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The King of Killings

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Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews Timothy Snyder’s new study, Bloodlands, which innovatively defines the Soviet and Nazi mass killings geographically and chronologically rather than ethnically—many, many millions, and not only Jews, were slaughtered between Germany and western Russia between 1933 and 1945—and thereby puts the Holocaust into a better context for us to understand it.

Devastated

The Hasidim at the Computer

Rodger Kamenetz interprets your dreams

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(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Rodger Kamenetz, author of Nextbook Press’s Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka, is also a dream therapist. This week, between the two Torah portions in which Joseph interprets dreams, Kamenetz responds to questions about dreams submitted by Tablet Magazine readers.

First, let me say that I am not Jewish. I had heard the word “Shekhinah” [meaning the presence of God] before, in a Christian Bible study.

I dreamt that a couple brought me upstairs into an apartment. I had never been there before. There was a little bit of a hallway. (more…)

Cut Off the Head of the Snake!

The Saudi king’s awesome phrase for Iran

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Saudi King Abdullah.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Largely lost amid the weekend’s WikiLeaks revelations was the sheer drama behind some of them. For example: Saudi King Abdullah did not merely repeatedly tell the United States that it should militarily attack Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. No: He said the United States “should cut off the head of the snake.” (“The King was particularly adamant on this point.”)

Cut off the head of the snake. Oh hell yeah.

Over various email chains—I am told that Tablet Magazine contributor Judith Miller first seized upon the phrase—”cut off the head of the snake” became Cut Off The Head of the Snake (what a band name!) became COTHS and became, in my hands, #COTHS.

And so, to ask the same question we asked on Twitter (you don’t follow us on Twitter? for shame): What would you #COTHS?

U.S. Embassy Cables: Saudi King Urges U.S. Strike on Iran [Guardian]
Earlier: For Bibi and Israel, Vindication

Brooklyn’s Globetrotting Solarz Dies

N.Y. congressman was Schumer’s mentor-turned-foe

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Solarz with Jimmy Carter.(NYT)

Stephen Solarz, a Jewish former nine-term Democratic congressman from New York, died yesterday at 70. He notably fought a Carter administration sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia; criticized Reagan administration policy in Lebanon; and demonstrated that Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos was misusing foreign aid. His obituary quotes Paul Wolfowitz praising his understanding “that idealism and realism actually go together.”

In Capital, Steve Kornacki tells the fascinating story of how Solarz is somewhat responsible for one of the most powerful American Jewish politicans today, his protégé-turned-adversary Chuck Schumer (now New York’s senior senator and the third-ranking member of the Senate). In Solarz, whose Brooklyn district bordered his own, Schumer saw one path—gain a high inside-the-Beltway profile through prestigious globetrotting and pontificating—and himself chose the other—work quietly on constituent-friendly policies and steadily rise through the party leadership.

To Solarz, Schumer would become an insufficiently grateful upstart—the kid who’d grown too big for his britches. To Schumer, Solarz would come to serve as an object lesson in all of the wrong choices a politician can make. When the rivalry came to an abrupt and stunning end back in 1992, it was Schumer who got the last laugh—and Solarz, then barely into his 50s, who was frozen out of the game for the rest of his life.

Stephen J. Solarz, Former N.Y. Congressman, Dies at 70 [NYT]
Steve Solarz (1940-2010) and the Making of Senator Schumer [Capital]

Guerrilla Decorations

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(Jason Larkin)

Jake Wallis Simons’s report on Holy Land graffiti today in Tablet Magazine is can’t-miss. Among other things, he scrupulously compares the street art in Israel proper, in an Israeli settlement, and in a Palestinian city.

It’s also can’t-miss for the incredible photo gallery at the bottom with images by Jason Larkin. This one is my favorite—yes, it’s from an Arab city (Bethlehem); and yes, it’s by Banksy.

Tagged

Israeli Airport Security, All the Rage

And why it doesn’t completely translate

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The day before Thanksgiving at LaGuardia Airport.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Though it has since died down, in the weeks before Thanksgiving few stories were bigger than the Transportation Security Administration’s alleged new, overly intrusive airport inspections (media columnist David Carr explained yesterday why the meme resonated so much). If the United States was the Bad Guy—bulky, unnecessary, and despicable, embodied in the viral video by the security agent who aggressively patted down the three-year-old—then the Good Guy was Israeli airport security, which famously protects an ostensibly far more endangered populace, and does so with a certain flair (remember how after 9/11 you heard that the only airline that still served their meals with metal utensils was El Al?).

