Congressmen Back Pollard’s Freedom

Thirty-nine Democratic reps. urge Obama

Jonathan Pollard in 1998.(AP/Haaretz)

In the most high-profile effort yet to free the American convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, 39 congressmen asked President Obama to grant Jonathan Pollard clemency on the grounds that his life sentence (for a crime, the letter admits, that he did commit) is overly harsh compared to similar cases, and that, as Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, put it, “If the president were to do this it [might] … enhance the peace process.” In addition to Frank, Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell, of New Jersey, and Anthony Weiner and Ed Townes, both of New York, initiated the letter, which is supported by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organzations, B’nai B’rith, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Agudath Israel, and several other Jewish groups.

Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, also recently asked Obama to release Pollard, alleging that former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s “almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy” helped secure the harsh sentence. If you want the most persuasive case for why Pollard should be freed, read Gil Troy’s essay in Tablet Magazine from earlier this week.

Question: What did all 39 signatories have in common? (more…)

Stop Being Polite

Today on Tablet


Writing today in Tablet Magazine about an Israeli reality television show, columnist Etgar Keret argues that the genre—normally “shallow mush,” he admits—has here produced a strikingly original, self-conscious work of art:

Watching the program, you have a strong sense that the five documenters feel they are engaged in a sacred mission. Their need to be honest and open seems almost pathological.

This pathology seems heightened by the show’s immediacy. Because the episodes have such a quick turnaround, it is possible to see one of the participants lie his way out of a family dinner only to hear, in the next episode, his mother’s reaction when her friends called to tell her that they saw her son lying on TV. In another episode, the participants and their wives and girlfriends reacted to viewers who commented online about their relationship. The fact that hundreds of people plead online for Ishai, the broke tech millionaire, to leave his wife develops into a marital crisis, when the wife accuses Ishai of putting her in a bad light in his self-documentary. In another surprising moment, the sitcom writer’s mother confesses that although she is suffering because of the show and the exposure, it has also caused her son, hungry for a bit of conflict and drama in his drab life, to visit her more often.

The show is called Connected.

Real World


Are foreigners welcome in Israel?

(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.

There are so many illegal African immigrants living in Tel Aviv, MK Yaakov Katz of the right-wing National Union party said last week, that Tel Avivians will soon be moving to the West Bank as their city “becomes African.”

The word Katz used to describe the immigrants was “mistanenim,” or “infiltrators.” It is a word that seems particularly well-suited to scaremongering, since it conjures the other kind of mistanenim: Palestinians from the West Bank who lack permits but sneak into Israel to work—assuming, the fear goes, that a job search is indeed their real reason for entering the country.

The 10,000 illegal immigrants who have come to Israel since the beginning of the year arrived on foot. According to the African Refugee Development Center, an Israeli advocacy group, about 27,000 migrants are from Africa and are seeking asylum as refugees, or plitim. While the English word focuses on what refugees are looking for (haven in another country), the Hebrew word emphasizes what made them refugees in the first place: They were “spewed out” (nifletu) of their homelands. The root of plitim is used in a wide variety of disgorgement-related contexts, including baby spit-up, environmental emissions, and plitot peh, or slips of the tongue. (more…)

Daybreak: That Answers The Stuxnet Question

Plus why there is no freeze paper trail, and more in the news

Inside the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr.(Hamed Malekpour/AFP/Getty Images)

• On Stuxnet, the virus thought to have slowed Iran’s nuclear weapons program: “In recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. American officials have suggested it originated abroad.” Okay then. [NYT]

• The United States has likely not yet produced a written freeze extension deal because doing so would set the policy precedent of excluding East Jerusalem from the discussion. [JPost]

• A long-range rocket from Gaza landed in the western Negev; there were at least two earlier Qassam firings. No injuries were reported. [Haaretz]

• Durban III is to be held in September 2011 in New York, on the tenth anniversary of the notorious Durban I U.N. anti-racism conference. Except it won’t, be as the U.S. doesn’t like the idea. [JPost]

• After the U.N. proceeded with its more or less annual censure of Iran’s human rights record, a senior envoy vociferously defended the Islamic Republic’s right to stone criminals and the like. [WSJ]

• Egypt bristled at a U.S. call for foreign monitors to oversee its upcoming parliamentary elections. [AP/NYT]

Sundown: Qaeda Group Threatens, in Ivrit

Plus Bialik’s back, and more

Mayim Bialik.(Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

• For the first time, an al-Qaeda affiliate released a video threat in Hebrew. It pledged revenge for yesterday’s assassination of two terrorists in Gaza. [JTA]

