An old Jew tells a joke
An old Jew tells a joke
With L.A. subbing for T.A.
Ramzor, Hebrew for traffic light, is one of those television shows—think Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men—that everybody watches and nobody admits to watching. The sitcom was aired on Israel’s Channel 2 for two years. And, coming this fall, American audiences, too, can enjoy its surprisingly satisfying blend of stereotypes and raw humor: Fox has bought the format, rechristened the show Mixed Signals, and transferred its plot from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles. It debuts this fall.
The show’s Hebrew name is meant as a metaphor for the three stages in the development of the average male: Green Light (single! stupid! oversexed!); Yellow Light (in a committed relationship! confused! anxious!), and Red Light (married with children! desperate! emasculated!). As befitting such a premise, the American show’s mastermind is Bob Fisher, who wrote that classic of male arrested development, Wedding Crashers.
Here’s a quick taste of the traffic light, American style. Say, is that Pam’s ex?
Virginia governor taps Fred Malek
Slate’s Timothy Noah has a nice screed against Fred Malek, the longtime political operative most recently appointed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a conservative Republican, to a government reform commission. The problem with Malek is that, in the 1970s, at the direction of President Nixon, he appears to have compiled a list of Jews (or, more precisely, people with Jewish-sounding names) at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then played a role in many of these folks’ demotions. Later on, he lied about this.
Malek has not lifted a finger publicly to correct these lies, much less apologize for the actions they were meant to conceal. …
Malek’s Jew-counting past probably played some role in his investment group’s failing to win Major League Baseball’s approval to own the Nationals, the D.C. baseball team—Malek had previously helped supply the cash for George W. Bush to acquire the Texas Rangers—but given the Nationals’ performance, that may have been a blessing in disguise. Malek has lately emerged as a leading adviser to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Now Malek is reorganizing Virginia state government. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that in giving Malek this job, McDonnell is coddling an anti-Semite. I believe that Malek was probably repulsed by what he ended up doing for Nixon. But he did it, and ever since Malek has lied to avoid admitting the depth of his involvement in this grotesque episode. If that’s atonement, then I’m St. Francis of Assisi.
One quibble: Check the sports section, Mr. Noah! The Nationals are currently one game above .500!
Berman takes flight, Zionism for kids, and more
Today, Tablet Magazine presents a double helping of Paul Berman and his new book, The Flight of the Intellectuals: Berman sits with Senior Editor Sara Ivry for the Vox Tablet podcast, and Christopher Hitchens gives the book a rave review. The whole brouhaha over Peter Beinart’s essay provokes parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall to consider how American liberals should discuss Israel with their kids. The Scroll sort of wishes there were a yontiff this week, too.
Good luck with that
Tzipi Livni, the leader of the main Israeli opposition party, Kadima, came under fire from some activists in her party for her “exaggerated demonstration of support for the homosexual and lesbian community.” Kadima—which aims for the political center, to the left of the ruling Likud Party but to the right of traditionally left-wing Labor—“should position itself in the center and right of the political map,” the activists argued, and supporting gay rights works against that.
Livni had wanted to personally launch next month’s Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv. But the activists alleged that “such conduct may create the wrong impression that Kadima is shifting to the left, and this may distance the party from its main target audience.”
Really, though, this is a good excuse to point out (as Eli Valley helpfully did) that the ad that went along with Ynet’s article last night is, well, below.
Ah, the free market comes through again. Point being—and honest American conservatives would likely have the same advice for these Kadima activists—if you are against gay advancement, then the last thing you want to do is bring the issue up.
