Cantor Didn’t Really Pledge to Back Bibi

Congressman struck with case of foot-in-mouth

Eric Cantor, opining.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Remember last week when it was widely and clearly reported that soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, had told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the GOP majority would side with him against the Obama administration? And how this was kind of extraordinary in a bad way—not because politicians should march in lockstep with members of the other party, but because there is principled opposition, and then there is telling a foreign leader you will side with him over the leader of your own country?

Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief: Cantor never actually said that. A spokesperson explained that the highest-ranking Jewish congressperson told the Israeli prime minister that “the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the administration” just, y’know, in a general way, not specifically on Mideast issues—“not in relation to U.S.-Israel relations.” You see, Netanyahu is known for his special curiosity as to domestic U.S. tax policy. (It is interesting that Cantor’s office felt the need to clarify, implying that it agrees that there would be something wrong with Cantor having said that.)

The remaining problem is that Cantor seems to say things concerning Mideast policy that he doesn’t actually mean. Late last month, recall, he pledged to separate Israeli aid from the rest of foreign aid, a universally disliked idea that, fortunately, he didn’t actually want to enact. Maybe the thing to do is discount absolutely everything Cantor says about the Mideast and just wait to hear what his spokespeople say?

Obama Remark Misinterpreted, Cantor Spokesperson Says [JTA]
Candid Cantor [Capital J]
Earlier: Cantor’s Foreign Aid ‘Trial Balloon’ Is Popped’

The Higher Authority

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Sara Ivry interviews Sue Fishkoff, author of Kosher Nation, for the Vox Tablet podcast series on the growing and broader appeal of non-trayf.

Confirmed: Stuxnet Targeted Iran

Computer virus was aimed at nuclear program

The Bushehr reactor last month.(Majid Asgaripour/AFP/Getty Images)

New studies show that the virus was indeed designed to target Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. A Symantec researcher concluded that Stuxnet targets Iranian “converter drives,” and, independently, a researcher at Germany’s Langner Communications reported that the virus is aimed at centrifuges and turbine control systems in nuclear power plants, such as the one at Bushehr whose launch was “inexplicably” delayed.

“Rigging the speed control is a very clever way of causing the machines to fly apart,” said one expert. “If Symantec’s analysis is true, then Stuxnet likely aimed to destroy Iran’s gas centrifuges, which could produce enriched uranium for both nuclear fuel and nuclear bombs.”

Last month, in Tablet Magazine, Michael Tanji explained what Stuxnet is and how it is in keeping with the latest trends in cyber-warfare. And top spy correspondent Yossi Melman hypothesized that Israel is the source of the virus and that it may have worked with the German company Siemens to deliver it to Iranian facilities.

(And don’t forget The Purim Theory!)

New Research Confirms Iran’s Program Was Target of Stuxnet Worm [Checkpoint Washington]
Related: Modern Warfare, Too
Earlier: Iran: Stuxnet Isn’t Harming Nuclear Weapons Program

The Professor of Pot

Plus a new cake recipe

Raphael Mechoulam(Jewish Journal)

The Jewish Journal has an amazing profile of Professor Raphael Mechoulam, 80, who teaches at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and who 50 years ago discovered THC—the active (so to speak) ingredient in marijuana. You should read the whole thing, but it is worth highlighting his narration of the only time he ever sampled the stuff:

My wife baked a cake and my research partner and I spread THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the oily, active ingredient in cannabis) on the top. We used 10 mg of THC on each slice—too much, I think—and we and a group of friends and colleagues started eating.

I felt a little high, but nothing more. My wife said she didn’t feel anything at all. One man said he didn’t feel anything, but started having laughing fits for the next hour. One woman had a bad trip—she was a very reserved person and suddenly she felt exposed in front of everyone. One man said he didn’t feel anything, but then didn’t stop talking for three hours, which I suppose was to be expected since he was a member of Knesset.

Last month in Tablet Magazine, Rebecca Spence reported on a group of Orthodox Jews in California who sell medicinal marijuana. And I outlined the Jews’ strong bond with dope.

A Career in Cannabis [Jewish Journal]
Related: Contact High
Earlier: Jews and Pot

The Touchy Case of Jonathan Pollard

Today on Tablet


Historian and journalist Gil Troy’s blockbuster piece on Jonathan Pollard today in Tablet Magazine provocatively argues that the American serving a life sentence for spying for Israel is “the victim of the worst act of official American anti-Semitism in our lifetimes.” Troy asserts that Pollard ought to be freed: Not because he was innocent—he wasn’t—or because spying on America, even for an ally like Israel, is no big deal—it is—but because his punishment has been harsh compared to similar situations, and because there are questionable explanations as to why.

