Engaged to the End

Tony Judt dies at 62

Tony Judt.(NYT)

Tony Judt, the brilliant left-wing public intellectual and New York University professor, died Friday evening. Born to a family of London Jews in 1948, he gained perhaps broadest fame in the final year of his life, which saw him continue to produce some of his best intellectual work as well as branch out, beautifully, into the category of first-rate memoir, all while rapidly dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

One imagines him most remembered for those memoirs; for his magnificent studies of mid-20th-century French intellectuals, Past Imperfect and The Burden of Responsibility; and for what was by all accounts his hefty masterpiece, 2005’s Postwar. (For my money—and for yours, too, if you are a New York Review of Books subscriber or an owner of his 2008 collection, Reappraisals—his best essay was his homage to Leszek Kolakowski, his intellectual hero.)

Additionally, Judt will be remembered as perhaps the most eloquent advocate of a so-called one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More precisely, in an extremely buzzed-about 2003 NYRB essay, “Israel: The Alternative”, he predicted that the failure of the Oslo peace process (for which he blamed both sides), continued Israeli settlement-building, and demographic trends would lead either to ethnic cleansing or to a single state. The one-time enthusiastic Zionist had declared the Zionist dream, essentially, dead. “The very idea is an unpromising mix of realism and utopia, hardly an auspicious place to begin,” he argued of the bi-national state. “But the alternatives are far, far worse.” (more…)

Daybreak: U.S. Jews Accused of Meddling

Plus a controversial travel warning, and more in the news


• Israel’s chief rabbi strikes back at American Jews for “coercing the Israeli government” to drop the Rotem conversion bill. [NYT]

• Éminence grise columnist Jim Hoagland chastises President Obama for having formed his principles for the Mideast without first fully understanding the region. [WP]

• After the U.S. State Department warned Americans about traveling to Israel and especially Eilat following last week’s rocket attacks, Israel wants to know why there was so similar warning for Jordan, which was also hit. [JTA]

• At a secret meeting, Israeli officials warned Hamas about its planned policy of abducting West Bank settlers as short-term bargaining chips. [Haaretz]

• In a Jerusalem neighborhood, the eruv—the wire marking the Shabbat boundary—is a source of constant controversy. [LAT]

• Rabbi Bruce M. Cohen, co-founder of Interns for Peace, died at 65. [NYT]

Sundown: The ADL’s ‘Strange Relativism’

Plus Lubavitcher Rabbi Krinsky sez: ‘Go Sawx!’ and more

Go Sawx!(NYT Magazine/Len Small)

• Jesse Singal explores the Anti-Defamation League’s “strange relativism”: Namely, the fact that it is a pro-civil rights, anti-discrimination organization that turns anti-civil rights, pro-discrimination when what it perceives to be Jewish interests are at stake. [Boston Globe]

• Yehuda Krinsky, the leader of Chabad-Lubavitch movement and Newsweek’s most influential American rabbi, accuses Mayor Bloomberg of selling out his people … for adopting the Yankees over their native Red Sox. I am making none of this up. [NYT Magazine]

• Is President Obama convinced that current sanctions are working? Or does he think further engagement is crucial? Various reporters whom the president personally briefed cannot agree. [Laura Rozen]

• Condé Nast’s decision to move to lower Manhattan illustrates its despicable insensitivity to 9/11. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• “The original Fanta was a Nazi product.” I knew there was a reason I despised that atrocious jingle. [Slate]

• In a suit brought by the Chabad movement, a U.S. federal judge ruled that Russia is illegally in possession of thousands of Jewish documents seized during the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War as well as by the Nazis and then in turn captured by the Soviets. [Moscow Times]

Andy Warhol, one of the Gentiles most commonly mistaken for a Jew, was born on this day in 1928. Here he is eating a cheeseburger.

Can You Draw This?

Then you should be our design intern

(Found in Mom's Basement)

Tablet Magazine and its parent, Nextbook Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture, and ideas, are seeking a part-time design intern for three months beginning September 7, 2010. The intern will get hands-on experience working with fast-paced daily content in a lively magazine environment in downtown Manhattan, and will receive a paid stipend. (See some of the amazing work our current design intern has produced here!)