Plus Israel would have sold S.A. nukes, and more in the news
• President Shimon Peres argued that resolving the Iranian nuclear issue would make it easier for Israel to achieve peace with the Palestinians. [WSJ]
• A new book (reviewed in Tablet Magazine) reports that, in 1975, the Israeli defense minister—then Shimon Peres—offered to sell nuclear warheads to apartheid-era South Africa. A Peres spokesperson vigorously denied the report. [Guardian]
• Sometimes a drill is only a drill. This includes, the Israeli government says, the current five-day civil defense drill, which is not, it adds, designed to drum up war with Lebanon. [NYT]
• The Dubai police now have its 33rd subject in the murder of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh: a Scottish-born British national who apparently used his own passport. [WSJ]
• Yesterday’s Salute to Israel Parade drew “tens of thousands” to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. [JTA]
Plus pagan burial grounds, and more
• The world premiere of a play that imagines a jail-cell meeting (which never happened) between Bernard Madoff and Elie Wiesel was canceled after Wiesel protested. [WP]
• A planned Ashkelon, Israel, hospital is not to be built on a onetime Jewish cemetery, as angry ultra-Orthodox alleged. Turns out, the ancient cemetery was pagan! Build away! [AP/Haaretz]
• The Forward was at DAWN 2010! [Arty Semite]
• “Great Jewish Moments in Law & Order.” Well played. [Heeb]
• Mel Gibson tells us how he really feels:
Q-Tip as a model for Jews
A decade ago, my friends threw me a bachelorette party at The Park. As luck would have it, we were seated two tables away from Q-Tip, at the time my absolute favorite rapper. (Yes, he’s since been replaced. Two words in my defense: Vivrant Thing.) But Q-Tip was also part of a cohort of late 1990s hip-hop stars converting to, and singing about, Islam—a trend that fed into fears of rising black anti-Semitism that, every now and again, sent certain Jewish organizations into apoplectic fits of worry. I even remember a friend chastising me when she stumbled upon my copy of The Low End Theory, the masterpiece of an album that Q-Tip made with his band, A Tribe Called Quest. Anyway: The marriage didn’t work out, but to this day I remain the proud owner of a napkin from The Park with Q-Tip’s autograph.
And so imagine my surprise this morning when I opened my email to see that this week’s column from Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel, the ultra-Orthodox communal organization, is about none other than Q-Tip (delightfully referred to as “Mr. Tip”). Titled “Rapper’s Sabbath”—an allusion to “Rapper’s Delight”? I don’t want to ask, lest it not be true—the piece notes that the rapper recently confessed to falling for the Jewish Sabbath while filming Holy Rollers, the new film about Hasidic ecstasy smugglers in the 1990s. “I’m going to enjoy Sabbath on Saturday, so on Friday at sunset I’m going to turn off my TV, my radio—I’m not going to do anything,” Q-Tip told the New York Daily News. “And then when the sun sets on Saturday night, I’m going to raise hell!”
Remarkably, Shafran doesn’t exploit Q-Tip as an easy target for ridicule and condescension, but rather as a potentially useful example for Orthodox Jews. “When the Sabbath ebbs away—especially during the long days of summer – are we saddened a bit by the imminent loss of its holiness, pained at least a little to emerge from our day-long cocoon of connection with the Divine?” he writes. “Or are we itching … to barge as quickly as possible back into the ‘real’ world, to listen to the news, check our e-mail, get in our cars—surrender without a fight to the mundane? If so, perhaps we shouldn’t smile so condescendingly at Q-Tip and his Saturday night plans, but rather recognize a bit of him in the mirror.”
Neither Shafran nor the JTA, which picked up the Daily News story, noted Q-Tip’s Muslim background. This is probably because the Jewish community has more significant concerns these days—and which may be why, for a few brief moments today, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the last decade. Still, if the kind of ecumenicism espoused by Shafran is any indication, maybe there are reasons for some optimism. Mr. Tip, consider this your invitation to Shabbat dinner. I’ll even give you a new napkin.
Rapper’s Sabbath [The Matzav Network]
A tale of two competing efforts
Here’s the basic summary of what has been happening, with a hat-tip to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius: At the beginning of the week, Turkey and Brazil cut a deal with Iran involving a swap of unenriched uranium in exchange for 20 percent enriched uranium. The deal, in fact, is quite similar to one offered Iran in October. That deal was offered by the major powers (including the United States) and would have involved a swap with Russia; the major powers are not behind this deal and it involves a swap with Turkey. Brazil and Turkey get to solidify their position as leaders of a new bloc of rising nations; Iran gets to be seen as conciliatory and thereby persuades Russia and especially China that further U.N. Security Council sanctions are not necessary.
But! That only sort of worked! Because on the very same day—as if to say, “No, we’re still in charge”—the United States introduced a new draft sanctions resolution that has the support of all five permanent members, including general holdout China. While lacking much in the way of actual bite—there are no enforcement mechanisms, for example—the unity this expressed demonstrated that Iran is not going to be let off so easily. (As for Turkey and Brazil, the United States is appreciative of their efforts … and little more.) “What’s important about the unified U.N. stand,” Ignatius writes,
is that it will force Iran back to the bargaining table if it wants to avoid growing diplomatic isolation from the world’s superpowers. Yes, Tehran can claim that it has support from two of the world’s rising nations, Turkey and Brazil, which it will tout as allies against the great satans of the Security Council. But realistically, the Iranians know that having lost Russia and China on sanctions, they are on shaky ground.
The Obama administration has been calculating that unity among the “P-5″ (diplo-speak for the five permanent Security Council members) is more important than the details of the sanctions resolution, and this week’s events showed that this strategy was right.
