Daybreak: Lebanon Sliding

Plus Bill Clinton to save the day? and more in the news

President Bill Clinton.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

• U.S. officials worry that Hezbollah will disrupt or even overthrow Lebanon’s government as the international tribunal plans to hand down its decision concerning the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. [NYT]

• The Mideast peace process needs some new personnel, U.S. officials believe. Common names include former ambassador Martin Indyk and Bill Clinton. [Laura Rozen]

• The administration and other Western powers are trying to kick-start Iran negotiations based on the earlier fuel swap deal. [WSJ]

• According to a German university’s report, Nazi diplomats were much more complicit in the Holocaust than was believed. [AP/NYT]

• Ameer Makhoul, the Israeli Arab community leader, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist an enemy, contact with a foreign agent, and espionage as part of a deal for allegations that he spied for Hezbollah. [Haaretz]

• Settler advocates accused the government of instituting a “silent freeze” on construction. [JPost]

Sundown: Parties of God

Plus alleged Hezbollah spy eyes deal, and more

Pro-Makhoul protestors in May.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

• A close look at how religious-based politics are thriving in the Middle East and Iran. [NYT]

• Ameer Makhoul, the Israeli Arab community leader charged with spying for Hezbollah, may strike a plea bargain. [Haaretz]

• In which we get to meet Adam Levin, author of The Instructions. [Chicago Tribune]

• Bureaucratic red tape is preventing Israel’s nascent solar energy industry from thriving. [Fast Company]

• Israelis and non-Israeli Jews hash out what role the Diaspora has to play in determining policies related to Israeli security. [JTA]

• Rabbi arrested in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Maybe. DEVELOPING. [Ditmas Park Blog]

A new site explains principles of economics … through Seinfeld. Below, Jerry parses the academic definition of a reservation:

Three for the Road

How our teams fared this weekend

Steve Smith of the Giants celebrates a touchdown.(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Last night, on Monday Night Football, the New York Giants officially ended the loudly announced hopes of the Dallas Cowboys to be the first squad to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. With their 41-35 win, not only did they lower America’s Team’s record to 1-5 (0-3 at home!) after their bye week; on a sack, they broke star quarterback Tony Romo’s collarbone, leaving him out for a minimum of four to six weeks (after which time one imagines the 3-9 Cowboys being smart enough only to play him sparingly, if at all, lest they screw up next season, too).

The Giants played very typically: QB Eli Manning threw two early interceptions; they let their opponent, now led by journeyman back-up Rob Jon Kitna, back into the game; gave up a special teams touchdown, to speedy rookie Dez Bryant; and ultimately pulled out a win with the help of their stellar defensive front four and wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, who simply must enter any discussion about the best 1-2 wide receiver combo in the NFL. I am not sure I trust the Giants, who have major holes in their defensive secondary and a habit of imploding on Coach Tom Coughlin, down the stretch; Bryant’s return TD, in particular, reeked of post-Super Bowl Giants game giveaways. But credit where it’s due: As of right now, the Giants are the best team in the National Football Conference. (more…)

The Peace Talks Are Dead

Long live the peace talks?


The easiest thing to do right now is to declare the direct peace talks, which officially are currently stalled, actually completely over barely after they began: A victim of (depending on whom you’d prefer to blame) Israel’s stubborn refusal to extend its settlement freeze; the Palestinian Authority’s unreasonable, ex post facto demand that Israel extend its settlement freeze; the United States’s focus on settlements; Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition; President Abbas’s status as an unpopular, rump leader; the Israeli public’s insistence on security guarantees based on their interpretation of what happened after the Gaza withdrawal; the Palestinian public’s warm feelings toward the maximalist claims of Hamas; and on and on. The Washington Post published the conventional wisdom-articulating article this Sunday, and it was convincing. You should read the whole thing; you will feel up-to-date.

And yet! To float a counter-intuitive #slatepitches, maybe, under the radar, the U.S. is still trying to cut a deal, and their efforts may yet pay off? That is the between-the-lines sense one could get from a speech Dennis Ross, a top administration Mideast adviser, gave to AIPAC yesterday. The prepared remarks mostly concerned Iran—”Iran’s own behavior over the past two years, however, has demonstrated that it prefers defiance and secrecy to transparency and peace,” Ross declared—but, toward the end, Ross had this to say about the peace process: “Frankly, this degree of coordination is unprecedented. I have participated in these types of discussions for the last 30 years, and they have never been as intense or focused, reflecting the serious cooperation that we have today with Israel.” He added, in an implicit nod to the controversial doctrine of linkage, “No one should underestimate the strategic importance of peace for Israelis, for Palestinians, and for the United States.” Don’t you think that if the talks were truly a lost cause for a good long while, a top administration point-man wouldn’t continue to play them up?

Ross Talks Iran, Israel with AIPAC [Laura Rozen]
Halt to Palestinian Talks Could Become Permanent [WP]
Earlier: Did Biden Link Israel to the Troops’ Safety?

