Daybreak: Direct Talks! September!

Plus Israel may have more time with Iran, and more in the news

President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu recently.(Menahem Kahana/Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Image)

• Direct talks! Washington, D.C.! Early September! Victory for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton! [NYT]

• The United States has convinced Israel that it will take Iran longer—a year, minimum—before its nuclear weapons are operational, somewhat forestalling the possibility of Israeli military action in the near- to mid-future. [NYT]

• President Ahmadinejad reportedly said he was ready to restart fuel swap talks with the five permanent Security Council members (as opposed to Turkey and Brazil, with which he already struck a deal). [Haaretz]

• A new U.N. report says restricted land in Gaza has caused additional misery to a sizeable percentage of its residents. [NYT]

• Here’s the thing, though: The Islamic center almost certainly won’t actually be built. [Politico]

• Amar’e is apparently keeping kosher. [Page Six]

Sundown: Time’s Muslim Problem—And Ours?

Plus embarassing flotilla allegations, and more


• The new Time cover package examines whether Islamophobia is rampant in America. [Time]

• The Obama administration has increased military cooperation with Israel: Just ask the Wall Street Journal and AIPAC. [Wonk Room]

• An IDF officer and soldier are being investigated for allegedly selling goods confiscated from the flotilla. [JTA]

• In opposing Park51, Newt Gingrich noted that Nazis would not be able to put up a sign near the Holocaust Memorial Museum. This happens to be completely false. [Slate]

• Robert S. Wistrich on Trotsky’s complex, and evolving, stance toward Zionism (which he never subscribed to), as compared to the reflexive and strong anti-Zionism of his heirs. [Forward]

• Do you want to read an interview with an 86-year-old old-time-y New York City Jewish press agent? Of course you do. [NYT]

Sorry the Top Chef round-up went up later than usual. Blame these guys.

No Runways on a Yom Tov

Fashion insiders face Koufax conundrum

Designer Yigal Azrouel in June.(Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Ar)

The earlyness of Rosh Hashanah 2010/5771 (three weeks from yesterday!) is wreaking havoc on New York City Fashion Week, whose early-September iteration—at which designers debut spring collections (confusing, I know)—is overlapping with the holiday. Various Jewish “industry insiders” are planning to sit out a couple days in observance of the yontiff (London’s Fashion Week will face a similar Yom Kippur problem). Even one of the designers, Israeli Yigal Azrouel, has had to reschedule a show. “Because New York is such a Jewish center, people have come to assume that things will get planned around Jewish holidays in a way that they wouldn’t be elsewhere,” said Izzy Grinspan, of fashion Website Racked.

I would make a joke, but I can’t improve on Andrew Silow-Carroll’s. “Wait,” he wrote, “I thought Rosh Hashanah WAS a fashion show.”

Kobe Cited as Potential Future Jew

You can bet on it (but don’t)

Kobe Bryant after winning his fifth NBA Championship in June.(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Former Tablet Magazine intern (and Dallas native) Jordan Hirsch sends news that, in the wake of the Amar’e Stoudemire phenomenon, a bookmaking Website has fixed odds to the likelihoods of 10 NBA stars’ converting to Judaism.

Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki is pegged at +550 (in other words, if you bet $100 on him, and the German power forward proceeded to take a dunk in the mikvah, you would get $550 and your money back). Of the 10 stars, the most likely are Kevin Durant (+350) and Kobe Bryant (+375), though particularly in Durant’s case I have no idea why; the least likely are Nowitzki, Chris Paul (+550), and Dwyane Wade (+600), which makes more sense—Nowitzki is German, Wade seems fully self-actualized, and Paul won’t do anything unless LeBron tells him to.

A few more notes:

• The total likelihood of one of these players’ converting to Judaism is 100 percent, which should tell you something: Don’t bet actual money on this.

• Amar’e Stoudemire, who technically isn’t Jewish, should clearly be the most likely, and, depending on the odds, the only one actually worth putting money on.