• A judge ruled that local Muslims can move forward with plans to build a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Nope, the ADL isn’t all bad. [Associated Baptist Press]

• Former Blossom star and Tablet Magazine contributor Mayim Bialik will play a recurring role on CBS’s Big Bang Theory. [Jewcy]

• Turkey is pretty much turkey, but here are some very Jewish Thanksgiving-appropriate side dishes. [JTA]

• How ping-pong came to stand for the American Dream in its suburban iteration. And a reminder to send in your ping-pong haikus! [Slate]

• Airlines based in the European Union will be exempt from regulations requiring identification clearance codes for entering Israeli airspace. [NYT]

If you need another reason to support the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, this really funny video should do the trick.

Food and Football

Today on Tablet

Robert Kraft with an employee, Tom Brady, last year.(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Contributing editor Joan Nathan is encroaching on my beat! In her Thanksgiving-themed essay on the importance of tradition in cuisine today in Tablet Magazine, she reports on various dishes served by two friends: Myra Kraft, the wife of Bob Kraft, who owns football’s New England Patriots; and Annette Lerner, wife of Ted Lerner, who owns baseball’s Washington Nationals. The Lerners, who are observant Jews, do not attend Friday-night home games. But as for Thanksgiving, I have a guess as to where the Krafts will be enjoying Myra Kraft’s brisket and tsimmes: Detroit, where the Pats will be playing the Lions in the Detroit squad’s traditional Thanksgiving Day 1 pm slot.

Family Ties

Ailes Apologizes to Foxman; Controversy Is Over

ADL director eagerly accepts grudging ‘I’m sorry’

Abraham Foxman.(Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

It doesn’t matter that Fox News head Roger Ailes called NPR “Nazis.” Why? Because he apologized to Abraham Foxman! Per a press release we got:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accepted an apology from Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel, for his use of the expression “Nazi attitudes” in an interview to describe officials at National Public Radio.

In a letter to Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, Mr. Ailes wrote that he was sorry for using the term “Nazi” in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word,” he wrote, “but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.”

(Actually, not to nit-pick, but Ailes did more than “use the expression ‘Nazi attitudes’”—he actually said of NPR, “They are, of course, Nazis.”)

My parents used to tell me that when you apologize but add a “but,” you are basically negating the apology. Oh well: “I welcome Roger Ailes’s apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt,” Foxman said. (As it happens, I too believe that Ailes’s apology was exactly as sincere as it was heartfelt.)

All this may turn out moot: The soon-to-be Republican House Majority is planning to defund NPR. Which means you should enjoy the awesome Twitter #NPRGoesNazi hashtag—Goerring Edition; Morning Becomes “Night”; This American Life, No Longer With The Jew Ira Glass—while you can.

Earlier: Fox News Head Called NPR ‘Nazis’

The Semi-Jewish Poet

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, poetry critic David Kaufmann considers the latest poetry of C.K. Williams and whether, when it comes to one’s Jewishness, “the important thing is not a person’s identity but his or her identifications.”

View from the Bridge

Fox News Head Calls NPR ‘Nazis’

The things he said today

Roger Ailes in 2005.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images for U.S. News and World Report)

Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel, to Daily Beast reporter Howard Kurtz:

On NPR: “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.”

On Glenn Beck’s documentary about George Soros: “His point wasn’t really about Nazis or the Holocaust, more about the character of George Soros. … [there are some] left-wing rabbis who basically don’t think that anybody can ever use the word, Holocaust, on the air.”

On Abraham Foxman: “If he has a problem with Glenn Beck, he ought to man up, come on and talk to him about it.”

On Jon Stewart: “He makes a living by attacking conservatives and stirring up a liberal base against it. He loves polarization. He depends on it. If liberals and conservatives are all getting along, how good would that show be? It’d be a bomb. … don’t give me a social speech on the steps of the Washington Monument. Don’t lapse into non-comedy.” (Hey, Mr. Ailes, I agree!)

On Fox News: “With the country in the trouble it’s in, it’s important to stay in the debate and make sure the information is getting out.”

Roger Ailes Lets Rip [The Daily Beast]
Fox News Chief Blasts NPR ‘Nazis’ [The Daily Beast]

Before the Lebanese Flood

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Hanin Ghaddar reports from Lebanon’s south, where Shia residents not especially inclined toward the de facto sovereign, Hezbollah, worry what will happen then the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri issues its indictments.

