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Zionists on Both Sides of Tenn. Mosque Debate

Evangelicals vs. Abe Foxman

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Sign at the site of the planned mosque.(WKRN-TV/Time)

Matthew Yglesias notes that among the organizations sponsoring a court challenge to the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a Christian Zionist group. “The point here is that PJTN’s views on Israel are just part of a larger worldview that casts Muslims and Islam as the enemy,” he writes.

I come not to quibble with Yglesias’s view of Christian Zionists—my view is similar, although I do think columnist Lee Smith’s more nuanced take is worth considering as well. But I want to point out that if “Post-Jewish Zionists” are the ones opposing this mosque, Jewish Zionists are the ones supporting it: The Anti-Defamation League, through its Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (established, conspicuously, after its wrongheaded stance on the lower Manhattan Islamic center), filed an amicus brief urging the court to drop the Murfreesboro suit, which the ADL called “an artificial roadblock to delay the start of this approved project and to deny the mosque’s sponsors their religious freedom.”

Just a friendly reminder, first, that Zionists whose prime motivation is anti-Muslim sentiment are the exception, not the rule; and, second, that the Anti-Defamation League is at its best when it is combating defamation.

Post-Jewish Zionism [Yglesias]
ICOM Acts Against Lawsuit Intended to Stop Tennessee Mosque [ADL]
Related: Friends in Deed [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: My Hagee Problem—and Ours

In Beck Documentary, Soros Is ‘Puppet Master’

Fox News host alleges billionare’s global conspiracy

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Here is what Fox News host Glenn Beck said yesterday on the first installment of his two-part documentary on Jewish billionaire financier George Soros. This followed images of the Star of David; video of implicitly Holocaust-era European Jews; and the flashing of Soros quotes that express a lack of sympathy toward the Jewish people. It involved Beck pointing to a chart that alleged a conspiracy drawing various, disparate crises inward toward Soros.

I told you that there was a structure being put into place in our country, and it was designed to bring about the fundamental transformation that has been promised. Through the course of the journey of this discovery, amazingly, all paths, time after time, really led to one man: George Soros. One guy. There’s a crisis collapsing our economy—George Soros. When the progressives, the administration, look for a savior to step in and save the day—George Soros. He makes predictions, and his loyal followers make sure they come true. He’s pulled no punches about the endgame: It’s one world government, the end of America’s status as the prevailing world power. But why? Well, if you want to understand the why there, you have to ask questions, and there’s a few things you need to know about George Soros. … Eighty years ago, George Soros was born. Little did the world know then economies would collapse, currencies would become worthless, elections would be stolen, regimes would fall. And one billionaire would find himself coincidentally at the center of it all. [My bold.]

(more…)

The Problem With David Grossman

Today on Tablet

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Today in Tablet Magazine, senior writer Liel Leibovitz publishes a jeremiad accusing the Holy Trinity of Israeli left-wing novelists—David Grossman, Amos Oz, and A.B. Yehoshua—of being skilled artists whose delicate aesthetic standards correlate to more or less crippled political ones. Liel writes:

with few exceptions, the following generalization still stands: Oz and Yehoshua and Grossman tell stories of men and women who are wrecked by reality, who try to escape it but can’t, who do their best and discover that their best isn’t enough.

The same could be said about their political sensibilities. Grossman described it best. “It’s not that I think that suddenly Jews and Arabs can walk hand in hand towards the sunset,” he told me. “That’s not the case. But I think there’s a place somewhere in between the Hollywood ending and being tossed into the sea. There is nuance. And that’s where we need to go, to those places where we can have a life that is possible, where we could slowly douse the flames and control the madness, no more.” (more…)

Settlement Kerfuffle Follows the Script

Building announcement leads to U.S.-Israeli friction

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Prime Minister Netanyahu Monday at the United Nations.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Vice President Biden traveled to the General Assembly in New Orleans to reassure attendees that America had Israel’s back security-wise. On Monday, Israel provocatively announced significant (though not deal-breaking) new construction in East Jerusalem. Yesterday, the top State Department spokesperson linked the announcement to the peace process, and President Obama himself argued, “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations. I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make the extra effort.” The whole thing is playing out exactly as it did in March: Biden visit; housing announcement; U.S. pushback. In March, Prime Minister Netanyahu retorted with the defiant declaration: “Jerusalem is not a settlement”; yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu retorted with the defiant declaration: … I’ll just let you guess.