Troy’s essay is about American-Israeli relations; the Rosenberg case; late-Soviet espionage; Ronald Reagan and Benjamin Netanyahu; the Israeli-settler right. Most compellingly, it is about American Jews’ lingering insecurities. We doth protest too much, Troy argues: We go out of our way to assert Pollard’s guilt and our hatred for him out of the insecurity that we ourselves will be taken as dual loyalists—as lesser versions of the Israeli spy.

Pollard has been in the news recently: This summer, Ambassador Michael Oren briefly strayed from the official Israeli line—which, since 1998, has acknowledged that Pollard was an authorized agent. Then, a couple months ago, Israeli officials were reportedly considered a deal under which an extension of the construction freeze would net them, among other things, Pollard’s release. With talk of extending the freeze back, this is something to keep an eye on.

National Insecurities

For Lack of a Better Option

Why the U.S. cut the freeze-extension deal

President Obama Sunday.(Yuri Gripas-Pool/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the Washington Redskins signed Donovan McNabb, their quarterback who is a week shy of 34, to a massive, five-year contract. The logic behind it could not merely have been the way he was playing: He has not been playing up to standard. The logic, rather, was that he has played well over the course of his long career, and that there is inherent value in stability, and perhaps above all that he is the quarterback they have now, and since you are not guaranteed a quarterback of even remotely his caliber—there are not 32 good quarterbacks in the 32-team NFL—if you have one of the quarterbacks who has proven the ability to deliver consistent success, you go with him, and unless you are prepared to take a radically different direction, at great risk, you double down on him. The problem is that big signings of over-the-hill free agents have been a Redskins tradition for the past 15 years, and it is part of why they have one won playoff game in that time. As Marc Lynch described the signing, “The deal seems to epitomize the unimaginative, tactics-focused” approach.

Whoops! Lynch wasn’t talking about the McNabb deal. Over the weekend, the United States offered Israel a package of security and aid guarantees in exchange for a 90-day extension of the prior ten-month construction freeze in the West Bank (though not East Jerusalem). Should Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet approve the deal, Israel gets 20 high-tech jets plus further military aid; a promise that the U.S. will veto any unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations; and a pledge not to ask for a further extension. (more…)

Daybreak: Paperwork Jam

Plus Saudi arms deal scrutinized, and more in the news

Reps. Howard Berman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who are leading the questioning into the arms sale.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu is awaiting a written offer from the Americans detailing what Israel gets in exchange for a 90-day freeze extension. [Haaretz]

• 198 bipartisan congresspersons are requesting conditions on the record $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, such as that the weapons won’t be used against U.S. or Israeli interests. [LAT]

• Iran is preparing five days of war games to showcase its air-defense capabilities. [WSJ]

• At least one Israeli was allegedly prominently involved in an international organ-trafficking scheme that involved sales in Israel. [NYT]

• The arrest of an allegedly blasphemous blogger in the West Bank has raised questions about freedom of speech under the Palestinian Authority. [NYT]

• A profile of Yehuda Shaul, a former Israeli soldier who now gives weekly tours of Hebron to show outsiders what he says is IDF misconduct. [LAT]

Sundown: Right Turns on Beck, and Vice Versa

Plus Mumbai two years on, and more


Commentary’s Jonathan S. Tobin—no friend of Soros or (or of Tablet Magazine!)—condemned Glenn Beck’s “offensive innuendo.” [Contentions]

• Beck, meanwhile, attacked the Anti-Defamation League, inaccurately saying that its “Soros-started” “smear campaign” accused him of being an anti-Semite. Poor Abe can’t catch a break. [Media Matters]

• Will America’s delicate relations with Pakistan prevent a full investigation into the 2008 Mumbai bombing that targeted a Chabad house? [WP]

• The Israeli cabinet unanimously approved the aliya of nearly 8,000 Ethiopian Jews who had been living in dire conditions. [JPost]

• A woman who fights to end the ritual slaughter of chickens on Yom Kippur had her Brooklyn house vandalized with red paint. [Gothamist]

• San Francisco may vote on an initiative to ban circumcision. It is shocking to find that the activist behind the proposal is named Lloyd Schofield. [Jewcy]

SNL does Patti.

The Other Israel, in Film

Movies explore the problems of peace


That Prime Minister Netanyahu will propose a 90-day freeze on new West Bank settlement construction in hopes of kick-starting negotiations was, as far as things go, good news. But if you are looking for reasons to be skeptical of the prospects for peace—not just of a final agreement with the Palestinians, but of actual, viable, unshakable peace—you couldn’t do much better (or worse) than ID Blues, the five-part documentary series directed by the recently retired Israeli television anchor Haim Yavin. Camera in hand, Yavin, who is often billed as the country’s Cronkite, traveled all over seeking to isolate why peace is so elusive.