How Jews Will Do Next Tuesday

Bennet and Sestak may come from behind to win

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) campaigns earlier this month.(John Moore/Getty Images)

Are you exhausted yet? Are you registered yet? Simchat Democracy, on which we celebrate the end of a grueling election cycle and the dawn of a new one the very next day, is only one week away.

Two weeks ago, I predicted (with Nate Silver’s indispensable aid) that of the ten Jewish Senate races, the Tribe would hold onto seats in New York, California, and Oregon while gaining a seat in Connecticut, losing two in Wisconsin and Colorado, and falling short in Arizona, New Hampshire, and Ohio. The Pennsylvania seat, which currently belongs to Democrat Arlen Specter, is already lost. But two weeks is forever in politics, and the races in Colorado and Pennsylvania (which remains Jewish-related) have become competitive. (more…)

Synod, Cardinal Question Jewish Claims

To Israel, mainly, but also to pretty much everything

Pope Benedict XVI presides over the close of the Middle East Synod on Sunday.(Fillipo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church’s Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which concluded Sunday, was not expected to produce something that Israel would cheer. And its official “Message,” reports John J. Allen, Jr., does “refer to the damaging consequences of Israeli ‘occupation,’ as well as the security wall, military checkpoints, political prisoners, and efforts to alter the demographic balance of Jerusalem.” However, it also “acknowledges the ‘suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live,’” condemns anti-Semitism, and backs a two-state solution.

But there is one big problem. In reference to relations with Jews, the Message reads: “Recourse to theological and Biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.” And there is a bigger problem: Speaking at a press conference, Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros—who is actually based in Newton, Massachusetts (so you would think he would have some sense of relations with Jews)—commented on that passage, saying, “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” (more…)

Today on Tablet

Obama’s Jewish maybe-problem, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Pejman Yousefzadeh writes as a Jewish Hyde-Park-in-the-wool Chicagoan when he questions whether President Obama will be able to hold onto a substantial majority of the American Jewish vote come November 2012. Adam Kirsch reviews an exhibit at Yeshiva University of films documenting early-20th-century Jewish-American life along with a new book, edited by Nextbook Press author Ruth Wisse, containing two novellas from the Poland-born New York Jewish author Jacob Glatstein. The Scroll recognizes Yousefzadeh’s bona fides, yet asks, with Jed Bartlet, “What is it with people from Chicago that they’re so happy to have been born there? I meet so many people who can’t wait to tell me they’re from Chicago, and when I meet them, they’re living anywhere but Chicago.”

Dick Miles, Top Ping-Pong Player, Dies

Jewish-American had a mean, mean forehand

Dick Miles watching the 2000 hardbat championships.(John Oros/

Legendary American ping-pong player Dick Miles passed away earlier this month at 85. Miles appeared in Man Booker winner Harold Jacobson’s profile of his longtime rival Marty Reisman (Miles was Jewish, as Reisman is), which Tablet Magazine published earlier this month. Miles won more men’s U.S. table tennis championships than anyone else.

I called up Reisman to get his take on his longtime friend and rival. “He was as good as the best and unbeatable when in top form,” he said. “The foundation of his game was an impenetrable, close-to-the-table defense, which imparted tremendous back-spin to the ball, taking the steam out of every aggressive player he faced with this never-before-seen paralyzing chop on both wings. He combined it with a crushing forehand attack delivered into the vulnerable gut of his opponent.”

Reisman continued: “His forehand drive was a stroke of beauty with deadly effectiveness, a circular motion requiring such intricate timing that he had lost it by the time he was 25. I saw him make Richard Bergmann, a four-time world champion, break down and cry after the beating Miles gave him in 1949 before 10,000 spectators in Wembley Stadium.” (more…)

Daybreak: Iran Revs Up Reactor

Plus U.N. hints at unilateral state backing, and more in the news

When the reactor was first loaded, in August.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Iran re-started loading its nuclear reactor with fuel, after a delay presumed to have been caused by Stuxnet; it should start producing electricity in the next few months. [WP]

• The U.N. Mideast negotiator told Prime Minister Fayyad that the body would support a Palestinian declaration of statehood over the next year. [JPost]

• Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York) fired back at minority whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) for saying the GOP would separate aid to Israel from the foreign operations bill, ostensibly to protect it from cuts. [Laura Rozen]

• Roger Cohen blames the West for provoking Turkey’s eastward turn. [NYT]

• Jonathan Franzen visits the White House, and Ben Smith thinks the inspiration for one of Freedom’s main characters, the former rocker Richard Katz, is newly Tea-drinking former Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker. (Although one pictures Katz in a Lou Reed-type leather jacket.) [Ben Smith]

• Joseph Stein, who wrote the book to a musical you may have seen called Fiddler on the Roof, died at 98. [NYT]

Sundown: Turkey Crowds Out Israel

Plus Russian Jews skipping town, a Russian Jew returns, and more

Shteyngart in Moscow.(NYT)

