Second Singer

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews the newly reissued The Brothers Ashkenazi, by Israel Julius Singer (brother of Isaac Bashevis), and finds it a sort of eerily prophetic Gone With The Wind of Eastern European Jewry.


What Is Your Funniest Nightmare?

Contribute to Liana Finck’s ‘Tell Mitzi’ column

(Liana Finck/Tablet Magazine)

Did you catch Liana Finck’s second installment of “Tell Mitzi” yesterday? She responded to various readers’ New Year resolutions, most especially one, appropriately, that had to do with magazines.

Now it’s time for you to help her out again. This week, Liana wants to know: What are your funniest nightmares? Leave ‘em in the comments, and maybe she will respond to yours in next week’s “Tell Mitzi.”

Related: Paper Plans [Tablet Magazine]

Out and Proud

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Tevi Troy, a George W. Bush aide and then official, writes in the wake of the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that public Jews should eschew the strategy of laying low on the subject of their Jewishness, and instead should be vigilant about drawing attention to and condemning anti-Semitism.

Standing Tall

Stuxnet Sux (for Iran)

New details emerge about computer worm

The nuclear facility at Bushehr, in August.(IIPA via Getty Images)

In case you missed it, the New York Times reported this weekend that Stuxnet, the computer worm that has apparently wreaked great havoc on Iran’s nuclear program, was the result of a years-long Israeli-American collaboration, and works in ways that resemble the methods of the casino-robbers in Ocean’s 11. (For a skeptical analysis of the article, see here.) Over the weekend, a Norwegian paper quoted diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that reported that, from Iran’s perspective “a race exists between the bomb and financial collapse.” The Los Angeles Times reports that Stuxnet heralds a seachange, “a tipping point,” says one expert, “that will usher in a cyber-defense revolution in military affairs”(Richard Clarke is also interviewed). Michael Tanji wrote much the same thing last October in Tablet Magazine. Your other required reading is Yossi Melman on Stuxnet, also from October, and Melman last week, on departing Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who presumably played a major role in the Stuxnet success.

“I believe that Stuxnet is an Israeli-made worm with the help of the CIA and Germany’s BND,” Melman writes in, “unlike with bombing the Syrian reactor, which was 100 percent Israeli intelligence-gathering, Israeli independent decision-making, and above all Israeli execution. By the way,” he adds, “I was the first one who wrote that Stuxnet was aimed to hit Natanz. At the time others wrote that it was directed at Bushehr” (Bushehr being the site of the recognized power plant, Natanz being the site of the reported enrichment facility). True!

WikiLeaks: Iran Developing Nuclear Bomb With Help of More Than 30 Countries [Reuters/Haaretz]
Iran’s Nuclear Program and a New Era of Cyber War[LAT]
The New York Times Fails To Deliver Stuxnet’s Creator [Forbes]
Related: Israeli Test on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay [NYT]
Uncloaked [Tablet Magazine]
Coded [Tablet Magazine]
Modern Warfare, Too
Earlier: How Stuxnet Came To Be

Oh, Sister

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingll praises the All-of-a-Kind Family series of young adult novels on its sixtieth anniversary, noting that it greatly resembled the Little House on the Prairie series, except the prairie was the Lower East Side.

We Are Family

Who Is Our New NFL Team?

With surprising Patriots loss, the slot is open

Tom Brady on Sunday.(Elsa/Getty Images)

Tablet Magazine’s Washington Redskins washed out at 6-10 (although it should be noted they went 2-0 against the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, the two teams that will play Sunday in the NFC Championship Game). Tablet Magazine’s New York Giants, at 10-6, were the first team to miss the playoffs. And Tablet Magazine’s New England Patriots—the team with the best record (14-2), the best advanced stats, and (so everyone said) the best chance to win Super Bowl VL, is out, too, having, on Sunday, been upset at home, 28-21, by their division rival New York Jets.

I certainly don’t have an original take on all the off-field drama—which included obvious, gregarious sniping from the Jets and buttoned-up non-sniping (and occasional subtle sniping) from the Pats—except to comment that breaching unofficial rules of decorum is how underdogs succeed every day in pursuits far more consequential than sports. As for the game itself, much needed to go right for the Jets, and it basically all did: Solid, safe throws from quarterback Mark Sanchez; a couple big plays from their star wide receivers; exemplary special teams play that saw the Jets enjoy an outrageous field-position advantage; and, above all, a defense that forced Pats QB Tom Brady into only his fifth interception of the year, but, more importantly, was on the Pats’ normally elusive pass-catchers like yellow on yellow rice, frustrating New England’s vaunted aerial attack, leaving the relatively immobile Brady patting the ball in the pocket with nowhere to go with it. The Jets’ linemen accomplished five sacks, but these were uniformly coverage sacks, with credit going primarily to the Jets’ defensive backs, their cornerbacks and safetys, who comprised a truly stunning 11 of 45 active roster members Sunday. Which is to say, credit most of all Coach Rex Ryan, the normally blitz-happy big ball of personality who let the personality show (at one point costing his team 15 yards due to an excessive celebration penalty) but wisely kept the blitzes in check. The regular season was confirmation that Pats Coach Bill Belichick belongs in the pantheon with the greats. This playoff game was confirmation that, on any given Sunday, with the right tools, a great coach can be outcoached by a very good one. (more…)