Both the Anti-Defamation League and J Street, in e-mailed press releases, applauded the draft resolution. “The uranium exchange proposal by Turkey and Brazil,” Abraham Foxman said, “fell far short of addressing the core issue.” And J Street called the Turkish-Brazilian deal “a starting point for further diplomatic efforts but not as a substitute at this stage for further U.N. sanctions.”
(Want a dissenting view? Try Roger Cohen.)
Finally, Israel remains unsatisfied. “Israeli officials and commentators say that nothing short of a sanction of Iran’s energy sector will work,” the Post reports. “And with no sign of that in the offing, the prospect of Israeli military action, which Israeli officials have always said remains an option if sanctions fail, looms larger.”
Responses to Zionism essay pour in
It was one thing when almost all of the initial responses to Peter Beinart’s big essay (reminder: He sat for a Tablet interview) were from supporters. Since then, several “liberal Zionists” have weighed in to differentiate themselves from Beinart’s take. But, with the exceptions of Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman’s take and that (below) of Ross Douthat, where are the genuinely right-wing rebuttals? There has been not so much as a mention of teh essay on the Weekly Standard or National Review sites; there has been not so much as a peep from AIPAC, which Beinart explicitly attacks. (Marty Peretz, another logical combatant, gets a pass because he used to be Beinart’s boss.) What gives? Do these outlets feel they have no persuasive rebuttal to make? Do they want to keep their readers ignorant of the essay? I doubt it is the former; I hope it is not the latter.
• Leapfrogging off of Goldman’s post, Ross Douthat wonders if Zionism was destined to become a less preeminent commitment for American Jews regardless of the behavior of the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment. [Evaluations]
• Contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg says of Beinart, “I think his message, flawed and somewhat ahistorical though it is, deserves a hearing.” And boy is he giving it one! Those two have entered Part III of an email dialogue. [Jeffrey Goldberg]
• Jonathan Chait has much sympathy for the piece, but also thinks Beinart’s need to show “tough love” led him to drastically overreach in much of his criticism. [TNR]
• Beinart defends himself. [The Daily Beast]
• Chait responds to the response, arguing that Beinart’s apparent anger is proof positive that these things must be discussed with a calm temperament. [TNR]
• And, last but most certainly not least, Wieseltier weighs in. [TNR]
Conservative impresario prepares a Mideast site
If you like reading the Internet, and particularly if you like reading about politics on the Internet, you probably know that Andrew Breitbart is the guy who used to work for Matt Drudge, the elusive mastermind behind the Drudge Report, and now appears as a regular on Fox News and operates his own site, breitbart.com, along with a recently launched cluster of blog-based, citizen-journalist-y offshoots about the media, Hollywood, and government that together constitute, basically, the conservative response to the Huffington Post. [Deep breath.]
Moreover, you’re probably about to know even more about him: He plans to launch a site called Big Jerusalem, focused on Israel, sometime this year. As he told Mediaite last winter: “If you think it’s bad to be a conservative in the mainstream media or Hollywood, think what it must be like to be a small democracy in the Middle East and challenge the postcolonial approach.” Yes, that probably is worse, although in one case you are a person and in another you are a country.
But who is Breitbart? The New Yorker sent Rebecca Mead to find out, and it turns out that Breitbart, who was adopted, is a Jewish boy from L.A.’s Westside, specifically in Brentwood. There he attended the exclusive Brentwood School, which is the kind of place that turns out the people who run Hollywood’s machinery—the Ari Golds and the producers and the lawyers and the managers. But Breitbart tells Mead he was, even as a high-schooler, turned off by “the industry” and instead fascinated by the theatrics of Washington, D.C. His politics, he reports, emerged from his exasperation with the “deconstructive semiotic bullshit” first introduced to the American cultural scene by emigré members of the Frankfurt School—radicals, almost all of them Jews, exiled by the Nazis in the 1930s.
But what we begin to suspect, as we witness Breitbart making plans for a Vegas road trip from New York with Ann Coulter, and addressing a Tea Party rally in Washington, is that Breitbart is inspired less by a desire to overturn one political legacy or trumpet another than to engage an audience: He is a born emcee. “I love judgmentalism—it’s a sport,” he tells one fan in New Orleans. “I like judging! Let me judge.”
And speaks from beyond the grave!
And whoa! He has left one of those “If you’re reading this, then I am dead” messages on the Jews for Jesus Website!
“I hope I can count on you to show love and respect for the Jewish people,” he writes, “but Jewishness never saved anybody. Judaism never saved anybody no matter how sincere. Romans 10:9 & 10 make it clear that we must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy way. Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.”
