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Today on Tablet

Re-pronouncing them husband and wife, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Boris Fishman reflects on officiating at his parents’ wedding-vow renewal. Contributing editor Joshua Cohen praises the legendary Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s new translation of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The Scroll would remind you that, no matter what you thought of last night’s results, this too shall pass.

It Happened Last Night

GOP gains empower Cantor, not Schumer

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Once and future California Gov. Jerry Brown.(Wikipedia)

Things went pretty much as expected: Sweeping Republican gains at the national and state levels—enough to win the House of Representatives (60-plus seats!), but not the Senate; enough to win the governorships of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia, but not California (where Governor Moonbeam won; for the record, Jerry Brown is not Jewish, merely awesome). Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will become the second-highest ranking congressperson.

The Senate’s Jewish composition went mostly as Dan Klein predicted a week ago: A gain in Connecticut (Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the newest Jewish senator, defeated Republican Linda McMahon); a loss in Wisconsin (Republican Ron Johnson defeated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold); holds in New York, California, and Oregon (Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, and Ron Wyden). In the competition to replace Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey beat Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, in a proxy war between the Emergency Committee for Israel and J Street. Though how big a role Israel played is debatable, it is indisputably a big, albeit close, victory for Republicans in a bellwether state (and mazel tov to Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, whom Allison Hoffman profiled). However, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), who is of Jewish descent but does not identify with any religion (but does note that his mother was a Holocaust survivor), is too close to call in his bid for a come-from-behind victory over Republican challenger Ken Buck. (UPDATE: See 12 pm post.)

A final note on the Senate: While it was thought that Schumer had the inside line over Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to lead the senior chamber’s Democratic caucus, that may change now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) pulled off an upset. (more…)

Daybreak: Huge Wins for GOP

Plus the Moses Herzog of terrorists, and more in the news

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As expected, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) lost his seat.(Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

• Midterm elections carried the Republicans to huge victories: They took back the House, but not quite enough seats to take the Senate as well; they also took many governorships and statehouses. [NYT]

• Meet your newest Jewish senator(-elect): Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. [NYT]

• A senior European diplomat reported that while economic sanctions have had a real impact on Iranian life, the country’s leaders remain stubborn in their nuclear ambition. [LAT]

• The two synagogue-bound bombs from Yemen were addressed to long-dead Muslim persecutors—Diego Deza, of Inquisition Spain, and Reynald of Châtillon, of the Second Crusade—leading some to further believe that the bombs were not intended to blow up at their destinations. In other news, someone in al-Qaeda got their hands on a copy of Herzog. [NYT]

• The Palestinian Authority renovated 14 schools in East Jerusalem; in semi-defiance of an Israeli ban, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made an appearance on the outskirts. [NYT]

• Will a U.N. tribunal’s finding of Syrian complicity in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister lead to a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon? [Jeffrey Goldberg]

Sundown: Bomb Plot Fallout Continues

Plus Godard and the Jews, and more in the news

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Director Jean-Luc Godard.(New Wave Film)

• Two hundred Jewish community leaders were briefed by an FBI representative. [JTA]

• Contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg continues to doubt official explanations that the bombs were intended for the planes rather than the synagogues. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Richard Brody, Jean-Luc Godard’s biographer (and a Jewish film critic), rebukes charges that the honorary Oscar recipient is an anti-Semite. [The Front Row]

• Lonely Planet ranked Tel Aviv the third best city in the world. Second place went to Tangiers, Morocco; first place went to Los Angeles New York. [JTA]

• Todd Gitlin explains why the rise of the Tea Party is not good for the Jews. [Haaretz]

• Follow David Frum’s Halloween-origins theory closely, and his premise becomes clear: Gays are the new Jews. Sounds about right. [CNN]

You can vote however you like. You can also not vote—but if you don’t, then you don’t get to complain about the results. And complaining about the results is the best part.