Working closely with the art directors, the design intern will help design, program, and produce web and print material for Tablet Magazine and The intern will also attend editorial meetings and learn the various production systems used. They will gain CMS experience (especially in WordPress), and should be fluent in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube). A working knowledge of HTML, PHP, and Photoshop is desirable. Software fluency in Flash, InDesign, and Illustrator is encouraged. Graduate students and undergraduate juniors and seniors are welcome to apply.

Design applicants should submit a cover letter, résumé, and portfolio that includes layouts, typography, or working website URLs by August 23, 2010. All application material should be sent to

‘This Is An Artist!’

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

On next week’s Vox Tablet podcast, writer, actress, lyricist, and Tablet Magazine contributing editor Rachel Shukert reads from her very funny and sometimes rather disturbing Everything Is Going to Be Great. Her new memoir revisits the pleasures and shames of the year or so she spent in Central Europe. In the excerpt, she describes her ill-fated romance with Berthold, a Viennese fellow twice her age with very strong views on certain artists.

Poles Bar Germans From Jailing Brodsky

But alleged Mossad agent will be extradited

The false passport for Michael Bodenheimer.(Jerusalem Post)

Uri Brodsky, the Israeli who is the only man so far arrested by Western authorities in connection with the January 19, allegedly Mossad-backed assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, lost an appeal and will be extradited from Poland to Germany. Brodsky—which may or may not be his real name (in fact, a San Francisco student named Uri Brodetzki reportedly had his identity stolen)—is accused not of directly taking part in the assassination, but rather of fraudulently procuring a false passport for one of al-Mabhouh’s assassins.

Not to make light of the whole affair, or Brodsky’s situation, but there is an amusing aspect to his legal troubles. Under the terms of the Polish extradition ruling, the German government—no doubt much to its chagrin—is not permitted to charge Brodsky with anything—like, say, espionage—more serious than forgery. Moreover, the maximum penalty in Germany for forgery is a fine; Brodsky is unlikely to do jail-time even before and during any trial. Moreover, the reason the Polish courts have ruled that Brodsky cannot be tried for anti-German espionage is because spying on Germany isn’t a crime in Poland—which (this is the part I find amusing) actually makes perfect sense if you know your European history.

German Report: ‘Uri Brodsky’ To Avoid Jail [Ynet]
Suspected Mossad Agent Loses Extradition Fight Over Dubai Hit [Haaretz]
Will The Real Uri Brodsky Please Stand Up? [Tikkun Olam]
Earlier: Brodsky To Be Extradited on Lesser Charge
Related: Murder in Dubai [Tablet Magazine]

Shalala Was Detained at Ben Gurion

Former top official is vocal opponent of boycotts

Shalala in 2007.(Stephanie Kuykendal/Getty Images)

When President Clinton made her his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala became the first Arab-American member of a presidential cabinet. That background as well as her formidable résumé in academia—she was the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin (go Badgers!) and is currently the president of the University of Miami—gave her massive credibility when, last month, she traveled to Israel and spoke out strongly against Israeli boycotts. “Whether it’s disinvestment or a boycott against Israeli academics,” Shalala, the daughter of Maronite Lebanese, said then, “it’s inappropriate and not worthy of any educational institution.”

Given all this, maybe she should have been greeted a little more hospitably? Shalala is now claiming that, despite the fact that her host, the American Jewish Congress, had notified authorities ahead of time who she was, she was detained and questioned intensively for over two hours upon her arrival at Ben Gurion Airport last month, apparently because of her Arab last name.

It is not clear if the Israeli government has since offered an apology; certainly, Shalala is owed one.

American VIP Humiliated at Airport [JPost]
Related: ‘There Will Never Be a Boycott of Israel’ [JPost]

How To Build a $100 Million Islamic Center

Legal hurdles cleared; but where’s the money coming from?

