AJC Passport is a weekly podcast analyzing global affairs through a Jewish lens. Recorded each week in AJC’s Lerner Studio, AJC Passport examines political events, the people driving them, and what it all means for the Jewish community. Check out all of our episodes below. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Google Play, or follow on Soundcloud. If you like what you hear, subscribe, rate it, and spread the word.
*The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.
Anti-Semitism and the UK Labour Party Split
On February 18, seven members of the British Parliament resigned from the Labour Party, citing what they called “institutional anti-Semitism.” Two more followed just days later. Though dramatic, the split came as little surprise: the Labour Party has been rocked by charges of anti-Semitism since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in 2015. Ella Rose, former National Director of the Jewish Labour Movement, joins us to discuss the political fallout of the split and what it means for the future of the Labour Party. Then, on "The Battle for Balfour," Walla! News Political Correspondent Tal Shalev joins us to discuss the latest political developments in Israel ahead of the April 9 national election.
An Audience with the Pope
Rabbi David Rosen lives in Jerusalem, but he spends much of his time traveling the world as AJC’s Director of International Interreligious Affairs. He joins us this week from the Vatican, where he is accompanying a senior AJC delegation in meetings with Pope Francis and other high-level Church officials. We spoke with him about the history of Catholic-Jewish relations, the breaking news that the Church will unseal WWII-era archives, and the future of interreligious dialogue. Then, on "The Battle for Balfour," we spoke with AJC Managing Director of Global Communications Avi Mayer about several controversial decisions by Israel's Central Elections Committee ahead of the April 9 election. And, on "Good for the Jews," we listened in to Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D-FL) stirring floor speech about recent anti-Semitic incidents in Congress.
A Conversation with Mitch Landrieu, Introducing “The Battle for Balfour”
Mitch Landrieu’s second term as Mayor of New Orleans may have ended in 2018, but the impact of his eight years in office will be felt for years to come. He helped revive a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and led the fight to take down four Confederate statues. In December, Landrieu traveled to Israel with AJC Project Interchange as Past President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He joins us now to discuss the trip, the value of centrism in America’s political discourse, and what’s in store for the 2020 presidential race. This week, we’re launching a new segment on the Israeli election, titled “The Battle for Balfour.” Each week through Election Day on April 9, we will bring you an exclusive update on the race to determine the next Prime Minister of Israel. Joining us today is AJC Jerusalem Director Avital Leibovich.
Mayor Pete Joins the Race
Last May, we were joined by Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, to talk about his experience visiting Israel as part of our annual AJC Project Interchange delegation of U.S. mayors. Since then, Buttigieg, who is helping to reinvigorate his Midwest city, took a giant leap onto the national political stage when he declared his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. With this enhanced spotlight on Mayor Pete, we are rerunning this pertinent interview to share his thoughts on Israel and what the Democratic party stands to learn from the Jewish state.
The Fallout from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s Tweets, Staggering Statistics on Anti-Semitic Incidents in France
Last weekend, freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) used her Twitter account to promote a classic anti-Semitic trope, accusing American Jews of paying off elected officials to maintain the U.S.-Israel relationship. Omar issued an apology after her remarks were met with widespread condemnation, including from the Democratic leadership. Was her apology sincere? Will she learn from this episode and become an ally in the fight against anti-Semitism? AJC CEO David Harris joins us to discuss the incident and the urgent need to confront anti-Semitism in all its forms.
Meanwhile, this week, the French government released a report showing a 74% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 amidst a wave of vandalism against Jewish sites in Paris. AJC Paris Director Anne-Sophie Sebban-Bécache joins us to discuss the staggering statistics and AJC’s role in urging French authorities to redouble their efforts to tackle the sources of anti-Semitism.