What to Watch For Tonight

On the eve of midterm results

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Los Angeles voters today.(Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Few other countries are watching today’s midterm elections more closely than Israel, which anticipates that Republican gains in the House and Senate will hem the Obama administration in somewhat when it comes to pressuring Israel on issues like settlements (though many believe the midterms will have minimal effect on Mideast policy, and Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith predicted Republican gains will give the president more cover to do as he pleases vis-à-vis the region).

In the House, Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) is likely to remain the only Jewish Republican, but he is also likely to become the majority whip (yay). In the Senate, if Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is ousted, Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is likely to become the next majority (or possibly minority) leader; last week, he chastised the Obama administration for its emphasis on settlements: “The reason we don’t have peace in the Middle East is because a large percentage, I would say the majority … of Palestinians and Arabs do not believe there should be a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East,” he argued. “Period.”

Do check in tomorrow to find out how the Senate’s Jewish composition changes. Two races that merit special attention due to their status as proxy battles on Mideast issues are Rep. Joe Sestak (D) vs. former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat and, in a House district north of Chicago, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) vs. Joel Pollak (R). Oh, and don’t forget Prop 19! We’ll be watching that too.

Related: Full House [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: How Jews Will Do Next Tuesday
Change You Shouldn’t Believe In
Jews and Pot

Rushdie Calls Stewart Out on Yusuf Islam

Rally host doesn’t regret inclusion of fatwa-supporter

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Salman Rushdie last month.(Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

I wrote today about Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” which was held Saturday on the Mall in Washington, D.C. In the past few hours, some controversy has emerged over the organizers’ invitation to Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens. Israel deported Islam in 2000 on the grounds that he donated money to a Hamas-affiliated charity; he denied having knowingly given money to the group.

Today’s to-do, however, concerns Islam’s semi-retracted statements in support of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie following the publication of The Satanic Verses. Via Ben Smith, Standpoint’s Nick Cohen received this from Rushdie:

I’ve always liked Stewart and Colbert but what on earth was Cat Yusuf Stevens Islam doing on that stage? If he’s a “good Muslim” like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar then I’m the Great Pumpkin. Happy Halloween.

Later:

I spoke to Jon Stewart about Yusuf Islam’s appearance. He said he was sorry it upset me, but really, it was plain that he was fine with it. Depressing.

Rushdie: Stewart’s Cat Stevens Stance ‘Disappointing’ [Ben Smith]
Chuckles [Tablet Magazine]

‘Beat the Jew’

A fun game for your kids

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What? Growing up, you never got together with your friends on a Friday night, deposited one, blindfolded, in the middle of the road—“The Jew,” if you will—and then tried, with your friends, to ride by in cars and capture him, all while calling yourselves “the Nazis”? No? Didn’t everyone do this?

‘Beat the Jew’ High School To Get Tolerance Education [JTA]

The Giants Win the Championshp

The Rangers will have to wait ’til next year

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Ian Kinsler fields a ball Sunday.(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

After winning the American League pennant, our team, the Texas Rangers, lost the fifth and final game of the 2010 World Series to the San Francisco Giants last night in Arlington, Texas. The bat of Jewish second baseman Ian Kinsler, which had been so hot through the divisional series and championship series against the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, fell quiet, but then again, so did those of his teammates: In arguably the most pitching-dominant year since 1968, the Giants’ staff, led by ace Tim Lincecum (who won Games 1 and 5), held the Giants to merely 12 runs in five games (and seven came in Game One, which they lost). Congratulations to Kinsler and the whole Rangers organization, including (apparently Jewish) general manager Jon Daniels. But most of all, congrats to the Giants for their first championship since 1954 and their first in San Francisco since forever.

Earlier: The Rangers Win the Pennant!
So Much for Our Team

Today on Tablet

A Bellow twofer, Soviet Jews, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Jonathan Wilson provides a double-whammy on the occasion of the publication of Saul Bellow’s letters: He reviews them, wallowing in “a gone world when literature was all the rage;” and he interviews Janis Bellow, the novelist’s widow, who confirms that Bellow wrote not for posterity but for the moment. Adam Kirsch praises Gal Beckerman’s history of the movement to rescue Soviet Jewry. The Scroll would remind its readers that Bellow is in one way the patron saint of Tablet Magazine and its predecessor, Nextbook.org: He once said, “We are always looking for the book it is necessary to read next.”

