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

So Appalled

Comment of the week

(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book that is thematically appropriate to his or her comment (provided he or she emails me with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner is a the presumably sarcastic commenter “Fuming,” who wrote, on the subject of ever-controversial Mideast columnist Lee Smith’s offering: “I am so ENRAGED at this article I can barely think! It’s racist, offensive, bigoted, racist, and Zionist! My God, Tablet magazine infuriates me with its NEOCON PROPAGANDA OF LEE SMITH! I’m going to fire off an e-mail to Andrew Sullivan and Roger Cohen!”

Since “Fuming” is clearly a pugilist at heart, s/he gets a copy of Douglas Century’s biography of the great Jewish boxer Barney Ross.

Palin Likely Didn’t Know ‘Blood Libel’ Meaning

And other opinions on the latest brouhaha

Sarah Palin talks about the Tucson tragedy.(Vimeo/Politico)

The Obama administration has no comment on Sarah Palin’s invocation of the phrase “blood libel” to describe those who would link strident right-wing rhetoric to the tragic Tucson shooting. Fortunately, absolutely no one else has been so reticent.

I’ll briefly say that I’ve been persuaded that Palin may well have been unaware of the phrase’s origins—I have been surprised to hear how many people, Jews included, did not know its provenance as the myth that the Jews kill Gentile babies and use their blood to make Passover matzah. Palin was most likely responding to the phrase’s presence in right-wing circles to describe other things. However, and as contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg predicted at the outset of the controversy, everybody has since learned all about it: This was definitely, as they say, a teaching moment. (The Times even ran a handy primer.) Palin can plausibly claim that she was unaware of the hurt she was causing when she made her video before Wednesday morning; she cannot claim, however, that she is not cognizant of it now. It would be totally consistent for her, therefore, to regret her choice of phrase. I’m not holding my breath. Anyway, here is what everyone else has to say: (more…)

Watch the Throne

Today on Tablet


Contributing editor Rachel Shukert prepares us today in Tablet Magazine to root for Miss Massachusetts, a.k.a. Loren Galler Rabinowitz, who this weekend will become the first Jew to compete in the Miss America pageant since Bess Myerson won it in 1945. While not overselling it, Shukert sees Rabinowitz’s candidacy as potentially a return to form for American Jewish women:

Bess Myerson could have (and perhaps should have) ushered in a worshipful golden age of Jewish femininity. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. As Jewish men began to shape American pop culture of the postwar years, they often asserted their independence from the painful (or embarrassing) history through less-than-flattering portrayals of their mothers and sisters and cousins, robbing Jewish women of their femininity and sexual power in the public imagination for generations. … male “Jewish” traits—intellectual sophistication, sensitivity, even neurosis—were portrayed as endearing and even sexually combustible to the right (Gentile) woman; Jewish women (as I scarcely have to tell you) were portrayed as loud, pushy, materialistic, emasculating, crass, and seemingly devoid of any complicated inner life. If they were at all attractive, it was in spite of their Jewishness, not because of it, or the attractiveness had come at great (often surgical) expense.

The pageant is Saturday.

There She Is

After Shabbat

All good things must come to an end

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use Hebrew. Behind the literal meaning, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday, we reveal what is really being said. To view all the entries in this series, click here.

In the States, if you’re planning to go to shul and then eat some cholent on the last day of the week, that’s the day you most likely call “Shabbos” or “Shabbat”; and if you’re not Jewish or a traditional Shabbat just isn’t your scene, chances are you’ll be referring to that day as “Saturday.”

But Hebrew has no word for “Saturday,” other than Shabbat. The universality of the word is reflected in a Hebrew axiom that has its roots in the military: “Every Shabbat has a motzei Shabbat,” or post-Shabbat. This means that all good things must come to an end, with the added implication that after the day of rest, you must get back to your real life. Soldiers often get leave for Shabbat, but have to head back to their bases early on Sunday mornings, when the buses and trains are dominated by the olive of their uniforms. (more…)

Daybreak: Hezbollah Plays With Fire

Plus China and Russia stand up to Iran, and more in the news

Hezbollah sympathizers march in southern Beirut.(Anwar AmroAFP/Getty Images)

• Hezbollah, having bowed out of and effectively toppled Lebanon’s current government, is trying to maneuver to be in a position to select the prime minister of the next one. [WP]

• But by destabilizing Lebanon, its base, Hezbollah’s gambit was not without its risks. [NYT]

• How ‘bout China and Russia! China flat-out refused Iran’s offer for a tour of its nuclear facilities, seen as fuzzy at best since the United States was not invited; and Russia such a tour would not be a replacement for negotiations and U.N. inspects. [AP/NYT]

• The man said to be in charge of laundering money to Hamas from sources such as Iran—previously the assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s job—was arrested in (where else?) Dubai. [Ynet]

• Yossi Alpher notes that the recent moves toward Palestinian statehood do not touch issues like the right of return and so actually could, judo-like, be used by Israel to move toward a final deal on rather favorable terms. [JPost]

• Israel and Greece, which have drawn closer as Israel and Turkey have bickered, formed a regional force for dealing with natural disasters. [JTA]

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