive questions, saying ‘someone’s probably got a tape recorder on so I won’t say.’ That prompted a leader of the gathering to say, ‘I want to emphasize that this meeting is off-the-record.’ … In a joking reference to the president’s habit of firing top officials via tweet, Pompeo said ‘my time as secretary of state will be fleeting as a historical matter. The president may tweet while I’m here,’ he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.” [WashPost]
TRUMP DIPLOMACY — President Trump said in an interview aired on Wednesday that while there’s a “chance” he will order military actions against Iran, “I’d much rather talk” with Iranian leaders. “There’s always a chance [for military action]. Do I want to? No. I’d rather not. But there’s always a chance,” Trump said in an interview with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. “I would much rather talk.”
Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, head of the IDF Military Intelligence, said in remarks at the Israel Defense and Homeland Security Expo in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that the heightened U.S. sanctions on Iran have substantially affected Iranian attempts to establish a permanent presence in Syria. “Iran is looking for other places to base itself, for instance the Iraqi arena,” he said.
2020 BRIEFS — Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders: Two liberals aimingfor the same target… Sanders crashed a Walmart shareholders meeting, blasting ‘starvation wages’…In the race to 2020, no podcast is too small for Democratic candidates.
Senate Intelligence Committee summons mysterious British security consultant — by Natasha Bertrand: “On April 5, just 2 weeks after Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final report on Russia’s election interference, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to a British security consultant named Walter Soriano asking for a voluntary, closed-door interview and documents with various Russia probe figures dating back to June 2015… The committee also requested Soriano’s communications with three Israeli private intelligence firms: Psy Group, Wikistrat, and Black Cube… Soriano is virtually a ghost online, aside from publicly available corporate records listing him as the director of a London-based security firm called USG Security. He has been accused in the Israeli press of spying on police officers involved in the corruption probe of Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu — an allegation he’s staunchly denied.” [Politico]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Boaz Weinstein sues BlackRock alleging corporate-governance failings [WSJ] • Developer David Cordish says he could be interested in ‘the rebirth of Harborplace’ — if Baltimore leadership can tackle the city’s many issues [Bizjournals] • David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman at The Carlyle Group, discusses the state of private equity [Bloomberg] •
SPOTLIGHT — Billionaire Art Collector Leon Black Reveals Private Equity’s ‘Scream-Worthy’ Problem — by Sissi Cao: “Black said he ultimately decided to file the IPO because he wanted Apollo to be a global alternative asset manager, rather than a fund manager niched to just private equity. (Today Apollo’s portfolio spans across private equity, real estate, credit and other asset classes.) However, eight years into the public market, Apollo shares are still trading at what Black thinks is ‘half of what they should be.’ Asked whether he regretted taking Apollo public after all, the CEO confessed, ‘Absolutely! The public market does not understand rare, valuable creatures like us.'” [Observer]
CORPORATE MEASURES —YouTube pledges to purge Holocaust denial, Nazi ideology from site: YouTube will purge false videos claiming that ‘well-documented violent events’ like the Holocaust didn’t happen and that promote Nazi ideology, the company said on Wednesday. The Anti-Defamation League called it “an important step forward.” But ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt cautioned, “This move alone is insufficient and must be followed by many more changes from YouTube and other tech companies to adequately counter the scourge of online hate and extremism.” [JewishInsider]
PROFILE — The Lion of Jerusalem — by Tal Kra-Oz: “Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. Nowhere is this contrast clearer than in Jerusalem. The city’s new mayor, the 57-year-old Moshe Lion… once served in the IDF’s rabbinate and has now turned his focus on garbage collection… As a Jerusalemite in exile myself, I told Lion that I wish him the best of luck. Lion, personable as ever, chuckled. ‘You know, it’s interesting,’ he said. ‘All Israelis want me to be successful, truly. During my campaign, there were big arguments for and against me. But starting the moment I was elected, people tell me, ‘just do the job’. Baruch hashem, it’s fun. When you’re elected mayor of Tel Aviv, not everyone wants you to succeed. But Jerusalem is everyone’s city. ‘Do me a favor, just do a good job. Take care of the city.’'” [Tablet]
LONG READ — How Magneto Became Jewish — by Abraham Riesman: “When Magneto was first introduced in Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s 1963 Marvel comic book The X-Men No. 1, Judaism was nowhere to be found… Fans of the X-Men brand might now take for granted Magneto’s origins as a Jewish Holocaust survivor, but this particular drive to save the mutant minority from genocidal hatred didn’t come into play for the character until 1981 — a full 18 years after his debut. More than anyone else, one man was responsible for this change: a Jewish boy with the distinctly Gentile-sounding name of Chris Claremont. That’s right, geeks of the world: Chris Claremont is Jewish. He’s world-famous among comic-book nerds for revolutionizing and defining the X-Men while writing them nonstop from 1975 to 1991. His father was a British non-Jew, but his mother was Jewish.”
