The Writer Who Doesn’t Write

Today on Tablet


Tuck your napkin into your shirt, grab your knife and fork, and dig in to contributing editor Rachel Shukert’s takedown of Fran Lebowitz, who is the subject of a Martin Scorcese-directed documentary that airs on HBO tonight. Today in Tablet Magazine, Shukert identifies Lebowitz as “official mascot for Vanity Fair” (which is indisputable) and as a member of “New York’s great triumvirate of Overrated Jewish Lesbians,” which consists of “Le(i)bow(v)itzes Fran and Annie” and Susan Sontag (on her and her alone Shukert and I will have to disagree). And Shukert writes:

There is one area in which Fran Lebowitz has by all measures succeeded brilliantly, one that Scorsese’s film, which consists almost entirely of uninterrupted images of her, gives us plenty of time to ponder. Fran Lebowitz has perfected her look. Her boulevardier wardrobe, her trademark cigarette/sneer, her unruly Beethoven bob: She has precisely distilled, or perhaps invented, our idea of what a “sardonic New York literary curmudgeon” should look like and has stuck to it faithfully for decades. This tastefully nihilistic pose has been her fortune and, perhaps perversely, also her undoing as an artist. “I’m not interested in other people, so I don’t expect them to be interested in me,” she claims. Fair enough (if somewhat specious), except that the single requirement of the art of writing—to say nothing of the art of conversation—is exactly that.

There is much more where that came from. Bon appetit.


Bibi Reportedly Seeking Pollard’s Release

Freeze deal could see spy go free

Jonathan Pollard.(alleged)

Will Jonathan Pollard be released as a condition of Israel extending its settlement freeze? The Jerusalem Post reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu asked for the release of the American sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 after being convicted of spying for Israel as part of the 90-day freeze extension deal that his cabinet has still not approved.

Momentum has been building toward this point: In September, as talks of extending the freeze were first broached, Pollard’s release was raised as maybe being part of a deal; then, last month, in a big step, former deputy defense secretary Lawrence Korb alleged that Pollard’s harsh sentence was partly the result of a strong anti-Israel bias on the part of his former boss, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. This revelation allowed smart people like Gil Troy to make an even more persuasive case for Pollard’s release in places like Tablet Magazine. And the past week has seen a flurry of activity: Last Thursday, 39 Democratic congressmen, including prominent ones like Barney Frank and Anthony Weiner, asked Obama to communte Pollard’s sentence; on Saturday, Pollard’s father co-wrote an op-ed pleading for leniency. Neither the letter nor the op-ed nor, hardly, anyone argue that Pollard (who was honorarily made an Israeli citizen) was not guilty; they argue that his sentence is at this point overly harsh, including in comparison to those of similar convictions. (more…)

Daybreak: Abbas Insists On E. J’lem Freeze

Plus Jewish groups START to talk about arms control, and more in the news

President Abbas yesterday.(Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

• President Abbas pledged not to return to talks unless construction is frozen in East Jerusalem; the prior freeze, and the current deal, concern the West Bank but not disputed parts of the city. [NYT]

• A preliminary probe found circumstantial evidence linking Hezbollah to former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination, according to one report. A U.N. tribunal is expected to issue indictments soon, which could cause havoc in Lebanon if Hezbollah is implicated. [WP]

• Yehuda Kolko, a teacher in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community suspected of mass molestation, was arrested in Brooklyn over the weekend. [The Jewish Star]

• Two Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, urged the Senate to pass the START arms control treaty signed by President Obama and favored by most Democrats. They argue it is important to the U.S.-Russia relationship, which is in turn important to countering Iran. [Laura Rozen]

• A former Knesset member for Kadima says the time is right for a new Likud-Kadima governing coalition. [JPost]

• Norris Church Mailer, Norman’s widow who recently published a memoir of their time together, died at 61. [NYT]

Sundown: Cyber-Torah

Plus the freeze in writing, and more

(Carmel Zucker/NYT)

• Teaching Torah for b’nai mitzvot students … over the Internet! The latest trend piece from the other daily magazine of Jewish life and culture. [NYT]

• The Israeli Air Force responded to the rockets of the past 24 hours with three strikes in Gaza. Injuries were reported. [LAT]

•On the way: A written U.S.-Israel freeze agreement. [Haaretz]

• A remarkable story, begging to be turned into a 12,000-word New Yorker feature: A 50-year-old Jewish real estate lawyer who is the son of a scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of Chicago was convicted of impersonating a different Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, a professor at NYU. [City Room]

• There is a fascinating Israeli campaign to introduce anti-sex trafficking laws that criminalize the consumer. [Ms. Blog]

• A prominent New York lawyer wants a day off of a trial following the birth of his grandkid—but only if it’s a grandson and there is a bris. “Look, the Jewish religion is sexist. It just is. But I didn’t make the rules!” [WSJ Law Blog]

Jon Stewart and I have had our differences. But when he decides to actually take a position—as here, on Glenn Beck’s documentary about George Soros—he does himself proud, and is funny as hell.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Manchurian Lunatic
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Exodus Flicks on the Way

May we suggest a couple of tunes?