The latest to-do, Aaron David Miller told me this morning, “reflects a much-diminished administration that got off on the wrong foot from the beginning.” Prior history as well as the prospects of continued Israeli-Palestinian negotiations give Netanyahu greater leverage, according to the former negotiator. The prime minister “knows that the administration believes the only way this Israeli-Palestinian problem is going to be resolved is negotiations, and so he’s convinced himself that they need him more than he needs them,” Miller said. “I don’t think he’s looking for a confrontation, but he’s willing to stand his ground.” Especially, Miller added, since we are talking about Jerusalem here: “Building in Jerusalem is as natural as breathing.” (more…)

Daybreak: The Nuclear Talks Tease

Plus federations worried about aging donor base, and more in the news

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President Ahmadinejad last month.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

• Iran will agree to new high-level talks with the West, provided the nuclear issue isn’t discussed. Which was sort of the point. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• However, the new top U.N. nuclear inspector said he was amenable to turning a more focused eye onto Syria. [WSJ]

• Speaking on U.S. cable news, Prime Minister Netanyahu cautioned that Iran wants to control the region’s oil supply. [JPost]

• Opposition parties boycotted Jordan’s parliamentary vote; the results are likely to strenghten the monarchy’s allies while increasing popular disaffection. [NYT]

• Jewish federations, gathered in New Orleans, are concerned less about the current economy and more about their long-term futures as their biggest donors age, with younger people not replacing them. [JTA]

• Famed realist painter Jack Levine died at 95. [NYT]

Sundown: Obama Condemns Settlements

Plus Weisz and Aronofsky call it quits, and more

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The formerly happy couple in September.(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

• “That kind of activity is never helpful,” President Obama said in Indonesia of the East Jerusalem building announcement. “Each of these incremental steps can end up breaking trust.” Netanyahu sniped back. More tomorrow. [NYT]

• Political dissension and varying scandals have led to a worrying decrease in the IDF’s prestige. [WP]

• A profile of San Francisco-raised Sally Oren, the wife of the Israeli ambassador. [Washington Diplomat]

• Some important inside-Jewish-charity baseball news, as the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency decide to beat their swords into plowshares. [The Fundermentalist]

• Actress Rachel Weisz and director Darren Aronofsky are headed for Splitsville. This somehow feels important. [Jezebel]

• Michael Goldfarb (not the former McCain adviser), whose book Emancipation is excellent, is speaking at the Manhattan JCC this week and next. [Manhattan JCC]

In case you still haven’t seen this middle school trick play …

$42M Phonily Doled Out in Reparations Claims

17 charged in Holocaust funds fraud

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Federal prosecutors today unsealed criminal charges against 17 individuals accused of stealing more than $42 million from two Holocaust reparation funds whose cash comes from the German government. According to a press release (which one site posted), among the defendants are employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany who allegedly approved more than 5500 fraudulent payment applications and took cuts themselves. Four defendants have already pleaded guilty; 11 arrests were made today.

The Conference, which first reported the suspected fraud in December 2009, emailed us a statement thanking the FBI and prosecutors. “We are outraged that individuals would steal money intended for survivors of history’s worst crime to enrich themselves,” said Julius Berman, the Claims Conference chairman. “It is an affront to human decency. As the victim of this complex scheme, the Claims Conference is grateful for the tremendous work of the FBI in investigating it.” (more…)

Mezuzah Pop

The Jewish Museum unveils a line of Judaica including new designs by Richard Meier

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Vienna Mezuzah, York Mezuzah, and Toledo Mezuzah, by Richard Meier(Tablet Magazine)

Last night the Jewish Museum Shop unveiled its signature line of “Modern Ceremonial Art” titled designeditionJM. The big news was the new work from two titans of design, architect Richard Meier (whose stuff Judith Matloff previewed yesterday) and industrial designer Dror Benshetrit, who both dabbled in mezuzot.

While Meier’s clearly referenced the pantheon of architecture (and mimicked his limited-edition menorah), Benshetrit brought the modern and commercial to his Alessi-forged mezuzah, which was modeled after an ancient seal. “Am I designing a Jewish item, or a traditional item?” Benshetrit asked himself when Alessi approached him for a design. This writer thinks he created a subtle and approachable wholesale item, ready for museum shops and high-end department stores everywhere. (more…)

The Amazing Story of the Jews of San Nicandro

Today on Tablet

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Adam Kirsch reviews a new history of the Jews of the southern Italian town of San Nicandro, who in the space of two decades transformed from bizarre, cult-ish sect members to Israeli citizens.

A Few New Jews

One more rep. and state AG; a GOP rep. closes in

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Georgia Attorney General-elect Sam Olens.(Sam Olens/Flickr)

Immediately after Election Day, it looked like the 112th Congress would contain 12 Jewish senators and 27 congresspersons, including a second Jewish House Republican—Nan Hayworth of New York—to go along with incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor. [UPDATE: Hayworth is not Jewish, but considers herself an "honorary Jew" because she is married to one.]