He also writes a bunch of inside-baseball stuff regarding the movement. And also: “I don’t suppose that I will be writing you any new material, but there are a few articles in the works that might still come through.” Can’t wait!
Born into an Orthodox family in Kansas City, Rosen and his Jewish-born wife converted to Christianity, and he was ordained a Baptist minister. In 1973, he founded Jews for Jesus, which today is the most prominent sect of the Hebrew Christian movement. As its name suggests, adherents believe Jesus was the Messiah but also consider themselves Jewish.
“Mr. Rosen said he modeled his evangelical efforts on Vietnam War protests he saw while living in the San Francisco area,” the Washington Post reports.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum goes the famous phrase: Speak no ill of the dead. Today, what say we leave it at that, hrmm?
The nose makes the man, and more
Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing ed(d)itor Eddy Portnoy briefs us on the pseudoscience of nasalogy, which is what it sounds like. Prompted by a new book, Benjamin Pogrund re-examines Israel’s alliance with apartheid-era South Africa. In this week’s haftorah, which depicts Samson’s origins, Liel Leibovitz sees a parable about how to become (and how to avoid becoming) blind and powerless. And The Scroll is back after two days of cheesecake.
President reassures legislators on Israel, Iran
On Tuesday afternoon, after The Scroll was already off celebrating Shavuot, President Obama met with 37 Jewish senators and congressmen at the Old Executive Office Building to reassure him of his unequivocal for support for Israel’s security. (All of the over 40 Jewish legislators were invited; notably absent was Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), the Minority Whip and sole Republican.) “One part group hug and one part gripe session,” is how Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) described it.
And apparently it went fairly well. According to various reports, Obama was most popular on the questions of Iran and Syria, and a bit less so when it came to the ongoing proximity talks with the Palestinians. “I walked through a minefield in the Middle East and I stepped on the land mines,” Obama reportedly said. “I got some toes blown off.” (The White House stated that the event was “a wide ranging and productive exchange about their shared commitment to peace and security in Israel and the Middle East.”)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) were Obama’s toughest customers. They accused him of putting disproportionate pressure on Israel in the proximity talks and of considering proposing his own plan. He nixed this, saying, “I cannot impose a settlement. Israel is a sovereign nation and the notion that I would or could do that is simply wrong.” In fact—somewhat surprisingly—he said that the issue even of West Bank settlements is best left for final-status talks, rather than the current indirect peace talks.
The 90-minute meeting’s most heated exchange reportedly came when Lieberman asserted Obama’s main regional goal appeared to be engaging Arab countries. Obama denied this.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who was quite critical of the administration during the darkest days of the recent imbroglio over settlements, reportedly praised Obama’s stances on Iran’s nuclear program and the allegations that Syria was transporting missiles into Lebanon. He even said that Israel should be more vocal in its praise here. (It helped that the meeting was held the same day the United States submitted its China-supported sanctions draft.)
One attendee told Laura Rozen that his boss “came away feeling like [Obama] is genuinely committed to accomplishing a lasting [Israeli-Palestinian peace] agreement, and that he feels it strongly.” Maybe nothing, however, could accomplish quite what an Obama visit to Israel woul: Such a trip was suggested, and Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey) said he was sure Obama would follow through. Preferably not on a week during which Tablet is off half the time.
Obama Reassure Jewish Members on ‘Obama Plan’ [Ben Smith]
At WH Powwow, Jewish Dems Get a Chance To Vent to Obama [Laura Rozen]
Obama’s Meeting With the Congressional Tribe [Capital J]
Obama Meets With 37 Jewish Pols for a ‘Group Hug and Gripe’ Session [NY Daily News]
O: Israel My ‘Land Mine’ [NY Post]
Plus Gingrich goes there, and more in the news
• The Palestinians made a surprisingly generous land-concession offer in the proximity talks. Israel would rather be talking about a less controversial subject like water rights. [WSJ]
• Hezbollah is mobilizing to prepare for a large Israeli military drill beginning Sunday. [Haaretz]
• France and Germany’s foreign ministers both hit the Mideast this weekend to talk peace. [Ynet]
• Moshe Greenberg died at 81. An Israel Prize winner, he was one of the first Jews who critically taught the Bible in the American academy. [NYT]
• Newt Gingrich’s new book says President Obama’s policies are as “great a threat to America as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.” The AJC wants an apology. [American Jewish Committee]
• And while we were out for Shavuot, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) lost this year’s Democratic primary. So much for the party switch. [JTA]