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 … .

Okay Times for Un-Okay Terms


Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall, prompted by the new version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that excises the word “nigger,” mulls how to explain to kids what a pejorative word is, and when they may not be inappropriate.

Fighting Words

Answering to a Lower Authority

Do some in the West hold some in the Mideast to a different standard?


Amusing! A former ambassador to Lebanon (and now the assistant secretary of state for the whole region) goes old-fashioned and sends a letter to the editor of the New York Times reporting that a Beirut-based newspaper isn’t the bastion of awesomeness that a prior profile made it out to be. Said profile utterly lionized the paper, Al Akhbar, with such phrases as “hawk-eyed editorial chairman”; “gleefully cataloged various embarrassments to the region’s kings, princes and politicians”; “the most dynamic and daring in Lebanon, and perhaps anywhere in the Arab world”; “a remarkable blend”; “an alluring product”; and “the finest luxury sedan to come on the market in at least a decade” (okay I made that last one up).

But, according to Jeffrey Feltman, the former ambassador, this is the same paper whose editorial board was the only one that refused to meet with him; which frequently committed errors in reporting his activities; and “will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria” (“Critics say the paper’s protestations of editorial freedom ring a little hollow,” the profile acknowledged, “given that it operates under the tacit protection of Hezbollah”).

The discrepancy brings to mind Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith’s piece last week, in which he alleged that many Western observers condescend to certain regional actors and hold them up as beacons of morality when, if they behaved identically but did so in the West and as Westerners, they would be condemned. “While it is man’s ability to tell good from bad that makes him most human, certain Western intellectuals take the unwillingness, or inability, to do so as a sign of the genius to rise above the small-minded morality of the masses,” Smith argued. “Excusing Hezbollah may seem like the rational decision-making of a thoughtful intellectual who is observing a society ostensibly different from his own, but in reality the moral universe of the Middle East is no different from in the rest of the world.”

Heroic Journalism in Lebanon? Ex-Envoy Disagrees [NYT]
Related: Rarity in Region, Lebanese Paper Dares to Provoke [NYT]
High Morals [Tablet Magazine]

Dateline: Tucson

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Dan Klein reports from Tucson, Arizona, visiting the site of the shooting, the hospital where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is receiving care, and the congresswoman’s synagogue, where an emotional service took place. “There’s a real sense of people reaching out for one another,” Giffords’s rabbi tells him. “There’s a sense of people wanting to be together. We want to begin the work of preventing this from ever happening again in our society.”


Time Traveling in the Weddings Section

Do they make ‘em like they used to?

The happy couple.(NYT)

Was anyone else struck by this wedding announcement from yesterday’s New York Times? Not just the two ostentatiously Jewish names—like the grandmother going over the plane crash victims in the Philip Roth story, many Scroll readers no doubt immediately scan the announcements to decide which ones are worth reading and which aren’t. But the nuptials of Emily Rubinstein and Igor Zilberman feels almost anachronistic, carrying the whiff of a time when the Jewish-American dream was to come from a solidly middle-class outer-borough existence and become a doctor, and maybe do good to boot. Zilberman is a neurologist whose mother is a database administrator in Westchester and whose father works for the city in Brooklyn. Rubinstein is an epidemiologist who volunteers to fight AIDS; she hails from the Bronx; her father is a union lawyer, her mother a traffic violations judge. (more…)

Jewish Staffer Is Among the Dead

Zimmerman, 30, was Giffords’ community outreach director

Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed Saturday.(Gabe Zimmerman Prayers Page/Facebook)

Gabe Zimmerman, 30, was killed Saturday at an event he organized. A Jewish Tucson native, Zimmerman is described as an “avid hiker” who tackled the Grand Canyon from the North to the South Rim. His father works at Pima Community College, which his son’s alleged murderer, Jared Lee Loughner, had attended. He was engaged to Kelly O’Brien, a nurse. If you knew Zimmerman and would like to talk about him, please email me.

The five other reported dead are John M. Roll, 63, the first federal judge murdered since 1989; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Phyllis Schneck, 79; and Christina Green, 9.

UPDATE: See comments below. JTA’s The Eulogizer reports that Zimmerman was now Jewish. And Rabbi Andy Bachman makes an interesting case.

Aide Had Gift for Working With People [Arizona Daily Star]

Loughner’s Demons, and Who Created Them

Today on Tablet


Political columnist Michelle Goldberg argued over the weekend in Tablet Magazine that even though Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and murderer of six others, was “clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology,” it is still reasonable to explore whether the paranoid and nativist political climate cultivated by far-right groups and, to an extent, mainstreamed by the Tea Party helped lent=d Loughner the impetus to try to kill not just anyone but specifically a Democratic, Jewish congresswoman. Writes Goldberg:

Loughner was probably too insane to have really participated in anti-Semitic politics, or, for that matter, in the Tea Party. But it is important to note that Giffords has been relentlessly demonized by the right, the rhetoric around her charged with violence. And such rhetoric is dangerous precisely because of the effect it can have on the unhinged. Loughner was crazy, but he was also responsive to certain real-world political currents, particularly the right’s nightmare vision of federal power run amok.

Others have made similar cases: I would particularly recommend James Fallows‘s and George Packer‘s takes (insists the latter, “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point”).

Or, you know, you could compare arguments such as those above to blood libel. (More responsibly and persuasively, you could assert that politics had little if anything to do with it, and you could welcome even the most heated discourse as a pressure valve that heads off most violence.)


Why Was Giffords Targeted?