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Vulture reports that Hollywood is producing two movies about the Exodus (and not the Bob Marley album). At Warner Brothers, a couple of cult sci-fi screenwriters wrote the script to a film co-produced by Friend-of-Tablet-Magazine Matti Leshem. And at 20th Century Fox, there is something in the pipeline called Untitled Moses Project, which is also the name of a 1980s Milwaukee hardcore band (I’m kidding, I think).

In case you weren’t sure where I was going with this, the Vulture post is entitled, “Everything’s Coming Up Moses”—which was also the name of the Rachel Shukert-authored Passover pageant that Tablet Magazine produced this past spring. Perhaps one of the Hollywood big shots would consider the inclusion of the title track in their film?

Everything’s Coming Up Moses: Hollywood Readies Two Exodus Movies [Vulture]
Related: Everything’s Coming Up Moses [Tablet Magazine]

What Sephardic Music Sounds Like

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

The term “Sephardic music” might bring to mind something like this:

But according to Erez Safar, creator of the annual Sephardic Music Festival in New York (always held during Hanukkah; the sixth one is coming up), it can also sound like this:

Safar’s label, Shemspeed, has put out the first ever Sephardic Music Festival Compilation CD. For an overview and assessment, check out Monday’s Vox Tablet podcast, when host Sara Ivry will discuss the album with Rob Weisberg, host of WFMU New York’s popular world music radio program Transpacific Sound Paradise.

Wrestling with History

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, in Liel Leibovitz’s weekly parsha column, he compares Jacob’s grappling with the angel to modern-day Armenians’ grappling with history.

Angel Dust


Photo of the day


French photographer Sacha Goldberger took awesome pictures of her 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother. The hero-pose isn’t unearned: During the Holocaust, she saved the lives of ten people. There’s more where this came from.

Grandma’s Superhero Therapy [My Modern Met]

Congressmen Back Pollard’s Freedom

Thirty-nine Democratic reps. urge Obama

Jonathan Pollard in 1998.(AP/Haaretz)

In the most high-profile effort yet to free the American convicted in 1987 of spying for Israel, 39 congressmen asked President Obama to grant Jonathan Pollard clemency on the grounds that his life sentence (for a crime, the letter admits, that he did commit) is overly harsh compared to similar cases, and that, as Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, put it, “If the president were to do this it [might] … enhance the peace process.” In addition to Frank, Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell, of New Jersey, and Anthony Weiner and Ed Townes, both of New York, initiated the letter, which is supported by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organzations, B’nai B’rith, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Agudath Israel, and several other Jewish groups.

Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, also recently asked Obama to release Pollard, alleging that former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s “almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy” helped secure the harsh sentence. If you want the most persuasive case for why Pollard should be freed, read Gil Troy’s essay in Tablet Magazine from earlier this week.

Question: What did all 39 signatories have in common? (more…)

Stop Being Polite

Today on Tablet


Writing today in Tablet Magazine about an Israeli reality television show, columnist Etgar Keret argues that the genre—normally “shallow mush,” he admits—has here produced a strikingly original, self-conscious work of art:

Watching the program, you have a strong sense that the five documenters feel they are engaged in a sacred mission. Their need to be honest and open seems almost pathological.

This pathology seems heightened by the show’s immediacy. Because the episodes have such a quick turnaround, it is possible to see one of the participants lie his way out of a family dinner only to hear, in the next episode, his mother’s reaction when her friends called to tell her that they saw her son lying on TV. In another episode, the participants and their wives and girlfriends reacted to viewers who commented online about their relationship. The fact that hundreds of people plead online for Ishai, the broke tech millionaire, to leave his wife develops into a marital crisis, when the wife accuses Ishai of putting her in a bad light in his self-documentary. In another surprising moment, the sitcom writer’s mother confesses that although she is suffering because of the show and the exposure, it has also caused her son, hungry for a bit of conflict and drama in his drab life, to visit her more often.

The show is called Connected.

Real World


Are foreigners welcome in Israel?

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use Hebrew. Behind the literal meaning, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday, we reveal what is really being said. To view all the entries in this series, click here.

There are so many illegal African immigrants living in Tel Aviv, MK Yaakov Katz of the right-wing National Union party said last week, that Tel Avivians will soon be moving to the West Bank as their city “becomes African.”

The word Katz used to describe the immigrants was “mistanenim,” or “infiltrators.” It is a word that seems particularly well-suited to scaremongering, since it conjures the other kind of mistanenim: Palestinians from the West Bank who lack permits but sneak into Israel to work—assuming, the fear goes, that a job search is indeed their real reason for entering the country.

