The Weirdest Place on Earth

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A special treat today in Tablet Magazine, as the inimitable, iconic cartoonist Steve Brodner, prompted by reports that a Disney-themed amusement park will be built in Haifa, imagines what an Israeli Disney World would look like.

Below: The Hall of MInisters.

Israel Disney

Iranian Nukes: Probably Delayed

Cutting through the last week’s thicket of rhetoric

The nuclear power plant at Bushehr, Iran.(IIPA via Getty Images)

First, Iran won’t be getting a nuclear weapon until 2015 (departing Mossad chief Meir Dagan). Then, “no one should be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis—this remains a serious concern” (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). Then, an estimate that Iran is as many as four years away (Clinton again). Then, “These sanctions have not yet achieved their objective” (Prime Minister Netanyahu). Did I mention these suggestions were all made in the past week?

As ever, public statements about Iran are more about advancing the speaker’s immediate interests than accurately describing reality. Dagan wished to cast his just-concluded eight-year term in-charge of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency as a success—and what better way to do that than to note that things are looking up regarding Israel’s top foreign priority? Clinton, traveling through the Gulf, sought to temper optimism on Iran to make sure the Arab states—who, as we know from WikiLeaks, are as worried about an Iranian bomb as anyone else, but might look for any excuse to appear to be going easy on the Islamic Republic—don’t take their foot off the gas pedal in terms of sanctions, the enforcement of which is part of the reason why Iran’s program has been delayed. Then, a few days later, Clinton wished to brand the Obama administration’s Iran policy as a success—and what better way to do that than to brag that the most important piece of that policy, sanctions, is working? Cut to Netanyahu, whose very job description is to worry about Iran when no one else is: He called for yet harsher sanctions and emphasized that the military option remains on the table. (more…)

Daybreak: Palin Pushes ‘Blood Libel’ Button

Plus Shultz joins Team Pollard, and more in the news

Sarah Palin, last month.(Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

• Sarah Palin accused some of “manufactur[ing] a blood libel”—her way, borrowed from this essay, of saying they accused some of helping cause the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Er, not what the blood libel is. [Ben Smith]

• Former Secretary of State George Shultz asked President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard. [Ynet]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu insists sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program have so far been insufficient, and that more are required. [WSJ]

• The IDF bombed three Gaza targets, with no casualties. [Ynet]

• Munich is bidding on the 2018 Winter Olympics. The last Olympics it hosted—the summer games of ’72—were of course the site of the massacre of the Israeli team. [JTA]

• English Jewish book critic and essayist John Gross died at 75. [NYT]

Sundown: But How Will Iran Hire a Lawyer?

Plus Oy Boyz, and more

From a Washington, D.C., bus stop.(Prince of Petworth)

• Iranian officials pledged the Islamic Republic would sue Israel for “crimes against humanity and our scientists” in relation to the 10-member spy ring they say that they uncovered and that killed a physicist. [Arutz Sheva]

• Also, Iran threatens revenge for Purim. Omigod did they not read the story they totally started it. [Arutz Sheva]

• Was a Champions League match that Hapoel Tel Aviv lost fixed? [Haaretz]

• On the privacy of the late Debbie Friedman’s private life. [The Sisterhood]

• You may soon be able to walk into your nearest Subway (which statistically cannot possibly be more than half-a-block from wherever you are) and order a falafel sandwich. [Negev Rock City]

• Oy Boyz! (Apparently a D.C. hip-hop act.) [Prince of Petworth]

“The world’s first Jewish social network” sure has an aggressive and incoherent ad campaign!

Saudi Arabia Plans to Free Vulture-Spy

They have ways of making you brawck

A griffon vulture (we cannot confirm it is the griffon vulture).(Wikipedia)

“Saudi Prince Clears Israeli Vulture of Spying Allegations”

“These systems are fitted to birds and animals, including marine animals. Most countries use these systems, including Saudi Arabia. We have taken delivery of this bird, but we will set it free again after we [have] verified its systems.” -Prince Bandar bin Saud Al Saud.

SAUDI INTELLIGENCE: I apologize if you considered our accommodations insufficient to your needs. It was the best cage we’ve got.

VULTURE R65: Brawck!

SAUDI INTELLIGENCE: And you should know your home-country has duly been notified of your whereabouts—although we both know that wasn’t really necessary. Don’t we?

VULTURE R65: Brawck!

SAUDI INTELLIGENCE: Oh you don’t? You say you don’t know what I’m talking about? Interesting, interesting. Speaking of interesting: That’s an interesting bracelet-thing you are wearing on your ankle.

VULTURE R65: Brawck! (more…)

The Break-Up

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews Thera, a new Israeli novel about an epic divorce.