Pro-Israel Democrats and a New Anti-Semitism Envoy
Is the Democratic Party still pro-Israel? Leading public opinion researcher and political strategist Mark Mellman joins us to address a question being asked by many and discuss how his newly-formed group, the Democratic Majority for Israel, plans to counter those trying to pull the party away from the Jewish state. Also joining us is AJC Assistant Director of International Relations Holly Huffnagle, who previously served as Policy Advisor to the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Huffnagle offers an inside look at the Special Envoy’s vital role in fighting anti-Semitism and shares her thoughts on Elan Carr, who was nominated by Secretary Pompeo to fill the role earlier this week.
Upheaval in Venezuela
Last week, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself president after years of economic turmoil in what was once one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to show their support for Guaidó and their opposition to the repressive regime of Nicolás Maduro. Will this dramatic turn of events help restore democracy and freedom to the country? Dany Bahar, an Israeli and Venezuelan economist serving as a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution, joins us to break down these developments and what it could mean for the future of Venezuela and its Jewish community.
Anti-Semitism and the Women’s March
Last weekend, demonstrators took to the streets for the 2019 Women’s March, but this year’s event was mired in controversy. This week on AJC Passport, we hear from two leading Jewish figures who support the aims of the March, but disagree on whether to participate in light of the ongoing anti-Semitism scandals surrounding its leadership. Carly Pildis, political organizer and contributing editor at Tablet Magazine, and Rabbi Sarah Bassin, Assistant Rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, discuss their decisions and suggest ways to mitigate tensions between the Jewish community and the leaders of the Women’s March.
Live from Washington, D.C.: The Freshman Perspective
This week’s episode comes to you live from the nation’s capital. We were joined by two freshman members of Congress, Representative Donna Shalala (D-FL) and Representative Van Taylor (R-TX). We talked with them about the key issues they plan to tackle while in Congress, including strengthening U.S.-Israel relations and building bipartisanship. The episode was recorded in front of a live audience as part of AJC’s National Leadership Council Advocacy Fly In, featuring a series of meetings with thought leaders, foreign diplomats, and members of Congress.
Congress Takes on BDS, State of the EU-Israel Relationship
The BDS movement has climbed its way up the Hill in the form of a bill targeting proponents of the anti-Israel boycott campaign. On this week’s episode, AJC General Counsel Marc Stern sheds light on the bill and other legislative measures against boycott efforts. Also joining us is AJC Transatlantic Institute Director Daniel Schwammenthal, who discusses the state of the relationship between the EU and Israel and the steps needed to mend it.
We’re Off to the Races
In a shocking move last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the dissolution of the current Knesset. With early elections now set for April 9th, join us as Lahav Harkov, Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post, dives into recent developments, analyzes the political turmoil, and suggests what we can expect in the short months leading up to the elections for the 21st Knesset.
The Great Debate Over the West Bank
Remain in the West Bank or withdraw from the territories? Micah Goodman, director of Beit Midrash Yisraeli-Ein Prat and senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, tackles this controversial debate in his book, Catch-67, which was recently published in English. Goodman navigates us through the complexity of this issue and explores alternatives for moving forward on this week’s AJC Passport.
Rising Anti-Semitism Across Europe
Earlier this week, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights released its second survey on discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in the EU. The survey’s troubling results are a reminder of the pervasive problem of anti-Semitism in Europe. Katharina von Schnurbein, Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism for the European Commission, joins us to discuss the findings from this survey. Our second conversation is with AJC CEO David Harris, who joins us to share his insights on how European governments have reacted to anti-Semitism and the need to step up efforts to confront it.
A New Path Forward for Gaza, and the Freshman Class in Congress
Is it possible to bring stability and reconstruction to Gaza? Ilan Goldenberg and his team from the Center for a New American Security and the Brookings Institution set out to answer this question in their new report, Ending Gaza’s Perpetual Crisis: A New U.S. Approach. Ilan Goldenberg, Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, joins us to discuss the report's recommendations and the state of U.S. policy towards Gaza. We are also joined by Julie Fishman Rayman, AJC Director of Political Outreach, to help guide us through the incoming freshman class in Congress.