All We Are Saying Is Give Women a Chance

Livni pushes for female presence in peace talks

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Tzipi Livni in August.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

After Labor politicain Einat Wilf brought the issue up, Kadima head and chief opposition leader Tzipi Livni argued that, for the benefit of peace, social advancement, and perhaps adherence to a U.N. resolution, women should be more involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. “It is women’s right to determine their future and that of the country,” she said, “and their power is first and foremost political. The struggle is over presence in decision-making chambers.” (Last month, contributing editor David Samuels interviewed Livni in Tablet Magazine.)

Wilf forced the issue because yesterday was the tenth anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which “urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.” Of course, U.N. resolutions are not uncontroversial matters in Israel, and indeed the main group that pushes adherence to 1325, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, is a pacifist outfit that was highly critical of Israel’s conduct during the Gaza conflict. (The group’s prominence on the issue also meant that one article read, “Wilf did not mention WILPF.”)

Meanwhile, those looking for tea leaves into Israel’s confusing coalition politics will note Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak’s response to Livni: “Today there are no longer negotiations, and it is not unthinkable that when there are, we will add a woman,” he said. “In that case, I prefer Tzipi Livni and not [Likud MK] Tzipi Hotovely.”

‘Women Should Be More Involved in Peace Negotiations [JPost]
Labor MK Wants Women in Peace Talks [Arutz Sheva]
Related: Q&A: Tzipi Livni [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: U.S. Applies Pressure to Syrian Point

Plus Iraqi church massacre, the Tea Party (Israeli), and more in the news

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The bombed-out church.(Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

• The top-ranking U.S. diplomat for the Mideast called on Syria to join against Iran and Hezbollah’s meddling in Lebanese affairs. [WP]

• In what was also a sign of how far a once-great multicultural society has fallen, an al-Qaeda affiliate blew up a Catholic church in Baghdad, killing 58. [NYT]

• Some members of the Likud Party have adopted the strategy and even the images and slogans of the Tea Party to pressure their leader, Prime Minister Netanyahu, to “Say No To Obama” [NYT]

• In part mimicking Hamas, the Palestinian Authority paid for a mass wedding in Nablus, in a sign of improved conditions and greater autonomy in the West Bank. [NYT]

• “I think actually a third-party candidate could run the government easier than a partisan political president because the partisan political president—yeah he’s got half the votes, but he can’t get the others—whereas the guy in the middle may very well be able to get enough across the aisle.” –Mayor Michael Bloomberg, yesterday. [WP]

• There is controversy in Hollywood over the honorary Oscar French director Jean-Luc Godard is about to receive (albeit in self-imposed absentia), due to newly prominent charges of anti-Semitism. [NYT]

• Today is election day in America: We will keep you posted on certain races of interest. But in the meantime, please vote!

Sundown: No Freeze Deal; The Freeze Deal

Plus women for peace, and more

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Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Jim Hollander - pool/Getty Images))

• Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed talk of a U.S. deal that would offer incentives for a freeze extension. [JPost]

• Yet rumor has it that the U.S. offered a deal whereby Israel would lease the Jordan Valley from the Palestinian Authority, perhaps for seven years. [Arutz Sheva]

• Israel’s housing market is booming … too much. [LAT]

• A Labor Knesset member has demanded that more women be involved in the peace process, as per one U.N. resolution. [Arutz Sheva]

• Adam Levin offers an apologia pro novel sua. [Jewcy]

• Matisyahu does Moses. [Jewlicious]

Computer issues have forestalled our weekly NFL post; please consider this The Scroll’s bye week, and enjoy this video of Donovan McNabb before he was benchable.

Cantor’s Foreign Aid ‘Trial Balloon’ Is Popped

Either that, or he never had a clue

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Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia).(Wikipedia)

Last week, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), currently the only Jewish Republican legislator, floated the idea of separating Israel’s aid from the rest of the foreign aid budget, so that the forthcoming Republican majority could more easily squash any Obama administration aid bill that funds countries which “do not share U.S. interests,” according to JTA.