• Ron Artest, who technically is insane, would be the only other NBA player I would put money on here, under the theory that he is capable of absolutely anything.

• J.J. Redick is the NBA player least likely to convert, because (I reflexively assume) Dukies don’t like Jews.

• The (albeit just-retired) NBA player whom I would most like to join the Tribe? SHEEEEEEEED.

Website: Chance of Mavericks’ Dirk Novitzski Converting to Judaism Is 15% [Dallas Morning News]
Earlier: Amar’e Stoudemire’s Excellent Adventure

Israel Unmentioned in Sestak Profile

Even though race is a proxy war on the issue

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania).(NYT Magazine)

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania), who is running for Senate against former Rep. Pat Toomey, gets every candidate’s dream (or, potentially, nightmare): A full-on, 4750-word profile in the New York Times Magazine. He comes out looking good: A military veteran and tireless campaigner; a genuine guy with genuine blue-collar roots; a family man who takes his work seriously; an anti-establishment figure with fairly establishment views; a social progressive, a defense skeptic, and an economic liberal.

Here is what is not mentioned in the piece: Israel.

And here is why that is notable: The Emergency Committee for Israel—the group, co-founded last month by William Kristol, whose explicit mission is to put strongly pro-Israel candidates into Congress (and, eventually, the White House)—made Sestak (who, like Toomey, is Catholic) its first and biggest target, arguing that he is weak on Israel, in turn prompting an angry response from the candidate and a war with J Street, which has endorsed Sestak and can generally be thought of, politically, as the Emergency Committee’s mirror image. (more…)

The Rabbi Is In

Ask Joseph Telushkin your questions

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.(Random House)

In a moral quandary? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Hillel: If Not Now, When?, will help you find the answers just in time for the High Holidays. Send your questions to by August 28, and the rabbi will answer the most compelling submissions in Tablet Magazine before Yom Kippur.

Hillel: If Not Now, When? [Nextbook Press]

Blown Cover

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’

Alex last night. Spoon!(All photos by the author)

Opening thoughts, as always, turn to Alex Reznik: specifically his alleged non-cooking in last week’s Restaurant Wars. “Alex did not put up a dish, I think his team carried him,” says Kevin. “Has he dodged some bullets? Yeah, absolutely, no doubt about it.” Call him Neo. But as Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix learned, the trick is not to dodge the bullets, but to not even need to do that. Will Alex realize that? Or will he just, you know, get shot? “I hope Alex either steps up or goes home,” Kevin adds. Me too. Ditto for Amanda Baumgarten, our other Jewish cheftestant. It’s time. It’s past time. Let’s go to the Quickfire Challenge.

The chefs walk in and see Wylie Dufresne along with boxes with question-marks, like those of an uncolorful Riddler. The challenge: Use what’s in the mystery boxes—they have identical ingredients—and incorporate also the ingredients that will arrive in subsequent mystery boxes. Winner gets $10,000. Angelo says he needs the money to help get his fiancée to New York from Russia, which among other things means working out “visa issues.” I am going to give Angelo a pass and not suggest that he has a mail-order bride. Wait, I think I just failed. Oh, well. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Anti-Semitism turned Islamophobia, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Daniel Luban compares the tenor, progenitors. and even content of an earlier age of American anti-Semitism to today and finds that it most manifests itself in slurs against not Jews but Muslims. Josh Tapper reports on the nearly 5,000 New York City-area Holocaust survivors characterized as “near poor,” and profiles one in particular. Contributing editor Eddy Portnoy reads Yiddish papers of 1906 and finds a mothers’ riot in the Lower East Side over tonsillectomies. Toby Perl Freilich offers part 3 of her documentary on the kibbutz movement. The Scroll apologizes that today’s Top Chef D.C. round-up isn’t up already, but rest assured, you’ll have your fix by noon.

