In Lebanon, Ahmadinejad Gets Mixed Reviews

Shiites applaud, others suspect

Lebanese well-wishers await President Ahmadinejad yesterday.(Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)

A U.S. diplomatic spokesperson’s understatement yesterday was so pronounced, he was almost being wry. On the occasion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first-ever state visit to Lebanon, where he was thronged by thousands of supporters in a predominately Shiite southern suburb of Beirut, the spokesperson said the United States has “strong suspicions about the motives of Iran and its—you know, the groups that it supports who do not have Lebanon’s long-term interest at heart.” Of course, part of the problem, as Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith has argued, is that these “groups”—chiefly the Shiite militia Hezbollah—are arguably already in Lebanon’s driver’s seat. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Aliyah B intrigue, Chagall de-Jewified, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, acclaimed spy novelist Alan Furst “reviews” an out-of-print book about Aliyah B, which was the wave of illegal Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine, and calls for its republication. Judith Matloff reports that Belarus is very proud of Marc Chagall, but to them he is pure Belarusian; a certain other aspect of his identity goes unmentioned. Paula Sadok describes how being a Syrian Jew, and therefore a Mizrahi, has made her feel like the Other even among Jews. The Scroll sometimes feels like the Other of the blogosphere, though not usually.

Carl Paladino’s Betrayal Of Reason

And a sensational, near-fatal kosher sandwich!

Rabbi Yehuda Levin yesterday.(AP/NYT)

Not only did the right-wing, attention-grabbing, sketchy-ass Rabbi Yehuda Levin abandon Carl Paladino after the New York Republican gubernatorial candidate apologized for warning that children were being “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option.” Yesterday, he revealed the hazardous circumstances under which he learned of Paladino’s perfidious turnabout to the politically expedient position that homosexuality maybe isn’t bad for kids:

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich. While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

(Let’s pause and note that Levin was eating a pastrami and salami sandwich. I don’t care how kosher it was, he’s about to be dead.)

As for Paladino’s having cited the concerns of his gay nephew? “He discovered now he has a gay nephew?” Levin replied. “Mazel tov! We’ll make a coming-out party!” Sources say he was being sarcastic.

Rabbi Breaks With Paladino Over Apology [NYT]
Earlier: Rabbinic Svengali Quits Paladino

Daybreak: You Better Recognize

Plus the Bibi-Lieberman bickering, and more in the news

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren blames Palestinian resistance to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state as an important insult and the immediate obstacle to peace talks. [NYT]

• U.S. diplomats are seizing on a PLO official’s willingness to recognize Israel this way at the pre-1967 borders as a welcome place to start negotiating. [JPost]

• The rift between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman is growing, and Bibi’s biggest fear is moving so far to the center that Lieberman and his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu come to define the right. [NYT]

• After Israeli security razed illegal outposts in the northern West Bank, settlers and Palestinians clashed. [JTA]

• Ahmadinejad says: Nuclear power plants for everyone! [Haaretz]

• This article. More at 10. [NYT]

Sundown: Pollard Gets New Advocate

Plus the first step on Iran is acceptance, and more

The Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Lawrence Korb, who had been an assistant secretary of state at the time of Jonathan Pollard’s conviction of spying for Israel, reportedly wrote President Obama arguing that Pollard’s life sentence is too harsh. [JPost]

• President Obama’s incoming national security adviser, Tom Donilon, has close ties to pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC. (Also, his wife is Mrs. Biden’s chief-of-staff.) [JTA]

• Barry Gewen argues that the necessary first step in the debate over bombing Iran is to acknowledge that bombing can, at most, merely delay nuclear capability. [Entanglements]

• A top player in the Palestine Liberation Organization said he would consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state—the precondition du jour—assuming “Israel” is confined strictly to the pre-1967 borders. [Haaretz]

• Gary Rosenblatt, editor of New York Jewish Week, weighs in on the New Jersey Jewish Standard same-sex announcements controversy; Andrew Silow-Carroll calls him out on copping out. [JustASC]

• Interesting personal essay from a former Haaretz night editor about how the Second Intifada irrevocably changed his politics. [972]

They’re rescuing the miners! Here’s Phish’s “Buried Alive.”

A New Production of an Old Mamet

As seen by one of our editors

Patrick Stewart in A Life in the Theatre.(NYO)

A new production of A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet—also the author of Nextbook Press’s The Wicked Son—opened on Broadway yesterday. It (apparently) features Patrick Stewart looking very funny. Tablet Magazine executive editor Jesse Oxfeld, who moonlights as the New York Observer’s theater critic, said it was “fun to watch” but ultimately “insubstantial and unfulfilling, more an exercise than a play.”

When All The World’s A Stage [NYO]
Related: The Wicked Son [Nextbook Press]

Jewish Mining Exec Donates to Chileans

This story is apparently something people are caring about

They are rescuing miners.(Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

In my job, you want to hit the Jewish stories, and you want to find the Jewish angles to the big stories. Problem solved! Leonardo Farkas, a Jewish mining executive, has given each of the 33 rescued or soon-to-be-rescued miners $10,000 each. I command you to care about this!

Jewish Businessman Gives $10,000 to Rescued Chilean Miners [JTA/Forward]

Rabbinic Svengali Quits Paladino

Candidate is no longer sufficiently homophobic


This keeps getting better and better.