• Turkey is conditioning missile-defense cooperation with the United States on a ban on sharing related intelligence with Israel. [Laura Rozen]

• The Haaretz journalist accused of helping Anat Kam, the reporter accused of espionage, returned to Israel for questioning and a possible indictment. [Ynet]

• Five shells were launched from Gaza, two falling inside Israeli territory. No one was injured. [JTA]

• A new Russian census will likely show a decline in the Jewish population of at least 25 percent over the past decade. [JTA]

• “The thing about Russia is that, for a satirist, it’s almost too easy,” says contributing editor Gary Shteyngart, on book tour there. [NYT]

La Patti gets the Sunday Styles treatment. God help us. [NYT]

The model for the memorable Bronx judge in Tom Wolfe’s novel Bonfire of the Vanities died at 88. Both Burton B. Roberts (the real-life judge) and Myron Kovitsky (Wolfe’s judge) were Jewish, but in the movie version, the judge is black, because when you can get Morgan Freeman …

NYT Praises Subway Artist

Eric Molinsky is a frequent Tablet Magazine contributor

A new Molinksy portrait.(Eric Molinsky)

If the pictures accompanying the Sunday New York Times profile of artist Eric Molinsky, who discreetly draws portraits of subway riders on his iPhone, looked familiar to you, it is probably because you have seen lots of Molinsky’s work on Tablet Magazine, including in the Vox Tablet previews every Friday. He has also produced several Vox Tablet podcasts (like this one).

The video accompanying the article is particularly recommended.

An iPhone Artist Haunts the Subways [City Room]

ASCAP To Honor ‘A Fine Romance’

Lehman’s book tells of ‘Jewish songwriters, American songs’


Congratulations to David Lehman, who, we are told, will be given a 2010 Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for his Nextbook Press book on Jewish influence over American songtunes, A Fine Romance.

In an email, Lehman reported, “‘I’ve got a feeling you’re fooling,’ I said when the guy from ASCAP called. I was sure he was mouthing little white lies. But True Blue Lou was on the level. My heart stood still, and now I’m sitting on top of the world, which I’ve got on a string.”

A Fine Romance [Nextbook Press]

How Bloomberg Could Make Palin President

No one takes a run more seriously than the White House

Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Though the man himself has ruled it out, New York explores the implications of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy, whose likelihood “is just as great as, if not greater than, it was when he considered taking the plunge in 2008.” If the fiscally conservative, socially liberal Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent three-term mayor of New York City makes himself the first major Jewish presidential candidate, he could siphon votes from President Obama and hand the election to the Republican nominee, even (perhaps especially) if said nominee is a certain former Alaska governor. “The White House has made a gaudy show of sucking up to the mayor,” reports John Heilemann, “to keep him on the sidelines in 2012, where he and his billions would pose no danger of redrawing the electoral map in unpredictable and perilous ways.” (more…)

The Rangers Win the Pennant!

Kinsler helps Texas to first World Series

Ian Kinsler knocks in his ninth run of the postseason Friday night.(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Though we had to abandon our first Major League playoff team, the Tampa Bay Rays, you’ll recall we eagerly adopted their conquerors, the Texas Rangers and their hot-hitting Jewish second baseman, Ian Kinsler. And this time, we were not let down: The Rangers defeated the New York Yankees in a six-game series that was, if anything, less close than it appeared—after all, to get the job done, Texas required neither its final home game nor the second start of its ace, Cliff Lee, who in eight career postseason starts has now gone 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA, 67 strikeouts, and seven walks. And Kinsler! Through the ten playoff games, he is hitting .342 with three home runs and nine RBI, the final of which drove in a crucial insurance run in game six.

In the National League, the Giants won the pennant (the Giants won the pennant); Game 1 is Wednesday night in San Francisco (Lee will face Giants ace Tim Lincecum, a match-up you won’t want to miss). The Giants, of course, date back to upper Manhattan, where they were based when they won their previous championship with the aid of a pretty good centerfielder. Texas, on the other hand, had gone 50 years as a franchise (it began as the second iteration of the Washington Senators) without a single World Series appearance, much less victory. The Giants are likeable, but there can be only one winner, and Tablet Magazine can have only one team. Go Rangers!

Earlier: So Much For Our Team
The MLB Playoffs Kick Off

Today on Tablet

Viva Shelley Berkley, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Steve Friess reports from Las Vegas, from which he profiles the flamboyant—and massively pro-Israel—congresswoman, Shelley Berkley. The Vox Tablet podcast explores what will become of Shanghai’s recently restored Ohel Rachel synagogue after the Expo 2010 shutters at the end of the month. The upcoming dueling D.C. rallies prompt parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall to ask: Is it more important for parents to Restore Sanity or Keep Fear Alive? Josh Lambert offers his weekly round-up of Jewish books of note. And The Scroll revs itself up. Vroom!

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