Dutifully, the Washington Post consulted an Israeli security expert, who dutifully informed us that using intelligence-like security techniques such as profiling and targeted inspections and questioning is faster, less intrusive (for most), and more effective than the American way. We also learned that Israel self-consciously sees security expertise as one of its most promising exports. The problem, arguably, as Post columnist Dana Milbank reported, is that Israel’s way is far more expensive: Israel spends $56.75 per passenger, the United States spends $6.93 per passenger—figures that probably reflect the geometrically larger scale the U.S. operates with, but only in part. Which doesn’t mean Israel has no wisdom to offer, but that their methods are only applicable to a certain extent.

Which doesn’t mean they’re not going to make fun of us!

Israeli Air Security Experts Insist Their Methods Better Than U.S. [WP]
Israeli Firms See a Global Market for their Anti-Terrorism Know-How [LAT]
Why The Israeli Security Model Can’t Work for the U.S. [WP]
Earlier: Why Israel’s Airport Security Will Remain Only Israel’s

Daybreak: Leaks Show Bibi Supports Swaps

Plus A’jad admits sabotage, blames U.S., and more in the news

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Secretary of State Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this month.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

• In early 2009, a WikiLeaks cable revealed, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wants land swaps and does not want to govern the West Bank in a final resolution. [Haaretz]

• Of course, that and all other leaked documents are in fact deliberate artifacts of American psychological warfare, if you ask President Ahmadinejad. [NYT]

• A’jad did finally acknowledge that computer code did “limited” harm to Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• Iran will hold talks next week in Geneva with diplomats from the so-called P5+1 group, including the United States. Diplomacy lives! [Laura Rozen]

• More information on yesterday’s bombing of two Iranian nuclear scientists, which killed one: They both participated in a U.N.-backed, Jordan-based particle physics project that Israel is also a member of. So was the Iranian scientist killed earlier this year. [LAT]

• According to the leaks, Americans were upset not only with Turkish-Israeli animosity but with how Turkish foreign policy went against its own. [LAT]

Sundown: Israel’s Ailes

Plus deli’s Old Country, and more

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Sheldon Adelson last summer.(Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)

The Wikileaks stuff pushed our NFL coverage until tomorrow. In the meantime, felicitations to Coach Marc Trestman and his Montreal Alouettes, who won their second straight Grey Cup yesterday.

• How American billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has created Israel’s Fox News. [Politico]

• Deli expert David Sax travels to Eastern Europe, his subject’s ancestral homeland. [Saveur]

• So does this mean Arab leaders are neocons? Shattered paradigms are hard to cope with! [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• The HinJew trend becomes real as Israel and India ink a free-trade deal. [Ynet]

• Director Irvin Kershner, whose films included The Empire Strikes Back, died at 87. Like Han to Boba Fett, he was worth the most to us alive. [Arts Beat]

• “No Need To Kvetch, Yiddish Lives on in Catskills.” Some of these headlines are unimprovable. [NYT]

Frank Black of the Pixies wrote the score to the silent film The Golem. Below: My favorite Pixies song, “Debaser.”

We Lie

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith argues that the WikiLeaks revelations show that American officials publicly discuss regional geopolitics in ways contrary to what they say in private.

Another Way for ‘Another Time, Another Way’

Remixing our own Yiddish

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(Brian Scott/Boondesign)

Our Hanukkah remix album is getting a lot of love—except from one exacting reader, who did not approve of its title. As Marc Weidenbaum explained in the liner notes, he arrived at that title, Anander Mol, Anander Veig, this way:

As the project was nearing completion, I got in touch with a wise friend, one who knows far more Yiddish than I do—which is to say, he knows more than just words involving disappointment, food, bodily functions, and relatives. I asked my friend, “How would you say ‘remix’ in Yiddish?” Being wise, he thought better than to come up with a new word; he thought better than to reply with some snazzy neologism, some antiquated-sounding yet entirely newly created term, some ersatz steampunk Yiddish.

Instead, he sent me a steady stream of short phrases, each an attempt to probe, in Yiddish, what a remix is at its heart. The best of his probings, “anander mol, anander veig,” became the title of this set. It means, in a literal translation, “another time, another way”—old ways, reconsidered; old modes, remodeled; old music, remade.