In the final installment of the series, which had its New York debut last night at the Other Israel Film Festival, Yavin examined how Israel deals with Palestinians living within its borders. After interviewing everyone from Avigdor Lieberman, currently the foreign minister, who has pushed a loyalty oath for non-Jewish immigrants, to the parents of Asil Asala, one of 13 Arab Israelis killed in the October 2000 outbreak of the Second Intifada, Yavin concluded: “The rage on the Arab street just continues to grow, and we, the Jewish citizens of the state, continue to bury our heads in the sand.” (more…)

Our Town

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert offers his weekly round-up of forthcoming books of note. This week’s edition has a distinctly metropolitan focus.

Beck’s Lowest Blow?

In tarnishing Soros’s Shoah experience, Beck tarnishes the Shoah

Glenn Beck.(

Glenn Beck’s spectacularly paranoid “documentary” that characterizes George Soros as an omniscient, Sauron-esque immortal who jet-sets around the world toppling governments and destabilizing currencies for profit has made its way beyond the ravening hordes of the Angry Elderly and into the mainstream media, where some very smart people are parsing whether Beck’s characterization of an elderly Jew with a foreign accent as an all-powerful warmonger with rapacious tentacles squeezing the life out of the helpless globe is anti-Semitic on purpose (after all, Beck has been such a friend to Israel). Somewhere, Joseph Goebbels is instructing his attorneys to prepare an intellectual property lawsuit.

I’m willing to believe that Beck is too stupid to fully understand the accusations he has leveled at Soros. But there is a far more disturbing (and less examined) claim embedded in Beck’s film, which has much farther-reaching and damaging repercussions for Jews than the easily refutable international conspiracy mumbo-jumbo seconded by the intelligence ministry of Iran. It is Beck’s characterization of Soros, a Holocaust survivor, as a Nazi collaborator who actively aided in sending Jews to the death camps. As a 13-year-old. (more…)

The New Leaders

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry talks to Ari Y. Kelman, an author of a new study about the changing composition of American Jewish institutional leadership.

Melting Steel

How our teams fared this weekend

Tom Brady leads the Pats to victory.(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

While the main story through this NFL season has been the lack of one or two truly stand-out teams thus far (such as last year’s New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, both of whom were undefeated through 12 games), if you forced me, at gunpoint (or at being-a-Buffalo-Bills-fanpoint—congrats on the win, guys!) to pick the top two teams, I would have picked the two that met last night: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tablet Magazine team the New England Patriots. There are still seven more weeks of regular season to go (thank God!), but last night, the Pats, coming from the egg they laid last week in Cleveland, continued their tour through the Rust Belt with a real show in Pittsburgh.

The Pats scored 39 points—which is two touchdowns and a field goal more than the Steelers’ top-ranked defense had allowed to any other team this season—and held Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, and the rest of the Steelers offense to 26 points (and half of that came in garbage time, as the Steelers were allowed wider sway to march up the field in nearly certain futility). The Pats established their running game early on. Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski scored three touchdowns, making a very, very small number of fantasy owners very, very happy. But the real story was quarterback Tom Brady. He went 30-for-43, 350 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a QB rating of 117.4, at times making it look as though he were running some top-tier college offense mowing down a vastly inferior in-conference rival. More than that, he fired up himself and his young team and led them to victory. You were reminded that he is the superstar he is, the legend who won three rings and nearly a fourth last decade. (more…)

The Gallivanting Spatula

Words Jews use

(Mark Alan Stamaty)

We’re sorry for the delay, but it took more time than expected to sort through your hundreds of delightfully belligerent “suggestions” for The Gallivanting Spatula, our compendium of words only Jews use. (We hope you’ll continue to send your entries, to From this point forward, we’ll update every couple of weeks or so. And you can go here to see the complete list.

Additionally, with each new installment we’ll also induct our favorite suggestion from a reader, who will receive a Gallivanting Spatula mug—emblazoned with Mark Alan Stamaty’s fantastic logo—as a token of our appreciation.

This week’s winner is Ed, who relayed the following: “My mother (72 years old, Jewish, Brooklyn) and her friends have always referred to the gastroenterologist as the ‘gastro-man.’ I thought this was normal and used it myself until someone asked me if my stomach doctor wore a cape and tights.” To be frank, the more popular locution is “GI guy.” But we’re giving this one to Ed on account of the clever superhero joke.

And now, the new words: (more…)

Teach Your Children

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall reviews several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though some are aimed at children and some at young adults, and though they were written by people looking in on the conflict from both sides, Ingall divines a common message: “The insistence that we not lump an entire people into one undifferentiated mass we label The Enemy.”

She adds, “this may seem like a naïve answer to a complex set of questions. But the ability to empathize goes a long way.”

The Others

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