Like Nixon, But Less of a Crook

Today on Tablet


Yesterday’s surprise news that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak bolted the historic Labor Party while staying in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government means it’s a good time to learn more about the former prime minister. If you know him just from American reports, you think of him as a highly successful soldier (one of the three most decorated in IDF history) turned ultra-competent administrator, Israeli diplomat-in-chief, and close professional and even personal acquaintance of Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates.

What you may not know, and what top Haaretz reporters Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff explain today in Tablet Magazine, is that, in addition to the above distinctions, Barak is “Israel’s most widely loathed public figure,” broadly viewed as aloof, corrupt, and partly responsible for numerous Israeli errors over the past decade or two, including the failure to make peace at Camp David and the Second Intifada.

Nine Lives

U.N. Files Sealed Indictment in Lebanese Killing

Hezbollah grabs more power to Israel’s north

Posters of departing Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Tripoli, Lebanon.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday, a U.N. prosecutor indicted suspects on a sealed list for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri following a Security Council-backed investigation. President Obama praised the filing. It may be months before the suspects are formally revealed and a year before any trial is held, but ever since Hezbollah preemptively toppled the Lebanese government last week, with the president now delaying talks on a new coalition until regional players can meet and sort through the mess, who the suspects actually are seems secondary. (For what it’s worth, sources report that the indictments focus on Hezbollah operatives, but also include Grand Ayatollah Khamanei, Iran’s leader, who allegedly ordered Hariri’s murder.)

Hezbollah fears reprisals from the country’s Sunni minority as well as a blow to its reputation as patriotic for Lebanon if the indictments finger its own operatives for the killing of the Sunni former leader of the country—an operation originally thought to be sponsored by Syria but now believed to have been the doing of the Iran-sponsored indigenous Shiite group. Hezbollah broke with the (now on-his-way-out) prime minister, Saad Hariri, a U.S. ally—he was literally at the White House when Hezbollah made its move last week—after he refused to boycott the U.N. findings. As The New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright poignantly notes, Saad is Rafik’s son. (more…)

Daybreak: An Arab Spring?

Plus Barak out of Labor, Palin unrepentant, and more in the news

Sarah Palin apologizing for defending her use of ‘blood libel.’(Fox/Politico)

• Some are wondering if the overthrow of the despotic Tunisian president is the harbinger of people’s revolutions throughout the Arab world. [WP]

• Defense Minister Ehud Barak bolted the Labor Party, taking a few ministers with him, to form his own, smaller, centrist party while staying in the governing coalition. [NYT]

• Sarah Palin stood by her remarks on the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords while regretting her use of the phrase “blood libel.” Just kidding! She said her critics were “using anything they could gather out of [the] statement,” like, for example, its invocation, however inadvertant, of a centuries-old justification of violence against Jews. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Then again, maybe, per Jean-Marie Le Pen’s theory, I’m just crying wolf. [JTA]

• The Palestinian leadership continues to insist it will present an anti-settlement draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council. [JPost]

• Giffords’s breathing tube was removed as she continues to make progress, albeit while still in critical condition. [JPost]

How Stuxnet Came To Be

Worm, tested on Israeli centrifuges, is responsible for Iranian havoc

Iran's nuclear facility (and not an Israeli replica)(HAMED MALEKPOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

“Somebody made a duplicate of my vault!”

The New York Times reports today, in part quoting anonymous American intelligence officials, that Stuxnet, the mysterious computer worm reportedly disrupting Iran’s nuclear program, is the result of a multiyear Israeli-American collaboration that involved creating a replica of Iranian centrifuges at the secret Israeli nuclear facility in Dimona and testing the worm (which, remember, contains references to Esther, the historic Jewish underminer of Persian power). This testing was a crucial precondition for success. “To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” an American expert says. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.” They made a duplicate of their vault.

In many ways, the operation and this subsequent report bear a strong resemblance to the 2007 bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor, which, as Yossi Melman detailed last week in Tablet Magazine, was essentially a coup of Israeli intelligence that was then stamped with an American brand as a gesture of alliance and diplomacy. And indeed the success of the mission is a P.R. victory for Israel at least as far as, say, the American public.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve received several hints that Iran’s nuclear program has slowed. It was believed that Stuxnet, the mysterious computer virus of likely Israeli origin (“Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects”), was playing a role in doing this. Stuxnet, the Times reports, has destroyed the effectiveness of at least one-fifth of Iran’s centrifuges by instructing them to spin way too quickly, while at the same time distorting what Iranian scientists think is happening, something it accomplishes by secretly recording normal operations and then playing the results of that back, “so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.” This, it must be pointed out, is also something that happens in Ocean’s 11.

