News from July 27 to August 2

Sen. David Purdue, attacks on three of Israel's borders, and Seth Rogen

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Senator David Purdue criticized for antisemitic campaign advertisement:

What happened? Forward published a story calling out Georgia Senator David Purdue’s (R) campaign for posting a campaign advertisement on Facebook that showed his Jewish democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, with an enlarged nose. The ad, which Purdue’s staff later deleted, was captioned, “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” and also featured Jewish Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. According to three graphic design experts interviewed by Forward, Ossoff’s nose was lengthened and widened from its source photograph. As Forward noted, the enlargement of Jewish noses in images is a long-established antisemitic tactic. 

The image of Ossoff on the right was in Senator Purdue’s advertisement. Source: Forward

How have people reacted? Senator Purdue’s campaign spokesperson said in a statement, “In the graphic design process handled by an outside vendor, the photo was resized and a filter was applied, which appears to have caused an unintentional error that distorted the image. Obviously, this was accidental, but to ensure there is absolutely no confusion, we have immediately removed the image from Facebook. Anybody who implies that this was anything other than an inadvertent error is intentionally misrepresenting Senator Perdue’s strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.”

Purdue’s campaign manager said, “Senator Perdue did not know about nor see the ad before it ran, and he is committed to ensuring future mistakes of this kind do not occur.” He also said the campaign would switch digital marketing firms. 

Ossoff tweeted, “Sitting U.S. Senator David Perdue's digital attack ad distorted my face to enlarge and extend my nose. I'm Jewish. This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history. Senator, literally no one believes your excuses.”

A spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said, “Senator Perdue’s first offense was running this disgusting ad, and his second was refusing to take any responsibility for it and letting others shoulder the blame for his campaign.” 

Republican Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) said, “Some things are insidious. Whoever in U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s (R, GA) campaign digitally enlarged the nose of his Jewish opponent in campaign ads SHOULD BE OUTED, FIRED & NEVER REHIRED BY ANY CAMPAIGN, ANYWHERE.”

Quick note (personal opinion): The advertisement Senator Purdue’s campaign posted was deplorable. It was heartening to see that at least one Republican Congressman spoke out against the ad. Still, as a whole, Republicans and Democrats alike have been relatively quiet about the Purdue campaign’s antisemitism. We must get better about speaking up against antisemitism, even when it’s politically inconvenient. If Ilhan Omar’s campaign had published such an ad, Congress would probably have, at the bare minimum, passed a resolution against her. Even though Purdue likely never saw the ad, he is ultimately responsible for his campaign. He should be held accountable, just as any politician should be for their actions and office. 

Further reading: (Politico)

Flare-ups on Israel’s Gazan, Lebanese, and Syrian borders:

What happened? Over the last week, Israel has faced a rocket attack and two attempted incursions on its borders. The first incident occurred last Monday when Hezbollah operatives crossed the border into Israel near Mt. Dov. The attempted infiltration, which was thwarted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) firing near the militants’ position and forcing them back across the border, was seen as a possible response to a recent Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed a member of Hezbollah. The second and third incidents happened Sunday night. In the second incident, militants in Gaza launched a rocket into Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome in midair. The IDF struck targets throughout Gaza in response. Then, later on Sunday night, the IDF reported that militants in Syria had attempted and failed to place explosives on the Israeli-Syrian border. 

Update: The IDF published a video early Monday morning of the militants attempting to place explosives at the border.

What’s going on here? Three attacks on different borders in one week? (My take) Well, the various incidents are not necessarily related. While the Lebanese and Syrian attempted infiltrations may (emphasis on may) be connected, the Gazan rocket attack is probably not. The attack happened hours after Israel’s new Gaza Division commander, Brig. Gen. Nimrod Aloni, took over command from his predecessor, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano. Given that the rocket attack only consisted of one rocket, I would guess it’s more likely that the launch was designed to test Israel’s new commander or was related to internal matters within Gaza. 

In the north, however, it’s more likely that the two incidents might be related. Note that we don’t yet know if the militants belonged to any particular group, so it’s hard to ascribe a motive to the attempted bombing. Still, almost all anti-Israel militant activity in Syria and Lebanon can be tied back to Iran in some way. Accordingly, Israel has carried out operations to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria over the past few years. For example, Israel has launched airstrikes on various sites (including the strike which motivated Hezbollah’s Monday border infiltration attempt) in response to Iranian or Lebanese Hezbollah militants developing infrastructure and trafficking advanced weaponry through Syria. The attacks rarely target any operatives because Hezbollah tends to retaliate if its members are killed. As you may recall, Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli armored ambulance last year in response to an Israeli airstrike on a Hezbollah operative who attempted to launch a drone into Israel from Syria. So, while we don’t have confirmation that Monday and Sunday’s attempted infiltrations are linked–again, we don’t know who was responsible for placing the explosives at the border yet–it would not be unrealistic. Last night’s events just happened, so we should know more next week.

Further reading:, (Both articles are really helpful to understand the broader context behind what’s happening with Hezbollah)

Seth Rogen stirs controversy with Israel comments: 

What happened? In an interview with Marc Maron, Jewish actor Seth Rogen made comments that sparked debate over Jewish education and Israel. In the conversation with Maron, who is also Jewish, Rogen spoke about his Jewish upbringing, antisemitism, marriage, shivas, and Israel, among other topics. Rogen attended Jewish schools and camps growing up and is starring in a movie, “American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant in the 1920s. 

What did he say that was so controversial? Regarding Israel, Rogen said, “To me, it just seems an antiquated thought process. If it is for religious reasons, I don’t agree with it, because I think religion is silly. If it is for truly the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place — especially when that place is proven to be pretty volatile, you know? ‘I’m trying to keep all these things safe, I’m gonna put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place… that’ll do it.’ It doesn’t make sense to me. And I also think that as a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that — oh, by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the f***ing door’s open!… They forget to include the fact to every young Jewish person.”

How have people reacted? Here’s a sampling of takes on Rogen’s interview from across Jewish media:

Dear American Jewish boys: Please find another outlet for your Oedipal rage. Signed, Israeli Jews by Shony Mor (Forward)

A Zionist answer to Seth Rogen's Zionist blind spot by David Suissa (Israel Hayom)

Seth Rogen – crossing the line between comedy and tragedy by Richard Trank (Jerusalem Post)

The real lesson of Seth Rogen? If you want your kids to love Israel, tell the truth by Natasha Skoryk (Forward)

I’m a young American Jew and proud Zionist. Seth Rogen doesn’t speak for me by Blake Flayton (Forward)

Rogen later clarified his views and apologized over a Zoom call with Isaac Herzog, the Charman of the Jewish Agency. Herzog then made a post on Facebook saying, “Over the weekend I was glad to hold a frank and open conversation with actor and comedian Seth Rogen about his comments in a podcast with Mark Maron which were interpreted as challenging Israel’s legitimacy. At the start, Seth was kind enough to make clear to me that what was missing in the published interview was what he did not say: How important Israel is to him. And that, of course, Israel must exist.” Read the rest of his statement here.

Quick note: Rogen’s comments are exactly why I started News of the Jews. I’ve long felt that Hebrew school and early Jewish education are insufficient because they often lack the nuance necessary to really understand Judaism, antisemitism, and Israel. I’m hopeful that this newsletter will fill in some of the knowledge gaps that you might have! 

Bonus: Watch Shira Haas and Amit Rahav, the starts of Netflix’s Unorthodox, celebrate after learning Unorthodox was nominated for 8 Emmy awards. Haas scored a nomination for best actress in a limited series.

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