Yesterday’s Cordoba Initiative event.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Left to scrapping together futile legal challenges, opponents of the Islamic center to be located near Ground Zero are turning to this query: Will it receive support from extremist organizations? Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official, informed potential financiers earlier this week that anyone who partners with Cordoba House “needs to know there is going to be a real stigma.” Even supportive groups refer to the cost. “With a $100 million price tag,” David Harris, the American Jewish Committee Director, asks, “what are the exact sources of funding?”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan are the couple behind the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative, the latter of which held a noon event yesterday flaunting its supporters, many of them Jewish. The Cordoba Initiative is not wealthy. As of 2008, according to tax files, its net assets were $18,255. ASMA has deeper pockets, with an annual intake of nearly $1 million, according to its 2009 filing [pdf]. It received substantial grants from the United Nations Population Fund, a Dutch Fund for gender equality, as well as standard U.S. philanthropy groups. Nearly half of its funding, though, comes from the Qatari government. (The building was actually purchased by SoHo Properties, a private real estate company run by Sharif el-Gamal, a congregant of the imam.)

This obviously leaves the center well short of its ambitious fundraising goal. Oz Sultan, a spokesman for the new nonprofit that will take charge of the fundraising effort, called Park51, told me that fundraising efforts were “super-nascent right now.” Funds will arrive, he said, “from a variety of different sources,” including grants, bond issues, and private contributions. Arts funding are a possibility, he shared, noting Park51′s aspirations to create a city structure on par with the Guggenheim. “There’s not going be minarets,” he added. (more…)

Today on Tablet

A new justice, arming Lebanon, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, David E.Y. Sarna explores how newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan could apply the way Jewish law treats precedent to an American jurisprudence in need of careful evolution. Yoav Fromer reports legitimate Israeli fears that the hundreds of millions of dollars in weaponry the United States has given to Lebanon’s central governmetn could be used directly against Israel or even fall into the wrong (see: Hezbollah’s) hands. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz summons Isaiah to condemn the wickedness of the Israeli decision to deport 400 children on the grounds of illegal immigration. The Scroll is unhappy at August’s track record for having wars start during it.

A Yidisher Pop

Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie, and a lesson in Yiddish


Missed our earlier installments? Click here for the “A Yidisher Pop” homepage.

This week’s installment is about curse words, countdowns, and criminal behavior. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

חנעוודיק ווען ער איז אין טעלעוויזיע, אוּן ברוּטאַל אין פּריוואַטן לעבן. אין 36 שעה ווערט ער אַ מענטש? אַן אַקטיאָר!

Transliteration: Kheynevdik ven er iz in televizye, un brutal in privatn lebn. In 36 sho vert er a mentsh? An aktyor!

Meaning: Charming on TV, and brutal in private life. He’ll become a mentsh in 36 hours? It’s an act!


Daybreak: U.S. Considers Syria Crack-Down

Plus opponents go to court, Mavi Marmara goes home, and more in the news

The Mavi Marmara is tugged out of Haifa harbor.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Obama administration may request a “special inspection” of Syria’s nuclear sites, which could leave it vulnerable to significant sanctions. [WSJ]

• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren takes to the op-ed page to note the recent attacks on Israel and insist that it will defend itself but is also ready to make peace. [WP]

• Ukrainian authorities arrested an Israeli for allegedly ringleading a $40 million organ-smuggling operation. [Haaretz]

• Newly leaked documents demonstrate that Iran is continuing its non-peaceful nuclear program. [AP and Reuters/Haaretz]

• An outfit that was founded by right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson filed a petition in New York court to overturn the Landmarks Preservation Commision’s Cordoba House decision. [JPost]

• The infamous Mavi Marmara is on its way back to Turkey. [NYT]

Also, in case you’d forgotten, the Supreme Court received the eighth Jew in its history.