Though various political players might, right now, wish to suck up to the man who is, after all, likely about to become the powerful House Majority Whip, Cantor’s idea was apparently so bad that pre-emptive sucking-up was put on hold: Instead, the “pro-Israel” community immediately worried that opposing foreign aid would buttress American isolationism, which they see as countervailing Israel’s interests; soon, none other than AIPAC itself came out against Cantor’s proposal (“A robust foreign aid budget is a strong signal of U.S. leadership around the globe”). Even as he was careful to praise Cantor’s pro-Israel bona fides, the National Jewish Democratic Council’s David A. Harris pounced on Cantor’s “disturbing policy.” As James Besser cogently explained, “The last thing those leaders want is to open up any discussion of whether Israel’s $3 billion in aid still makes sense. They like things the way they are: Automatic, buried in a bigger appropriation even if Israel’s is the biggest chunk, a political given.” (more…)

Al Qaeda’s Special Animus

Why Jews remain important players in a global struggle

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Administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan last Friday.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

Whether you buy the official explanation, proffered yesterday by the Obama administration, that the two al Qaeda-planted bombs addressed to Chicago synagogues were in fact intended to blow up midflight, or whether, like Tablet Magazine’s Lee Smith in his new column, you have your doubts, there is no getting around where these packages were addressed to. Surely the Jewish connection wasn’t a coincidence. As top spy correspondent (and Tablet Magazine contributor) Yossi Melman put it, “Although Israel and Jewish targets are not the terror networks’ main focus, attacking Jews remains a guiding motivation.”

One of the targets was a small shul that specifically serves LGBT Jews. One synagogue’s Website reportedly received dozens of visits from Egypt recently. KAM Isaiah Israel, which famously is located across the street from the Obamas’ house in Hyde Park, was not one of the targets.

I do buy the official explanation of just whom exactly these bombs were supposed to kill (which is to say, airplane passengers, not Chicago synagogue attendees). So I can no longer completely agree with contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s argument (which he also made before the revelation) that the bomb-making terrorists “are fundamentally annihilationist in outlook, meaning that they have as a primary goal the killing of Jews, everywhere.” It seems to me that their primary goal is killing Americans and other Westerners in sensationalistic fashion. At the same time, the addresses on the cargo do make plain their special animus. “There are many people out there who believe that al Qaeda and its fellow travelers are angry over settlements,” Goldberg continued. “They are not. They are angry over the continued existence of Jews.” This was a useful reminder.

Monsters Breeding [Tablet Magazine]
U.S. Official Says 2 Package Bombs Were Intended To Detonate ‘In Flight’ [WP]
Attacking Jews Remains a Radical Islamist Guiding Motivation [Haaretz]
Related: The Message [Tablet Magazine]

Colorado Election Could Exceed Election Day

Senator Michael Bennet continues new Jewish tradition

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Ken Buck, who is running to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet.(John Moore/Getty Images)

It’s Erev Simchat Democracy, the day before the day when we exercise our second-most important duty as citizens (after attending rallies put on by television personalities). America will be taken back and/or forward, and then it’s over for another two years, right?

Wrong! Because then comes recount season, particularly in Colorado where the Goldblog-endorsed and Jewish-descended Senator Michael Bennet trails Republican challenger Ken Buck in some polls by less than one percentage point. Imagine a fast that never ends until one of two men says it does. As the Denver Post reports, if the margin is less than half a percentage point, the recount is automatic and paid for by the state. Otherwise, either campaign can finance it for an estimated two million dollars. Pocket change!

If it comes to pass, Bennet will be continuing a new tradition of Jewish politicians winning or losing recounts, started in 2008-9 by Senator Al Franken and former Senator Norm Coleman. Remember our motto: Win or Lose, Tradition!

Earlier: Bennet, Blumenthal Take Home Wins

Jews in the Senior Chamber

How Jews Will Do Next Tuesday

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