Southern Exposure

The Threat Behind the Freeze Deal

Why the carrots are really sticks

(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

In a parenthetical aside I wish I had pursued further, a couple days ago, examining the United States’s proposal to offer Israel aid and security guarantees in exchange for a 90-day extension of the construction freeze, I wrote, “(Israel was probably due for a military upgrade for Iran-related reasons anyway).” Today, Gershom Gorenberg devotes most of a column to an insightful rereading of the deal: Starting from the point that the things that U.S. is offering are things they probably would have offered anyway, he comes to the conclusion: “The carrots are really sticks.” (more…)

Art Predicts Life

Today on Tablet


Boris Fishman reveals today in Tablet Magazine that he has been writing a novel about a failed magazine writer who files phony Holocaust-restitution claims on behalf of old Soviet immigrants: A plot that uncannily anticipated last week’s news of the $42-million defrauding of two German reparations funds.

While acknowledging, “The law is the law; the Holocaust-fund suspects should be prosecuted,” Fishman asks us (much as all fiction does) to empathize with the accused perpetrators, most of whom are Soviet Jewish immigrants living in America:

The poison inside the people who allegedly defrauded the Holocaust fund would be inside you, too, if you had lived as Jews in the Soviet Union. Whatever their sins, these people are heroes, too, for having survived it. The struggle to defeat its legacy requires a daily application of conscience and will, even for members of my generation.

Old Ways

Jewishness Raised in Texas Speaker Race

Call for ‘Christians and true Conservatives’ instead of Straus

Speaker Joe Straus.(Texas House of Representatives)

Troubling news from the Lone Star State, as opponents of Joe Straus, the Republican current speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, are sending mass emails arguing that the House leader ought to be someone from the ranks of “Christians and true Conservatives.” One adds, “Joe Straus is pro-abortion. In fact, his rabbi sits on the board of San Antonio Planned Parenthood.” Straus fired back yesterday; an ally called for an end to “religious bigotry” in the race.

So it seems ugly. But aren’t we burying the lede? Isn’t the real story that the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is a pro-choice Jewish Republican? Does Kinky Friedman know about this?

In Texas Race, Foes of Speaker Stressing His Jewishness [JTA]
Use of Religion Criticized in Texas Speaker’s Race [AP/Austin American-Statesman]

Daybreak: Crossing the Ts on the Freeze

Plus a closer look at the Ghajar withdrawal, and more in the news

Ghajar.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images))

• A senior U.S. official promised that the United States is writing up a formal letter delineating the new freeze extension deal. [JPost]

• Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to cut his own deal to get Interior Minister Eli Yishai, of Shas, to okay the extension and Defense Minister Barak, of Labor, to okay the approval of certain units after the new freeze would expire. [Ynet]

• A closer look at the implications of Israeli’s planned and approved withdrawal from the Lebanese village of Ghajar, which is near the Golan and occupied primarily by members of the Alawite sect, whose members rule nearby Syria. [NYT]

• The U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs of staffs insisted that Iran policy consists of “dialogue, engagement, and sanctions,” and that military action is in only some distant future, if at all. [JTA]

• There have been allegations that German government policy favors Liberal (i.e., Reform) Judaism over the Orthodox. [NYT]

• Um, the Steven Rosen vs. AIPAC lawsuit … depicted in anime. [Capitol J]

Sundown: Top Terrorist Killed

Plus Morton Klein piles on Soros, and more

Islam Yasin’s former car.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

• Islam Yasin, a senior operative in the Gaza-based Army of Islam, was killed in an Israeli Air Force attack in Gaza City today. Yasin was reportedly plotting to kidnap Israeli tourists in the Sinai. [JTA]

• Residents of Ghajar, the disputed town on the Israel-Lebanon border, want the IDF, which is set to vacate, to stay. [Haaretz]

• Breaking: Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America likes to second-guess the behavior of teenage Jewish boys during the Holocaust. [JustASC]

• An interesting quote from Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s anti-Semitism envoy, on the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. [Goldblog]

• The fall-out from Wire creator David Simon’s speech at the General Assembly, in which he complained that Jewish institutions are not doing enough to halt the “Holocaust in slow motion” in black urban communities, has been mostly (and predictably) critical. [NY Jewish Week]

• “I’m going to Graceland”? Paul Simon to release an album of Christmas jingles. [Jewcy]

And now, an ostrich and a baby giraffe playing tag.

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