But, in fact, as our esteemed columnist Eddy Portnoy explained this morning, we may have done a little too much remixing. “For a correct translation of ‘another time, another way,’ the title should read, ‘An andere tsayt, an anderer oyfn,’” he wrote. “The way you have it is ‘another instance, another road.’ I guess that works metaphorically, but it’s not correct in Yiddish. Worst-case scenario, leave it as is, but at least split the indirect articles from the adjectives.”

Well, we’re in the worst-case scenario. We can’t change it at this point, but we admit the misstep. Are there even more alternatives, budding and seasoned Yiddish speakers? Leave them in the comments!

Anander Mol, Anander Veig

Flotillas Before the Flotilla

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert offers his weekly round-up of forthcoming Jewish books of interest.

On the Bookshelf

Sotheby’s To Auction Historic Jewish Collection

Without a buyer, sale will have no preconditions

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The Valmadonna library.(Sotheby’s)

It’s been nearly two years since Sotheby’s announced the auction of one of the world’s greatest private collections of Hebraica: The Valmadonna Trust Library, an assemblage of more than 12,000 extremely rare Hebrew manuscripts and printed books, including a complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud previously owned by Westminster Abbey. This morning, Sotheby’s vice-chairman David Redden confirmed to Tablet Magazine that the auction house has quietly opened a sealed-bid auction, closing December 16, with a minimum asking price of $25 million—a potentially hefty discount from Sotheby’s earlier $30-50 million estimate of the library’s value. As currently offered, the library will be sold without any pre-conditions or covenants requiring that the library be kept intact or put on public display “I’m extremely hopeful,” Redden said in a phone call. “I think the way in which one is approaching this is extremely realistic.”

This sell-first approach marks a distinct strategic shift when it comes to the Valmadonna, whose creator, a London industrial-diamond dealer and bibliophile named Jack Lunzer, has spent the better part of the last decade trying quixotically to close a deal with the Library of Congress. Lunzer told me last year that he was hoping to rekindle interest from the institution, which would have offered the collection, and the record of European Jewish history that it embodies, pride of place in Washington, D.C. Above all, he was anxious to see his baby find a new home before his death, and to keep it intact. “Après moi, le déluge,” he told me. (more…)

Ingall’s Newbery

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Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall follows up last week’s list of the best Jewish children’s picture books of the year with a list of the best Jewish children’s non-picture books of the year.

Children of the Book

Jewish Bowling Poetry? Jewish Bowling Poetry

Haikus and limericks and winners

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Last week, we asked you to write a Jewish bowling haiku or limerick for a chance to win three pairs of tickets to Festival of Strikes, the JDub Records’s party tomorrow night at Brooklyn Bowl (co-sponsored by Tablet Magazine). And, well, three of you responded, so you are the winners! Fortunately, this doesn’t just feel like a default decision: The poems are funny. All can read them below. And Melanie, sophie, and Frank: Email dklein@tabletmag.com by tomorrow night to get on the list. (more…)

For Bibi and Israel, Vindication

Leaks confirm that Iran and Turkey unite it with others

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Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoys his coffee yesterday.(Gali Tibbon - pool/Getty Images)

There is no country that should feel more vindicated by the Wikileaks revelations than Israel. “More and more countries realize that Iran is the central threat, but the countries in the region have a gap because they publicly are attached to the Israeli-Arab conflict,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday. “They realize that the central threat is from Iran and now this has been revealed even though it was known. It can eliminate the theory that Israel is the obstacle to peace and show that we have mutual interests.” As Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz reported, “It would not be an exaggeration to say that WikiLeaks may have done the country a service.”

But not only regarding Iran! The leaks show that U.S. diplomats are nearly as wary of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Israel is; that Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are hardly more on the side of Hamas in Gaza as Israel is; and that countries in the region perceive the U.S.-Israeli special alliance as a reason to cozy up to Israel in order to gain influence with America. In short, it is Iran, and not the peace process, that is the dominant issue for both Israeli and Arab leaders, and they are therefore more inclined to see eye-to-eye.

Meanwhile, even as embarassing details surfaced about Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and other foreign leaders, Israeli leaders largely escaped this fate. Maybe they saw the American quietly taking notes at the conference table and decided to hold their tongues? And as for Mossad chief Meir Dagan, it quickly becomes clear that he is one of the most respected advisers in the world, “sought after,” according to Katz, “by almost every senior U.S. official visiting Israel.” (more…)

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