Mueller Investigating Kushner’s Contacts With Israeli Officials

Investigators employed by special counsel Robert Mueller are looking into presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner’s conversations with Israeli officials during the presidential transition process, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Last December, the Obama administration chose not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that was critical of Israeli settlement construction. In the run-up to that vote, Israeli leaders reportedly made contact with several top Trump officials, including Kushner and Steve Bannon, in order to get Trump to help stop either the vote or the Obama administration’s plan not to veto it. Those contacts are the one of the subjects of Mueller’s line of inquiry, the Journal reported.

Kushner, whom President Trump charged with forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, is known to be close with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who once slept in Kushner’s childhood bedroom.

Mueller’s team is reportedly also looking at Kushner’s role in setting up other meetings and discussions with foreign leaders during the presidential transition, as well as his role in the firing of FBI director James Comey.

Kushner encouraged Trump to fire Comey, according to multiple reports. The president reportedly now blames him for giving him that advice, which ultimately lead to Mueller’s appointment.

While inquiries about the Israeli government may seem far removed from Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Journal noted that “investigators typically ask a host of questions over the course of a probe, and inquiries don’t necessarily indicate suspicion. Mr. Kushner figures into several events that Mr. Mueller is investigating, including a June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer at Trump Tower” — which Kushner originally failed to disclose on his security clearance forms.

Contact Aiden Pink at or on Twitter, @aidenpink


Facebook Still Allows Ads Discriminating Against Jews

NEW YORK (JTA) — A year after Facebook vowed to stamp out discriminatory advertising, landlords can still exclude specific races, minorities and other categories of people from seeing rental ads on the social media site.

ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads last week and had no issue filtering out Jews, African-Americans, Spanish speakers and many more groups from viewing them, the news site reported Tuesday.

One ad excluded Facebook users with “interests” such as “Judaism,” “Hasidic Judaism,” “Orthodox Judaism” and “Reform Judaism.”

“This was a failure in our enforcement and we’re disappointed that we fell short of our commitments,” Ami Vora, Facebook’s vice president of product management, said in a statement to ProPublica. “The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.”

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to publish housing advertisements that indicate “any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”

In September, ProPublica reported that Facebook’s ad buyers could reach “Jew haters” and other anti-Semitic categories of people. Facebook said it would hire thousands of more employees to improve its anti-discrimination monitoring.


For Hasidic Jews, A Kosher, Internet-Free GPS Tool

A new GPS device for navigation has been designed specifically for Hasidic Jews who might otherwise be averse to using smartphones.

Some have taken to calling the kosher, rabbi-approved device “the Ark” — because, apparently, it looks something like the ark of a Torah.

A blog post on Tablet featured the new device, which can’t be used for anything other than navigation — that is, no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram of any other app. The device was first featured on the ultra-Orthodox blog Be’Hadrei Haredim.

The device comes out of the Ger Hasidic community, Tablet reported. The community one of the largest Hasidic groups in Israel and are particularly dogmatic. “Like many in the Haredi world, their community views smartphones as an abomination, a gateway to all the filth of the world wide web,” the site wrote.

One Twitter user suggested that Ger was “going into competition” with the navigation app Waze to “prevent Jewish children” from hearing the programed female voice that gives directions.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum


Majority-Muslim Kosovo Puts Jewish Congressman On Stamp

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Eliot Engel has become the first U.S. congressman to be featured on a postage stamp in Kosovo.

Engel, a New York Democrat, may be the first Jewish member of Congress on a stamp, period. Bella Abzug helped inspire a 1999 stamp celebrating the women’s rights movement, but the late New York Democrat’s face isn’t on it.

Engel was among a cadre of U.S. lawmakers and public figures who urged the Clinton administration to intervene during the Kosovo war in 1999, heading off what many feared would be a genocide of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians at the hands of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Many of the same figures were part of the push to recognize the Balkan state when it declared independence in 2008.

Among those members of Congress out front in the push to protect Kosovo were Jewish, including Engel. Ask Kosovar Albanians why, and more often than not they’ll explain that it’s because the men are Jewish: Albanians saved Jews during the Holocaust, and Jews subsequently returned the favor.

Engel’s stamp was presented to him this week when he was in the country to help open an office of the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. government assistance agency. Engel’s office helped secure a $49 million MCC grant for the country.

“I’m deeply honored and surprised that this was being done. I had no idea,” Engel told JTA in an email message. “My work to promote the U.S.-Kosovo relationship has been among the most meaningful endeavors of my years in Congress. I’m happy to have helped people’s lives and promote prosperity in the region.”

It’s not Engel’s first honor in the country: In 2008, the town of Pec named a street for him.


Mommy Facebook Group Shuts Down Over ‘P Is For Palestine’ Book

A popular Facebook group for New York moms has temporarily shut down amid an internal battle sparked by the promotion of a children’s book called “P is For Palestine.”

The group “UES Mommas,” which has more than 27,000 members, usually posts about strollers and tutors. But when the author of the new book, Golbarg Bashi, posted in the group to promote her upcoming appearance at a Manhattan book store, all hell broke loose.

Group members were angered by what they saw as the book’s anti-Israel leanings — especially the book’s entry “I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!”

“Intifada,” the Arabic word for “tremor” or “shaking off,” was used to refer to two violent Palestinian uprisings in the 1980s and 2000s. More than 1,000 Israelis and 5,000 Palestinians combined were killed in the two intifadas in the 1980s and 2000s.

The Forward was able to access screenshots of some members complaining about Bashi’s post and book. One woman accused Bashi of “inciting death.”

“Nothing more racist than Muslims!!!!!!!” another wrote.

Some were critical of Bashi but also dismayed by the furor: “In the years I’ve been a part of this fb group I’ve never seen this kind of dialogue and it’s very upsetting and inappropriate,” one person posted. “I’ve also never seen a politically motivated agenda be promoted. Politics should be kept off this site.”

By Sunday evening, group moderators “archived” the group, banning new posts.

A group monitor announced that she was “meeting with Facebook” to discuss next steps, including possibly shutting down the group permanently.

“The actions of certain members highlight the extreme level of intolerance for varying opinions that is plaguing our world,” she wrote. “We have no interest in maintaining a group that cannot engage in respectful dialogue due to an overwhelming sense of entitlement and zero accountability.”

This is not the first time the group has seen vicious debates: According to Jezebel, the group had a “war” over vaccines in 2014, and arguments in August over Black Lives Matter and the Charlottesville white nationalist rally led some members to threaten defamation lawsuits for being called “racists.”

Contact Aiden Pink at or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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