The Times article confirms two pieces Tablet Magazine published last October. Michael Tanji reported then that Stuxnet’s most distinctive characteristic is that it “is much more in-line with traditional military or intelligence thinking than most malicious activity noted online;” the Times quotes a computer security expert, “Stuxnet is not about sending a message or proving a concept. It is about destroying its targets with utmost determination in military style.” And Melman guessed that the German industrial giant Siemens, which sold Iran much of the technology necessary to its nuclear program, “suffering from a degree of liability and guilt—Germans perpetrating a second Holocaust—willingly cooperated with Israeli intelligence;” while the Times does not prove Siemens’s knowledge of what exactly it was cooperating with (or certainly its motives), it does report that Siemens allowed American scientists to test its equipment for certain vulnerabilities. (more…)

Sundown: 1.5 Billion Jews Is a Scary Thought

Plus Bibi and me, and more

The former Massachusetts governor and the current Israeli prime minister.(Amos BenGershom/GPO via Getty Images)

• Comparing her people to the Chinese, Diane von Furstenberg suggests, “Try to think of governing a billion and a half Jews.” No thanks! [NYMag]

• Romney and Bibi sittin’ in a tree? [Ben Smith]

• Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, profiled by Michelle Goldberg, won re-election. [Arutz Sheva]

• If the current New Yorker caption contest cartoon doesn’t deserve a Jewish punchline, I don’t know what does. [The New Yorker]

• Jews of color get their own magazine, Kehila. [Jewcy]

• Several Israeli tourists are stuck in a city in southern Chile. Which wouldn’t be such a huge deal, except they’re getting no aid because, oh yeah, Israel’s foreign workers are on strike. [Ynet]

This is the song you play as you eat Christian-baby blood.

Turning a Kosher Boy to the Dark Side

Message to the boy: Dump her


The first question-and-answer in New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s advice column, “Hey, Mr. Critic,” concerns a girlfriend who, “after two years of endless nagging,” got her kosher boyfriend to agree to eat treyf one night. After praising various pork and shellfish dishes at various New York City restaurants, for this particular instance Sifton suggests—what else?—Chinese food:

As my hero Arthur Schwartz, formerly the restaurant critic for The Daily News and author of “Jewish Home Cooking,” put it: “The Chinese cut their food into small pieces before it is cooked, disguising the nonkosher foods. This last aspect seems silly, but it is a serious point. My late cousin Daniel, who kept kosher, along with many other otherwise observant people I have known, happily ate roast pork fried rice and egg foo yung. ‘What I can’t see won’t hurt me,’ was Danny’s attitude.”

I wrote all about the “safe treyf” phenomenon last month in my article about Jewish Christmas.

But back to the question. “Helping you use food to persuade someone to abandon his religious principles cannot end well for me,” Sifton notes. “(Nor for him, if his mother finds out.)” I’d like to go a step further and adopt Dear Prudence mode and address the boyfriend: Um, dump her. What kind of girlfriend asks her boyfriend more than once—never mind nags him for two years—to abandon his commitment? What the hell is it to her? (I don’t mean that rhetorically: If I had Prudie’s acumen or a psychologist’s training, I’m sure I could come up with some very good answers.) “Take this boy to the Prime Grill for a kosher steak and tell him you love him,” Sifton advises. Good thinking. But I’m pretty sure she only loves herself.

Meals for a Mensch and the Discerning Sports Fan [NYT]
Related: Jewish Christmas [Tablet Magazine]

The Unwanted

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Ashley Makar reports from Tel Aviv on its large population of Sudanese refugees and how they are dealing with the current separatist turmoil in their homeland as well as the threat of deportation.


Behind the Lens

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Moisei Nappelbaum)

Anyone who’s taken a course in Soviet history or who spent time in the Soviet Union, when there was such a thing, probably came across the photograph, of V.I. Lenin, to the left. But while the image is canonical, the photographer is all but unknown in the West. His name was Moisei Nappelbaum, and he was one of a significant number of Soviet Jewish photographers whose work, and very existence, casts Soviet, and Jewish, 20th century history in a new light. At least that’s what David Shneer argues, in a new book titled Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust. He makes his case to Sara Ivry in Monday’s episode of “Vox Tablet.”

All the Single Ladies

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Dvora Meyers considers her Biblical namesake, Devorah, and what her story tells us about being a woman who doesn’t have, or need, a man.

An Unmarried Woman

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.