Stunning Report on European Anti-Semitism
One in three Europeans knows little or nothing about the Holocaust, one in four thinks Jews have too much influence in finance, and one in five thinks Jews have too much influence over the media and global politics. A devastating new report by CNN has found that anti-Semitism is alive and well in Europe. Joining us to discuss the troubling findings is CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, who led the network’s investigation. Our second guest is AJC Europe Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who joined us to discuss how European governments have been responding to anti-Semitism across the continent and what steps still need to be taken.
This week, Israel experienced the worst bombardment since 2014 as Hamas fired over 450 rockets into cities and communities across southern Israel. The assault left one dead and scores wounded as tens of thousands of Israeli families huddled in bomb shelters. After a ceasefire was reached, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation in protest of the agreement, destabilizing the governing coalition and drawing calls for a new election. Joining us this week to discuss the security dimensions of the latest round of fighting is AJC Jerusalem Director Avital Leibovich. Our second guest is Jerusalem Post Chief Political Correspondent Gil Hoffman, who joins us to discuss the political fallout of the week’s events.
The Midterm Election With Norm Ornstein
In a dramatic election that saw a record number of voters flock to the polls, both parties had reason to celebrate. For the first time in over eight years, Democrats will take control of the House. In the Senate, Republicans have expanded their control of the chamber. Joining us this week to discuss the trends of the election and what it means for U.S.-Israel relations is Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported.
In the wake of the horrific attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday that left eleven dead and six wounded, AJC launched a global campaign called #ShowUpForShabbat to show solidarity with Pittsburgh’s Jews and send the message that Jews will not be intimidated away from their synagogues. Joining us to discuss the tremendous response to the campaign is AJC Associate Execute Director and Managing Director of Global Communications Avi Mayer. Our second guest is Fernando Lottenberg, President of the Confederation of Jewish Communities of Brazil (CONIB), who joins us to discuss the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro, a controversial right-wing populist who was elected President of Brazil this week.
Sino-Israeli Relations and Pro-Israel Evangelicals
This week on AJC Passport, we talk about Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan’s visit to Israel and what it means for relations between the Jewish state and China. We’re joined by Mercy Kuo, President of the Washington State China Relations Council and member of the advisory council of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute to discuss the visit and China’s growing influence in the Middle East. Our second conversation is from one of our first episodes. It features The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins on Vice President Mike Pence’s Evangelical faith and the role Evangelicals play in U.S.-Israel relations.
A Disappeared Journalist and Rising Extremism in Germany
The grisly murder of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago has prompted unprecedented backlash in Washington, D.C. against the Saudi government. Joining us to discuss the fallout is Hady Amr, a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and former senior diplomat in the State Department under President Obama. Our second conversation is with AJC Berlin Ramer Institute Director Deidre Berger, who joined us to discuss Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Israel as well as issues of rising political extremism in Germany.
In a surprise move earlier this week, Nikki Haley announced that she would be stepping down from her role as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The statement prompted an immediate flurry of speculation in D.C. and on social media regarding her next steps. For the pro-Israel community, Haley’s departure also raises questions on who will replace her as America’s voice at the UN and whether the next ambassador will be able to fill Haley’s shoes in combating rampant anti-Israel bias at the UN. Joining us to discuss Haley’s departure is Ron Kampeas, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington Bureau Chief. We’re also joined by Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, to discuss the AJC-convened Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC) and the successful passage of a hate crimes bill backed by both AJC and MJAC.
At the height of the Second World War, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill articulated a vision of a world living at peace, with free trade, human rights, and democracy at its center. After the war, their nations helped bring that vision—dubbed the Atlantic Charter—into being, creating the world we know today. But now, seven decades later, the charter and the global system it envisioned are under assault. This week on AJC Passport, we’re joined by journalist, author, and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution James Kirchick to do a deep-dive into what’s undermining the transatlantic alliance and the close ties between fellow liberal democracies. We’re also joined by AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy Jason Isaacson to discuss AJC’s newest initiative to reaffirm the transatlantic partnership with the help of a few prominent friends.