Sundown: Poor Pre-Flotilla Planning

Plus Stoudemire, Salita, Youkilis, and non-sports news


• An IDF commander reportedly told Israeli lawmakers that the military is responsible for planning blunders leading up to the flotilla raid. [Haaretz]

• After meeting with Saudi Arabia’s king, President Abbas reiterated that he will agree to direct peace talks on the condition of a total West Bank settlement freeze; the current freeze is set to expire next month. [Haaretz]

• British rock act Gorillaz cancelled an appearance in Tel Aviv—implicitly in protest of the flotilla raid—but subsequently played a show in Syria. WTF, yo? [The Arty Semite]

• Confirmed, if it wasn’t before: Amar’e Stoudemire is not rabbinically Jewish. [WSJ]

• What boxer Dmitriy Salita has left to prove. [Kaplan’s Korner]

• Boston Red Sox first basemen Kevin Youkilis, one of baseball’s top Jewish sluggers, is reportedly out for the season with a torn hand ligament. [Baseball Nerd, a.k.a. Keith Olbermann’s baseball blog]

This movie looks like a significantly more shameless version of Munich. And yet maybe awesome?

Justice Kagan

The Supreme Court gets its eighth Jewish member

Justice Elena Kagan.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate has just voted to confirm Elena Kagan, Barack Obama’s first solicitor general, to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. She will be the third current Jewish justice and the eighth in the High Court’s history. She will also be the fourth woman ever to be a Supreme Court Justice (and the third on the current court).

In an essay published this afternoon in Tablet Magazine, David E.Y. Sarna argues that Kagan’s Jewish background—and specifically her (somewhat controversial) reverence for Israel judge Aharon Barak—could provide the basis for a welcome approach to precedent as a living, evolving body of jurisprudence:

It is Jewish law’s inherent elasticity and flexibility—bounded by the Torah but expressed in the freewheeling chaos of ongoing study—that has enabled Jewish law to renew itself and remain relevant after thousands of years. This might work in American law, as well.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan Confirmed by Senate [USA Today]
Related: Law Practice [Tablet Magazine]

Generous Jews

Nearly half of ‘pledge’ billionaires are MOTs

Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

A few good billionaires, prodded by their capi di tutti capi Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, have pledged to leave at least half of their estates to charities. Let’s count the Jews!

Number of billionaires (or billionaire couples) who have taken the pledge: 40 (including, among the non-Jews, ultra-Catholic and ultra-conservative Tom Monaghan; Barron Hilton; T. Boone Pickens; and, perhaps out of guilt for The Phantom Menace, George Lucas).

Jews among them: Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Eli and Edythe Broad; Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg (yes, she is too); Larry Ellison; Joan and Irwin Jacobs; George Kaiser; Ken and Elaine Langone*; Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest; Lorry I. Lokey; Alfred E. Mann; Bernie and Billi Marcus; Bernard and Barbro Osher; Ron Perelman; David M. Rubenstein; Herb and Marion Sandler; Jim and Marilyn Simons; Jeff Skoll; Sanford and Joan Weill; Shelby White (widow of Leon Levy).

Total Jews: 19.

So almost half. Yasher Koach to them all!

*Couldn’t confirm, but they “have made major commitments to a new Jewish Life and Learning/Human Tolerance and Understanding fund” at Bucknell.

Pledge To Give Away Half Gains Billionaires Adherents [NYT]

Iranian Site Denies Holocaust, With Cartoons

Plus A’jad’s mysterious firecracker and a warning of war

An image from the Website.(Open Salon)

You probably won’t get it to load—which is good, in its way—but a new Website put out by an Iranian cultural foundation (apparently not affiliated with the government) contains a comic-book history, originally drawn in 2008, in which the Holocaust, “the great lie,” did not happen. Specifically, according to the site, the Holocaust is a lie perpetuated by the Jews, a device “by which the Palestine occupier Zionists have justified their occupying of Palestine and lots of their crimes for years.” Additionally, its depictions of Jews are themselves anti-Semitic caricatures (as you can see).

You can read Yad Vashem’s condemnation here. You can view some of the images here.

Weird stuff is going on with Iran right now. Earlier this week, someone reportedly attempted to kill Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though the president himself claims that the explosion near him was in fact a firecracker.

And on Tuesday, a group of ex-intelligence professionals calling themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity wrote President Obama warning him of Israel’s allegedly imminent plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. “Israel might mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran,” the letter, which also cited “the Likud lobby,” asserts.

Iranian Website Mocks Holocaust ‘Lie’ [JPost]
‘Obama Misplaced Trust in Netanyahu’ [JPost]

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