But not so fast! Gabrielle Giffords, an incumbent Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was declared the narrow victor late Friday night; and Randy Altschuler is looking more likely to become the third Jewish Republican congressperson pending the counting of 9,000 absentee ballots in his Long Island district.

And! Georgia just elected its first-ever Jew to a statewide position: Republican Sam Olens will be the Peach State’s attorney general. The best part? He’s from Jersey.

Giffords Ekes Out Victory, Altschuler in Play [JTA]
Ground-Breaking News from Georgia [JustASC]
Earlier: It Happened Last Night

Eating Jewish

Today on Tablet

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Today in Tablet Magazine, it’s a Gil Marks double-whammy as the author of the new Encyclopedia of Jewish Food sits for a Vox Tablet podcast and is reviewed by Abby Wisse Schachter.

Monopoly in the Ghetto

This is how we will remember

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Ghetto Monopoly.(board)

At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum/memorial in Israel, there is a cardboard, hand-drawn Monopoly board made in the Theresienstadt ghetto in what was then Czechoslovakia. The properties—the Marvin Gardens, Park Place, etc.—are locations in the ghetto, which, interestingly, were named after various German cities. And CNN gathered Micha and Dan Glass, the two brothers who played the game, salvaged it, and donated it, in front of the board. (They survived the ghetto, along with their mother; their father was killed in Auschwitz.)

Historical documentation is of the utmost importance, of course. But after all the survivors are gone, I am betting that it is going to be things like a Theresienstadt-specific Monopoly board—little, almost novelistic details that are so idiosyncratic and unlikely they simply could not have been imagined—that we are going to turn to teach unsuspecting younger generations abut what really did happen to the Jews of Europe.

Houellebecq Wins Goncourt, but the Argument?

Today on Tablet

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Michel Houellebecq.(Wikipedia)

Yesterday, French novelist Michel Houellebecq won the Prix Goncourt—France’s equivalent of the Pulitzer or National Book Award—for his latest, The Map and the Territory. It was his first Goncourt despite being arguably the most prominent (and certainly the most provocative) living French novelist.

Today in Tablet Magazine, new contributor Barry Gewen reviews Houellebecq’s exchange with another Frenchman who is his equal in prestige (though his superior in self-promotion), the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. The two men’s epistolary jousting turns to the question of whether political action is obligatory, or even anything other than futile:

Houellebecq refuses to be a battler for justice in Lévy’s mold. He wants only to be left alone to selfishly pursue his modest vices. Men are not “morally admirable” creatures, he tells Lévy; they are all too ready to form a mob, to turn themselves into savages for the sake of some cause or movement. Later, Houellebecq will compare mankind to bacteria, an image Lévy rejects as misanthropic and “repugnant,” but Houellebecq has already twisted the knife with a paradox that must have caused Lévy immense pain: “I find it extremely unpleasant that choosing to take the standpoint of selfishness and cowardice may, in the eyes of my contemporaries, make me more likeable than you who advocate heroism; but I know my peers and that’s precisely what will happen.”

War of the Words

Biden’s Brief, Bibi’s Bombast, Simon’s Sermon

What’s cooking in New Orleans

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Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Prime Minister Netanyahu Sunday.(Flickr/PM Netanyahu)

We’re into day three of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans—the biggest institutional-Jewish confab of the year. What’s gone on so far?

Vice President Biden, one of the more trusted-by-some administration members (he is certainly more trusted-by-some than the president, anyway) gave a speech of reassurance Sunday: “We are absolutely, unequivocally committed to Israel’s security,” he declared. “Period. Period.” (One more, and we would have had a hockey game.) Then, much like the last time the administration sent Biden to reassure the some by whom it is not trusted, Israel announced new building in East Jerusalem, which the United States promptly condemned (though, don’t worry, Biden is “not taking this personally”). (more…)

Daybreak: More Building Announced

Plus Sharon to be moved home, and more in the news

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Ariel Sharon lighting Hannukah candles, 2005.(Kevin Frayer-Pool/Getty Images)

• Shorty after it was chided by the U.S. for announcing new East Jeruslaem settlement construction, Israel announced even more, and even more controversial, long-in-the-works building in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. [Haaretz]

• Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, is traveling through the region to reaffirm U.S. support for Lebanese autonomy. [Laura Rozen]

• Lori Berenson, the left-wing activist who had been jailed for two decades in Peru before being released and then briefly jailed again, was released again. [AP/NYT]

• Iran denied that it had failed to cooperate with U.N. nuclear inspectors. [NYT]

• Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be moved from the hospital where he has spent the past five years in a coma to his home. [Ynet]

• Michael Seifert, 86, called the “Butcher of Bolzano” for his deeds at a north Italian concentration camp, died in an Italian prison, where he was serving a life sentence. [NYT]

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