Daybreak: Decreased Support Stateside

Plus Khamanei nixes talks with sanctions, and more in the news

Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

• According to a new Israel Project poll, fewer Americans than over the past few years believe Israeli is committed to peace and that the United States should support Israel. [WP]

• Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf, the man behind the Cordoba Initiative, departs this week on his third-ever State Department-sponsored trip to spread a message of goodwill and tolerance to Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. [WP]

• Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there will be no nuclear talks until sanctions are lifted and the military option taken off the table. [NYT]

• The U.S. criticized a $23.1 billion contract inked between Iran and a Swiss gas giant. [JPost]

• Park51 is probably not the perfect test case for religious tolerance or much else, because its developers are extremely disorganized, and highly unlikely to raise the stated goal of $100 million. [Politico]

• Amin al-Hindi, generally known to be a prime organizer of the attack on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, 1972, and later the Palestinian intelligence chief and a Yasser Arafat aide, died at 70. [NYT]

Sundown: Imams in Dachau To Remember

Plus Hitch is proud to be Jewish, and more

The imams and Hannah Rosenthal at Dachau.(Suhail A. Kahn/Politico)

• Despite the Anti-Defamation League’s lobbying, eight American imams traveled with U.S. anti-Semitism czar Hannah Rosenthal to Dachau and Auschwitz last week and then issued a statement strongly condemning anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. [Politico]

• An Israeli court decided Israel was responsible for the high-profile gunfire death of a 10-year-old Palestinian whose father is a militant-turned-advocate. [AP/NYT]

Profilee Aaron David Miller predicts that building Park51 will end as well as his inviting Yasser Arafat to the Washington, D.C., Holocaust Museum 12 years ago did: Not well at all. [WP]

• Former Bush speechwriter Pete Wehner takes to Commentary’s blog to condemn “ugly and unfortunate” anti-Islamic bigotry among Park51 opponents and stresses, “we have to be very careful not to equate American Muslims with al-Qaeda and Wahhabism.” [Contentions]

• Here is what happens when “a blond, tough-talking former gun-toting Texan” gets involved in one of those quintessentially complex Israeli-Palestinian quarrels. [LAT]

• Phillip Weiss pulls a Lee Smith and implies that New York Times blogger Robert Mackey exerts significant influence over commenters, or at least attracts commenters who agree with him. [Mondoweiss]

Pegged to his new Atlantic essay on anti-Semitism, Christopher Hitchens discusses with Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg why he was pleased to discover his Jewish heritage.

Lebanon Passes Oil Law

Seen as provocation against Israel

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.(Michael Totten)

For ten years, Lebanon’s parliament could not agree on a law to permit offshore oil and gas exploration due to disagreement over which companies could benefit. But yesterday, Lebanon finally passed just such a law under the leadership of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. What broke the impasse? “The amount of debt and Israeli greed are major concerns,” said a Berri aide. “Passing the law is a message that shows Lebanon is serious and persistent.”

The law is the latest salvo in the cold war brewing between Lebanon and Israel over offshore hydrocarbons—a war that, as Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith reported in June, is liable to spark a second round of the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah (and its Lebanese host). After Berri asserted in June that parts of three natural gas fields discovered off Israel’s coast extend into Lebanese waters, Israeli Interior Minister Uzi Landau, of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, replied that Israel would “not hesitate to use our force and strength” to defend its offshore assets. (Israel denies that the fields lie also in Lebanese waters.)

In addition to providing yet more evidence that tensions on Israel’s northern border remain high, it is also yet more evidence—the skirmish earlier this month more as well—that the next conflict will be an Israel-versus-Lebanon, state-versus-state, affair.

Lebanon Law Allows Oil Exploration [AP/JPost]
Related: The Next Lebanon War [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Israeli Minister Threatens War Over Gas Fields
What Happened in the North

Hip Meets Square

What the Cordoba Initiative wasn’t ready for

Oz Sultan.(Brian Solis/Capital)

One article you should read today is Capital’s profile of Oz Sultan, the Cordoba Initiative’s social media strategist. It is a great illustration of how the Initiative was unprepared—in ways that I think alternately reflect well and poorly on it—for the onslaught of opposition it has faced over the past month. Sultan came under special scrutiny because of Park51′s irreverent Twitter feed.