“In fact, in 1971, the young Claremont went to live for a time on a socialist kibbutz in central Israel, Netiv HaLamed-Heh. It was there that the depth of the agony of the Holocaust for its survivors first struck him… Claremont used Israel as a backdrop for his stories on a number of occasions and introduced a variety of fascinating Jewish characters, including the iconic teenage recruit to the team, Kitty Pryde, as well as Israeli Jews like Holocaust survivor and diplomat Gabrielle Haller and her massively superpowered child David Haller, a.k.a. Legion… And, of course, there’s Magneto.” [Vulture]
TRANSITIONS — Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has joinedthe Centerview Partners investment bank. Emanuel will open a Chicago office for Centerview and advise clients on merger deals and other matters, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Michael Fromm has been elected as board chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). Fromm previously served as a board member of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), among other positions.
Aaron Applbaum has been promoted to Partner at MizMaa Ventures after two years at the company in which he helped the fund identify and invest in 10 high-quality companies and form partnerships with global brands. Applbaum previously worked on the Direct Investments desk of Hudson Bay Capital
DESSERT — Frelard’s Long-Planned Jewish Deli in Seattle Should Open This Summer — by Gabe Guarente: “Schmaltzy’s Delicatessen, the long-awaited brick-and-mortar spin-off of the Napkin Friends food truck, should finally open this summer in the West Woodland neighborhood [in Seattle, Washington] — which most people know as Frelard. The restaurant is in the final stages of construction, says owner Jonathan Silverberg, and should soon be serving classic deli items like housemade pastrami, corned beef, reuben sandwiches, and lox.” [EaterSeattle]
BIRTHDAYS: Former Majority Leader in the House of Representatives and now Vice Chair of investment bank Moelis & Company, Eric Cantor turns 56… Art collector and philanthropist, the only person to create two Fortune 500 companies in two industries, Eli Broad turns 86… U.S. District Court Judge since 1994, on senior status since 2005, serving in the Eastern District of New York, Frederic Block turns 85… Rabbi emeritus of Beth Abraham Synagogue in Dayton, Ohio, Rabbi Samuel Press turns 83… Rabbi at Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa since 1967 (now emeritus), writer, broadcaster, activist and former co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Rabbi Reuven Bulka turns 75…
Real estate entrepreneur and executive chairman of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Thomas Pritzker turns 69… Diplomat who has served as Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan (2012-2014) and Egypt (2014-2016), Haim Koren turns 66… Two-time Tony Award winner for acting, also a playwright and voice actor, Harvey Fierstein turns 65… Comedian, political critic, musician and author, Sandra Bernhard turns 64… Radio news personality, Lisa Glasberg (better known as “Lisa G”) turns 63… Israeli conductor and musician, Nir Brand turns 58… Managing director and the chief interactive strategist for The Glover Park Group, Jonathan Kopp turns 53…
Best-selling author, journalist and television personality, she has focused on addiction and recovery as well as relationships, Anna Benjamin David turns 49… Hedge fund manager and founder of Saba Capital Management, he is also a skilled poker and blackjack player, Boaz Weinstein turns 46… Political activist and chairman of the Washington Free Beacon, Michael L. Goldfarbturns 39… ABC News White House and Capitol Hill reporter, Katherine B. Faulders turns 28… VP at Black Rock Group, formerly press secretary for the Carly Fiorina campaign, Anna Epstein turns 28… Senior writer and digital editor in AIPAC’s DC headquarters, Allie Freedman… Steve Patner…