Each year, leaders from around the world descend on New York City for the UN General Assembly. For the NYPD, these world leaders leave behind a slew of unpaid parking tickets. But for AJC, that all of them are in one place presents an unparalleled opportunity to advocate for the Jewish people globally. Our guest this week is our chief advocate, AJC CEO David Harris, who joins us to explain what happens at the UN General Assembly and what AJC does when it meets with visiting leaders behind closed doors.
Twenty-five years ago this week, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat joined U.S. President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn to sign the Oslo Accords, the first-ever peace agreement between the two sides. This week, the Trump administration announced that it is closing the PLO’s office in Washington, D.C. What happened? We’re joined by Aaron David Miller, Vice President for New Initiatives and Middle East Program Director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Miller previously served as a peace process advisor to U.S. administrations of both parties. He joins us to talk about the legacy of the Oslo Accords, the Trump administration’s decision to shutter the PLO’s D.C. office, and the future of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
This week on AJC Passport we’re bringing you a special segment: a deep dive into the Mossad’s use of targeted killings. Joining us to discuss the secretive agency’s tactics is Ronen Bergman, an investigative journalist and New York Times Magazine staff writer who spent years combing through archives and conducting interviews with Mossad officials to write the best-selling book Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. Our second guest is AJC Asia Pacific Institute Director Shira Loewenberg, who joined us to discuss controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Israel.
The Trump administration is cutting $200 million in aid meant for the Palestinians. The move comes on the heels of previous cuts to U.S. funding for projects in the Palestinian territories. We sat down with Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. State Department, to analyze what impact the cut will have and what it reveals about the administration’s strategy. Our second guest is Josh Glancy, a correspondent for the British publication The Sunday Times. Glancy recently wrote a searing indictment of Jeremy Corbyn in The New York Times following the latest anti-Semitic scandal involving Corbyn where a 2013 video that was discovered showed him questioning whether ‘Zionists’ were truly British.
Is a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the offing? How did the United States and Turkey—NATO allies—find themselves in a trade war? We answer those questions and more on this week’s edition of AJC Passport. Joining us to talk about the Gaza ceasefire, growing election talk in Israel, and his biography of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is Haaretz writer Anshel Pfeffer. We are also joined by Dr. Henri Barkey, a professor at Lehigh University and former Middle East Program Director at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Center, who describes his harrowing encounter with the Turkish government after the attempted coup in 2016 and how the country found itself at odds with the U.S. government.
If you’re a high school senior or the parents of one, you’re about to embark on a wonderfully stressful journey: picking the right college. If you’re Jewish, that comes with a few extra considerations: Is there a Jewish a cappella group? How’s the kosher food? What about BDS on campus? To answer these questions and more, we spoke with Laura Adkins and Aiden Pink, two young journalists at The Forward who designed a comprehensive guide that ranks over 200 colleges across the country based on what they offer Jewish students.
As we recorded this episode on Thursday morning, southern Israel was battered by rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Our guest, former IDF Spokesperson and retired Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, provided a briefing on the attacks before diving into the topic of the week: the protest against the Nation-State law, and why he joined it. Our second guest was AJC Washington Director Alan Ronkin, who discussed how AJC joined forces with the Urban League to combat the alt-right ahead of this weekend’s racist rally in our nation’s capital.
Is President Trump trying to get Iran to come back to the negotiating table? During a press conference on Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Trump indicated that he would be ready to meet with Iranian leaders without preconditions. We therefore decided to open up the AJC vault and share with you a conversation we recorded with Emily Landau, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, who talked about precisely this strategy. Landau leads the institute’s Arms Control and Regional Security Program and is an expert on Iran’s nuclear efforts. Our second segment is on a topic that comes up regularly and generates a fair amount of anxiety: Jewish demographics in Israel and America.