The 10,000 illegal immigrants who have come to Israel since the beginning of the year arrived on foot. According to the African Refugee Development Center, an Israeli advocacy group, about 27,000 migrants are from Africa and are seeking asylum as refugees, or plitim. While the English word focuses on what refugees are looking for (haven in another country), the Hebrew word emphasizes what made them refugees in the first place: They were “spewed out” (nifletu) of their homelands. The root of plitim is used in a wide variety of disgorgement-related contexts, including baby spit-up, environmental emissions, and plitot peh, or slips of the tongue. (more…)

Daybreak: That Answers The Stuxnet Question

Plus why there is no freeze paper trail, and more in the news

Inside the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr.(Hamed Malekpour/AFP/Getty Images)

• On Stuxnet, the virus thought to have slowed Iran’s nuclear weapons program: “In recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. American officials have suggested it originated abroad.” Okay then. [NYT]

• The United States has likely not yet produced a written freeze extension deal because doing so would set the policy precedent of excluding East Jerusalem from the discussion. [JPost]

• A long-range rocket from Gaza landed in the western Negev; there were at least two earlier Qassam firings. No injuries were reported. [Haaretz]

• Durban III is to be held in September 2011 in New York, on the tenth anniversary of the notorious Durban I U.N. anti-racism conference. Except it won’t, be as the U.S. doesn’t like the idea. [JPost]

• After the U.N. proceeded with its more or less annual censure of Iran’s human rights record, a senior envoy vociferously defended the Islamic Republic’s right to stone criminals and the like. [WSJ]

• Egypt bristled at a U.S. call for foreign monitors to oversee its upcoming parliamentary elections. [AP/NYT]

Sundown: Qaeda Group Threatens, in Ivrit

Plus Bialik’s back, and more

Mayim Bialik.(Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

• For the first time, an al-Qaeda affiliate released a video threat in Hebrew. It pledged revenge for yesterday’s assassination of two terrorists in Gaza. [JTA]

• A judge ruled that local Muslims can move forward with plans to build a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Nope, the ADL isn’t all bad. [Associated Baptist Press]

• Former Blossom star and Tablet Magazine contributor Mayim Bialik will play a recurring role on CBS’s Big Bang Theory. [Jewcy]

• Turkey is pretty much turkey, but here are some very Jewish Thanksgiving-appropriate side dishes. [JTA]

• How ping-pong came to stand for the American Dream in its suburban iteration. And a reminder to send in your ping-pong haikus! [Slate]

• Airlines based in the European Union will be exempt from regulations requiring identification clearance codes for entering Israeli airspace. [NYT]

If you need another reason to support the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, this really funny video should do the trick.

Food and Football

Today on Tablet

Robert Kraft with an employee, Tom Brady, last year.(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Contributing editor Joan Nathan is encroaching on my beat! In her Thanksgiving-themed essay on the importance of tradition in cuisine today in Tablet Magazine, she reports on various dishes served by two friends: Myra Kraft, the wife of Bob Kraft, who owns football’s New England Patriots; and Annette Lerner, wife of Ted Lerner, who owns baseball’s Washington Nationals. The Lerners, who are observant Jews, do not attend Friday-night home games. But as for Thanksgiving, I have a guess as to where the Krafts will be enjoying Myra Kraft’s brisket and tsimmes: Detroit, where the Pats will be playing the Lions in the Detroit squad’s traditional Thanksgiving Day 1 pm slot.

Family Ties

Ailes Apologizes to Foxman; Controversy Is Over

ADL director eagerly accepts grudging ‘I’m sorry’

Abraham Foxman.(Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

It doesn’t matter that Fox News head Roger Ailes called NPR “Nazis.” Why? Because he apologized to Abraham Foxman! Per a press release we got:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accepted an apology from Roger Ailes, Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel, for his use of the expression “Nazi attitudes” in an interview to describe officials at National Public Radio.

In a letter to Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, Mr. Ailes wrote that he was sorry for using the term “Nazi” in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word,” he wrote, “but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.”

(Actually, not to nit-pick, but Ailes did more than “use the expression ‘Nazi attitudes’”—he actually said of NPR, “They are, of course, Nazis.”)

My parents used to tell me that when you apologize but add a “but,” you are basically negating the apology. Oh well: “I welcome Roger Ailes’s apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt,” Foxman said. (As it happens, I too believe that Ailes’s apology was exactly as sincere as it was heartfelt.)

All this may turn out moot: The soon-to-be Republican House Majority is planning to defund NPR. Which means you should enjoy the awesome Twitter #NPRGoesNazi hashtag—Goerring Edition; Morning Becomes “Night”; This American Life, No Longer With The Jew Ira Glass—while you can.

Earlier: Fox News Head Called NPR ‘Nazis’

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