Halkin Wins National Jewish Book Award

Honorees also include Ozick and Grossman

Hillel Halkin.(Nextbook Press)

Congratulations to Hillel Halkin, whose Nextbook Press biography of Yehuda Halevi just took home the 2010 National Jewish Book Award in the Sephardic Culture category (it was also a finalist in Scholarship). A good reminder that although the medieval Halevi is frequently known as “the poet laureate of the Jewish people,” he spent essentially his whole life in what is now Spain.

Congratulations also to Friend-of-The-Scroll Gal Beckerman, whose When They Come For Us, We’ll Be Gone, a history of the movement to liberate Soviet Jewry, was named Jewish Book of the Year. Adam Kirsch gave the book a rave in November. And Beckerman talked to me last month about Henry Kissinger’s recently revealed “death camp” comments and the former secretary of state’s role in (not) freeing the Jews of the U.S.S.R.

Notable awards also went to Cynthia Ozick (Lifetime Achievement), David Grossman’s To the End of the Land (Fiction), and others.

2010 National Jewish Book Award Announcement [Jewish Book Council Blog]
Yehuda Halevi [Nextbook Press]
Related: Last Exit [Tablet Magazine]

Films About Films About Films

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Eryn Loeb considers a new avant-garde film about (or rather about a film about) Shulamith Firestone, an early feminist icon.

Vision and Revision

New J’lem Building Has Weighty Symbolism

Project gets its talents (and money) from South Beach

The Shepherd Hotel is destroyed on Sunday.(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

The recent construction in Sheikh Jarrah, the hot-button, predominantly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, should perhaps have been less attention-grabbing than most Jewish building on the other side of the Green Line, if only because the land was bought by an American named Irving Moskovitz all the way back in 1985, and the Israeli government granted permission for the building there to be demolished all the way back in March (this was the infamous announcement that came right after Vice President Biden arrived). Duly, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office stamped the move with calm understatement rather than with brash, “Jerusalem is not a settlement” rhetoric: “Actions undertaken yesterday at the Shepherd Hotel were conducted by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law,” a brief statement read. “The Israeli government was not involved.”

A prime reason this latest project is garnering substantial attention, including a condemnation from Secretary of State Clinton, who is traveling in the region, is because of what the Shepherd Hotel is: Originally a residence built for Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, who notoriously gave comfort to the Nazis during World War Two. Naturally, pro-settlement groups justifiably saw poetic justice in its demolition. At the same time, the Husseinis, which remain a prominent Palestinian family, were able to galvanize outrage.

Meanwhile, Laura Rozen reports that Moskovitz was a huge donor to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican from Miami Beach (and Moskovitz’s congresswoman). The new Republican majority has Ros-Lehtinen chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee; Moskovitz and his wife gave her somewhere between nearly $10,000 and nearly $15,000 during the most recent election cycle. In his recent East Jerusalem travelogue, Todd Gitlin wrote, “By spreading Jewish settlements throughout an area that Palestinians insist must become the capital of a Palestinian state, Moskowitz is financing the facts on the ground that stand in the way of a deal.”

Israeli Demolition Begins in East Jerusalem Project [NYT]
Shepherd Hotel Developer Top Donor to Foreign Affairs Chair Ros-Lehtinen [Laura Rozen]
Related: Facts on the Ground [Tablet Magazine]

Giffords, Still Critical, Gives Thumbs-Up

And more on the story

Rep. Giffords discusses her Judaism in 2007.(JOI)

Let’s just do this in round-up form, shall we?

• Rep. Gabrielle Giffords managed to give a thumbs-up. Back atcha. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Just how and how much Giffords will recover depends on several factors, none more so than the exact path the bullet took through her brain. This fact has not yet been disclosed. [WP]

• President Obama phoned the families of the victims and several others, including Giffords’s rabbi, Stephanie Aaron; he plans to travel to Tucson later this week. [ABC News]

• Is alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner’s mother Jewish? A closer look. [Laura Rozen]

• Was Loughner motivated by anti-Semitism? His motives are probably too murky and mushy to tell, argues Eric Alterman. Should he have had access to the 31-caliber magazine he used? That is an easier question to answer. [The Daily Beast]

• If you are a Jew worried that anti-Semitism played a role in the attack, then you are probably not close to the only one. [TNR]

• Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman was in fact not Jewish, as I reported yesterday, the Eulogizer clarifies. [The Scroll]

• Someone calls attention to the fact that Giffords, whom nearly all Jews have claimed as one of their own—and who indeed very much identified as Jewish—is Jewish only patrilineally and intermarried, and therefore “that Giffords would be a second-class citizen in Israel.” [Jewschool]

• Above: Giffords speaking about her heritage at a 2007 Jewish Outreach Institute conference. [JOI]

Jordan’s Palestinian Question

Today on Tablet


Asher Susser explores how the Palestinian issue has divided Israel from one of the only Arab countries with which it is, technically, at peace: Neighboring Jordan.