Is Israel becoming a litmus test on the “woke” left? This week, Teen Vogue published an article that sought to tie issues of police brutality in the United States to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Our guest this week is journalist Emily Shire, who joins us to explain the evolution of Teen Vogue and give us a follow-up on her viral New York Times article from 2017, which asked if feminism still has room for Zionist women. For our second segment, we are joined by AJC Jerusalem Director Lt. Col. (Res.) Avital Leibovich to discuss Israel’s heroic effort to save the ‘White Helmets’—Syrian medics who have themselves saved countless Syrian lives during the country’s brutal civil war.
President Trump had a headline-grabbing visit to Europe. During the trip, he called the European Union a foe of the United States and received sharp blowback for his deferential approach to contentious questions such as whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Over in Israel, a controversial bill that would define the character of the state passed over the objections of Israel’s president and leading Jewish organizations around the world, including AJC. Joining us to discuss the reaction to the Trump-Putin summit is Andrew Weiss, Vice President at the Carnegie Institute and long-time Russia expert, who spent years serving in administrations of both parties advising on Russia policy. We’re also joined by Dr. Stephen Bayme, AJC Director of Contemporary Jewish Life and American Jewish-Israeli relations to discuss Israel’s nation-state bill, what it means for Israel, and what it means for Israel-diaspora relations.
A confirmation battle is brewing. This week on AJC Passport, we dive into the world of U.S. Supreme Court nominations. Joining us to discuss this hot-button issue is AJC General Counsel Marc Stern, who has appeared four times before the Supreme Court and is one of the Jewish community’s experts on the court, the separation of church and state, and religious liberty. Stern talks to us about Brett Kavanaugh, and what everyone gets wrong about confirmation fights. The segment is followed by a conversation with Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota and esteemed chemical engineer, who recently traveled to Israel with AJC Passport host Seffi Kogen as part of an AJC Project Interchange delegation. Hear his take on what Israeli universities do well and why he openly supports ties with the Jewish state despite the anti-Israel activism among his students.
A political earthquake just shook Mexico. This week, in a landslide victory, political outsider and left-wing nationalist Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the Mexican presidency with an anti-establishment and anti-corruption campaign. Joining us to discuss this dramatic development is Dina Siegel Vann, Director of the AJC Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. Our second guest this week is our Warsaw-based Director of AJC Central Europe, Agnieszka Markiewicz, who is joining us to discuss recent changes to Poland’s controversial Holocaust law and the recent “No to Hatred” conference AJC Central Europe co-hosted with the city of Warsaw.
Last week, we took you front and center at AJC Global Forum in Israel by bringing you the much-anticipated Great Debate. This week, we take you behind the scenes and bring you some exclusive conversations from our biggest event earlier this month. First up, friend of AJC Passport and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro (2011-17) discusses the outcomes of the embassy move to Jerusalem and Israel’s endgame in Syria. We also explore the implications of potential U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The Ambassador is followed by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, who leads the UN efforts related to Israeli-Palestinian peace. We discuss the major challenges of the peace process.
For those of you who were unable to join us in Jerusalem for the AJC Global Forum—or for those who want to relive the moment—we’re bringing you this year’s Great Debate. In the 2018 iteration of this AJC Global Forum staple, Member of Knesset Stav Shaffir of the Labor party faced off against Mayor Oded Revivi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat. Their question: “One State or Two States, Is There a Solution?"
AJC Passport hits the road! This week’s episode comes to you from Jerusalem. Recorded in front of a live audience for the first time, we sat down with journalist and author Matti Friedman to discuss one of the least reported-on angles of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the press that covers the struggle. Drawing on his years of experience as an AP reporter, Friedman talked with us about how the editorial process shapes coverage and fielded questions from the audience of more than 350 college students who participated in the AJC Global Forum 2018.
For more episodes of AJC Passport, click here.