A native of the New York social media scene, Sultan treated Park51’s tweetstream as a means of communication with the natives on Twitter, who’d have been able to get the “snark” without blinking, notwithstanding the fact that the tweeting was being done in the name of an institution in the thick of a overheated, international public-relations crisis.

But the positioning of these tweets also reflects the general, easy multiculturalism of Manhattan elites. Just as many private school students of the Upper East Side are already familiar with the Cordoba Initiative from any number of interfaith school field-trips, so Jews, Muslims, Christians and ethnic majorities and minorities trade an easy banter about cultural difference that might be hard for a blogger from Omaha to relate to.

Whichever intern posted the “fables” tweet returned to the well to explain that a Jewish aunt had told a lot of these sorts of parables in his or her youth; true or not, relevant or not, the explanation would likely have been unnecessary for a tweetstream with an exclusively New York audience.

And a local, hip audience is exactly what Sultan thought he was dealing with when he took the job.

Do read the whole thing.

The Education of ‘Mosque’-Tweeter Oz Sultan [Capital]
Related: @park51 [Ben Smith]
For Mosque Sponsors, Early Missteps Fueled Storm [NYT]

Palestinians Gain Rights in Lebanon

Tablet Magazine writers reported on inequities


As noted in Daybreak, a new Lebanese law grants substantial rights, particularly concerning work, to the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in the country. (Incidentally, though the governing March 14 coalition hailed the bill’s passage, some Palestinian civil rights leaders said it did not go far enough.)

Among others, the Palestinians of Lebanon have Tablet Magazine contributor Judith Miller and contributing editor David Samuels to thank. In a mammoth (and al-Jazeera-endorsed!) report last October, they documented the poor living conditions and discriminatory policies sustained by the 4.6 million Palestinian refugees who reside in neither Gaza nor the West Bank (the majority in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan). “After 60 years of failed wars, and failed peace,” they wrote, “it is time to put politics aside and to insist that the basic rights of the Palestinian refugees in Arab countries be respected—whether or not their children’s children return to Haifa anytime soon.”

Lebanon Gives Palestinians New Work Rights [NYT]
No Way Home: The Tragedy of the Palestinian Diaspora [Independent]
Palestinians in Lebanon Win Right to Work [The National]

Does Marc Schneier Speak for Us?

Rabbi’s infidelity said to reflect on community

Rabbi Schneier, in flagrante delicto.(Wikipedia)

Rabbi Marc Schneier, of the Hampton Synagogue and The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, had been having fairly well-publicized difficulties with his (fourth) marriage when a photo surfaced of him making out with a congregant (further rumor is he got her pregnant). Poorly done, dude.

Yet Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld makes the case that it is wrong to see this sordid incident as an embarrassment to “the Orthodox community,” as some have done:

Why should an entire community be embarrassed by the bad acts of one member, even a high-profile one who happens to be a rabbi? Would Ms. Bender suggest that when an Imam does something wrong, the entire Muslim community should be embarrassed? I hope not.

(Let’s pause and note the obvious analogy, namely, that the majority of the country currently believes that an unrelated group of Muslims should be in some way linked to a small group of deranged evil fanatics who happen to be their co-religionists.)

Hirschfeld should give us something to think about next time we blame someone for being a shanda fur die goyim: He or she is only one if we let him or her be one. Unless Hirschfeld is wrong, in which case let me just say that I am embarrassed about Rabbi Schneier’s actions, both as a Jew and as a Marc with a c.

When Rabbis Cheat, Who Is To Blame? [Beliefnet]

Today on Tablet

What is and isn’t sharia, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, prompted by Newt Gingrich’s facile warnings of sharia-come-stateside, Mideast columnist Lee Smith offers a primer on the Islamic body of laws. Rachel Shteir profiles Randy Cohen, a.k.a. “The Ethicist,” whose new play has just debuted. The Scroll has already offered one view of the American body of laws, feel free to request more.

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