Alleged shooter may have been driven in part by anti-Semitism

Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged would-be assassin of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.(Reuters/NYT)

Leaving aside whether broader currents in American political discourse influenced Jared Lee Loughner’s attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s life, what exactly were the direct, proximate motivations behind Loughton’s decision to shoot Giffords in the head and then open fire on the crowd at her “Congress on Your Corner” event Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and wounding nearly two dozen? More specifically: Was Giffords’s Jewishness—her father is Jewish, her mother Christian Scientist, and she identifies as Jewish; she even served on the Anti-Defamation League’s regional board—at all relevant?

It seems very clear that, primarily, Loughner was deeply disturbed and very likely mentally ill, and had been obsessed with Giffords for several years. “Loughner’s behavior grew so troubling that he was told he could no longer attend the school,” the New York Times reports, referring to an Arizona community college, “and he appeared, given his various Internet postings, to find a sense of community in some of the more paranoid corners of the Internet.”

The Department of Homeland Security suggested, in a memo distributed to law enforcement, that Loughner may have had links to American Renaissance, a racist publication (which denies both the link and its racism and condemned the attack), whose ideology, according to DHS, is “anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic” [sic]. And then there is one report stating that Loughner’s mother is, yes, Jewish. (Incidentally, President Obama has called for a moment of silence at 11 am.) (more…)

Daybreak: Giffords Remains Critical, On Track

Plus R.I.P. Debbie Friedman, Clinton on Iran, and more in the news

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

• Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Jewish congresswoman shot Saturday, is in critical condition, though her doctors remain optimistic. Federal charges, including two counts of murder, were filed against her alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Much, much more on this throughout the day. [NYT]

• Debbie Friedman, who became famous for her folky reimaginings of Jewish prayers, died at 59 of pneumonia. [Post Mortem]

• Israeli bulldozers demolished part of the Shepherd Hotel, a landmark—it was built for the notorious Grand Mufti al-Husseini—in the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish houses, drawing international condemnations. [NYT]

• Traveling through the region, Secretary of State Clinton sought to downplay new, bearish estimates on Iranian nuclear development in order to persuade Gulf states to keep steady with the sanctions agains the Islamic Republic. [NYT]

• Meanwhile, Iran arrested a “network of spies” allegedly tied to Mossad and allegedly responsible for the 2010 death of one of their nuclear scientists. [Haaretz]

• The IDF plans to exempt fewer and enlist more ultra-Orthodox. [Haaretz]

Jewish Congresswoman Shot, May Survive

Would be first rep. killed in America since Reconstruction

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.(Wikipedia)

Though we don’t know for sure, it looks like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 40, the third-term congresswoman from Arizona who was shot point-blank in the head during a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson this morning, is going to survive. Several of the other victims of the gunman’s subsequent bullet-spraying will not be so lucky. Giffords is Jewish—the first Jewish woman to be elected from Arizona—and is a moderate Democratic representing a conservative district along the Mexico border.

We do not yet know if the attempt on her life was politically motivated—the single suspect, a 22-year-old white man named Jared Loughner, is in police custody. UPDATE: He seems to be a fringe sort of character who listed Mein Kampf among his favorite books and had an obsession with currency. So—for now—it seems wise to keep speculation and broader assigning of blame to a minimum. I’ll merely note that Giffords was heavily and particularly criticized by right-wing leaders associated with the Tea Party for her support for health-care reform.

In the most recent election cycle, her Jewishness was briefly made an issue when a Republican National Committee operative questioned her stance on Israel, and referred to her as someone “who claims to be a Jewess.” (In fact, she’s the great-granddaughter of a Lithuanian rabbi.) She supports direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and said that a 2001 trip to Israel was “one of the most memorable experiences of my life.” She added, “I got to see firsthand the sacrifices that Israelis make in the name of security because of the dangerous state of affairs there. I will always be a strong supporter of Israel.”

It appears that only two active U.S. representatives have been killed: One, from Arkansas, during Reconstruction; and another, Leo Ryan, in 1978 in Guyana by the cult behind the Jonestown Massacre.

Sundown: A Martyr for Organ Donation?

Plus eat bagels not bombs, and more

Avi Cohen.(Soccer Buzz)

• Soccer star Avi Cohen’s death has put new focus on Jewish unease with organ donation, including Israel’s low organ-donor rate. [Babylon & Beyond]

• Left-wing Israeli bloggers have had some success in pushing the line that the IDF is covering up alleged culpability in a Palestinian protester’s tear gas-caused death. [The Lede]

• Chicago-area Rabbi Evan Moffic calls for the Reform Movement to adopt a “Judaism of relevance.” It’s more than a slogan. [Forward]

• RELEASE THE VULTURE! [Australia Broadcasting Corporation/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A “suspicious package” on a flight turned out to be a bagel with cream cheese. Current whereabouts unknown, though it is believed either to be at a black site in Poland or in some lucky person’s stomach. [NBC Miami]

• Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys beat his cancer. Damn right. [HuffPo via Jewcy]

Give it up for MCA.

Haredi Rabbis Target Popular Jewish Website

This is voz is neias today


Devoted Scroll readers know that a not-infrequent source for round-up items is Vos Iz Neias?, a Website that aggregates Jewish-relevant stories (the name is Yiddish for “What’s news?”). So why did 36 (really, exactly 36!) ultra-Orthodox rabbis call for a ban of the site and accuse it of launching a “hidden ambush”? The Jewish Star, which serves the Orthodox communities of Long Island’s Five Towns, has the goods.

The Truth About the Ban [The Jewish Star]

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