As Jordan’s position on Palestinian refugees is becoming one of the more strident in the Arab world, the two countries now hold diametrically opposing views on an issue that both sides regard as truly existential, touching the raw nerves of their collective beings and promising future discord: Jordan wants large-scale repatriation; while Israel rejects the so-called right of return.

A recent Jordanian sense of urgency on the Palestinian question has even pushed the Hashemite Kingdom away from the American orbit and more in the direction of the Iranian one, Susser reports.

Falling Out

The Dubai Assassination, One Year Later

Was it a failure? ‘GQ’ seems to think so

Forged passport photos of some of the suspects.(Dubai police)

As someone who closely followed Mossad’s sensational January 2010 assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a primary Hamas weapons procurer, in Dubai, l was excited to read GQ’s glossy treatment of the affair, penned by Yediot Ahronot reporter Ronen Bergman. (For the record, Mossad will neither confirm nor deny its involvement.) However, I was disappointed. Those who missed the story last year will enjoy the tick-tock of the assassination itself. But Bergman’s piece implies that the mission was fundamentally a failure, an argument I can’t find sustainable.

Bergman is misleading in implying that he has dug up substantial new information about the plot (“In the course of reporting this story, GQ has learned … ” ). Actually, we already knew most of the details of the plot—since most of these details were uncovered via Dubai’s own extensive security-camera system. And other elements were reported out over the past 12 months, among others by Tablet Magazine’s own Judith Miller.

The bigger deal is Bergman’s argument that this was a “bungled operation.” “Why did the Mossad permit things to go so wrong in Dubai?” he asks. He calls it “the Dubai fiasco.” You would think al-Mabhouh were sitting on a nice beach somewhere—or, worse, that he were still in Damascus, helping facilitate the shipment of Iranian arms to Hamas in Gaza. In fact—and as I wrote at the time—like Generalissimo Francisco Franco before him, al-Mabhouh is still dead. You can argue that Israel’s extensive assassination policy is wrong, or immoral, or counterproductive, but Bergman doesn’t—he seems to think, rather, that the Dubai mission was a failure on its own terms, when in fact, while it was far from perfectly executed, I don’t see how you can argue that it wasn’t accomplished. (more…)

Daybreak: Clinton Boasts of Iran Gains

Plus Loughner in court, and more in the news

Secretary of State Clinton outside Abu Dhabi.(Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

• In unprecedentedly strong and open terms, Secretary of State Clinton declared, in Abu Dhabi, that sanctions had substantially slowed Iran’s nuclear weapons program. [NYT]

• Jared Lee Loughner, the accused attempted murderer of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, faced a judge, who indicated she wanted the case to be tried out of state given that one of the dead was an Arizona federal judge. [NYT]

• Aaron David Miller argues that the United States needs to take a step back from the peace process for the time being, since “the Israeli-Palestinian endgame is not ready for prime time.” [LAT]

• The IDF disputes accusations that it killed an innocent Gazan farmer, 65, near the border. [NYT]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Ministor Avigdor Lieberman: Not getting along. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Here’s the Times Debbie Friedman obituary. [NYT]

Sundown: Do You Make More Than Bibi?

Plus the conversion bill stays in the drawer, and more

Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this month.(Oded Balilty - Pool/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu posted a paystub on Facebook. He makes under $51,000 a year. But the benefits are spectacular! [Ynet]

• Nothing to see here: There will be no more action on the controversial conversion bill for at least another six months. So this moratorium they’re okay with! [JPost/Vos Iz Neias?]

• President Obama’s new chief-of-staff has major schtick with Netanyahu. You know, unlike President Obama’s old chief-of-staff. [Ben Smith]

• Israeli soldiers talk about the occupation. It ain’t pretty. [NYRB]

• Urban Outifitters’s love-hate relationship with Israel. [The Gloss]

• Want a team to root for in tonight’s BCS Championship Game? Pull for Oregon, which has a Jewish offensive lineman, and also isn’t Auburn. [Kaplan’s Korner]

Noted graphic designer and Old Jew Milton Glaser tells a joke:

Hello Mitzi!

Visit The Scroll each Monday for Mitzi’s unique questions


Today we debuted Liana Finck’s weekly column, ‘Tell Mitzi’, and already the comments and stories are pouring in. At the end of the day, Liana will pick a story, and next Monday, you can see Mitzi’s ‘answers,’ which will combine reader responses with her unique vision of the world.

Also on Monday, please look for Mitzi’s next question—right here in The Scroll. She has lots of questions as she explores the world of being an online-illustrated-Jewish-advice columnist. I’m sure her audience will as well … .

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