• On Sunday, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, a Tea Party favorite, says offensive things about gay people to applauding ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. However, he omits this especially heinous sentence in his prepared remarks: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

• Then, on Monday, Paladino clarifies his remarks, cryptically blaming unnamed Jewish leaders whose consultations had provoked the line he skipped.

• Then, yesterday, we learn what Paladino was talking about: An explicitly right-wing pseudo-Hasidic Brooklyn hack rabbi named Yehuda Levin has become Paladino’s ambassador to Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community. Of Sunday’s speech, Levin says, “I stand ready to defend the content.”

• Then, this morning, Paladino apologizes for his speech.

• And finally! This afternoon, speaking in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (!), Levin—who mere days ago was so close to Paladino that the candidate could joke about firing his campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, and hiring Levin—withdraws his support for Paladino, saying he cannot back him “until such time as he straightens out.” Pun, hopefully, intended.

Meanwhile, Caputo just described Cuomo as “oily.” So that’s the gays and now the Italians you’re offending. Who could be next? (I have a guess!)

N.Y. Rabbi Drops Support for Paladino After Apology [AP/NYT]
Earlier: The Rabbi Who Influenced Paladino’s Speech
N.Y. Candidate Gay-Bashes to Orthodox Applause

Malmo Syndrome

Anti-Semitism in Sweden leads Jews to Israel

A mosque in Malmo, Sweden.(Forward)

Sweden was famously neutral during World War II, and served as a refuge for many Scandinavian Jews (especially those from Denmark, nearly all of whom were saved); Raoul Wallenberg, the Righteous Gentile par excellence, was Swedish, and saved thousands of Hungarian Jews by placing them in what was technically Swedish territory. But Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmo, is now shedding Jews, mostly to Israel, due to a steep uptick in anti-Semitic incidents ever since the Gaza conflict of early 2009: The torching of a Jewish chapel, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and shouts of “Heil Hitler!” have all been reported.

A scrupulous Forward article reports that most of the incidents stem from the city’s Rosengard slum, which is home to much of the 15 percent of the city’s population that is Muslim. The Gaza War was obviously the catalyst, and that should not be ignored; but nor should the fact that Rosengard’s unemployment rate is 80 percent. Material factors and religious/ideological ones are mutually reinforcing in the worst possible way. Moreover, the trouble in Europe isn’t confined to Muslims: A December 2009 poll found that nearly half of Europeans agreed somewhat or strongly with: “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” Malmo’s 32-year-old left-wing mayor has also come under criticism, for not sufficiently protecting the city’s dwindling but historic Jewish population.

For Jews, Swedish City Is ‘A Place To Move Away From’ [Forward]
Jews Leave Swedish City After Sharp Rise in Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes [Telegraph]

So Much For Our Team

Fortunately, our replacement is even better

Ian Kinsler goes yard last night.(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

One door closes, and an even better one opens. The Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers series featured both the first and final game of the divisional round, and in the end—in a roller coaster ride in which the home team went 0-5—the Texas Rangers pulled out a 5-1 win last night to advance to the American League Championship series, where they will face the New York Yankees, who defeated the Minnesota Twins in three. (As the seemingly unstoppable Philadelphia Phillies did the Cincinnati Reds; it took the San Francisco Giants four games to dispatch the Atlanta Braves.) So the door is closed on Tablet Magazine’s official playoff team, which was (controversially) the Rays.

But the door is opened on the Rangers and their second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who is now the only Jewish player left in the playoffs (for what it’s worth, he is also the only man named Ian ever to play every day in the big leagues). And it is not like he is some guy who is on the roster: He has played sensationally. Look at his five-game stats! Three home runs (including the game-icing one last night), 6 RBI, a .444 average, and .944 slugging (and a 1.444 OPS for the sabermetrically inclined). Ron Kaplan notes that he was involved in more than 50 percent of his team’s runs. Divisional series don’t have MVPs, but if they did, Kinsler would have a strong case. (more…)

Today on Tablet

The Judeophilic Nobel laureate, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Ilan Stevens celebrates Nobel-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who has proved a dovish critic of Israel but an unequivocal philo-Semite. Mideast columnist Lee Smith pushes back against the outcry over Israel’s proposed loyalty oath for new citizens, which is soon likely to become law. The Scroll is still basking in Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker triumph.

Howard Jacobson Pulls Off Booker Upset

Novelist defeats favorites McCarthy, Carey

Howard Jacobson, victorious, last night.(Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

“I’m not the English Philip Roth, I’m the Jewish Jane Austen,” novelist Howard Jacobson told us a few days ago. Last night, Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize for his The Finkler Question. This was a substantial upset: Jacobson had been the betting man’s biggest underdog, at 8:1 odds, and that was before this past weekend, when Ladbrokes actually stopped taking bets due to the suspiciously high amount of money that came in for the odds-on favorite, Tom McCarthy’s C. This was also, according to the Guardian’s arts correspondent, “the first unashamedly comic novel” to win the prestigious, 42-year-old prize, which is annually awarded to the best English-language novel published in the British commonwealth. In addition to McCarthy, the other longlisted authors were Peter Carey (a two-time winner), Emma Donoghue, Damon Galgut, and Andrea Levy. The previous Jewish Man Booker winner appears to be Anita Brookner, who won for Hotel du Lac in 1984.

Jacobson, who had been longlisted twice before, accepted the award in London “to unusually loud and sustained applause,” reported The New York Times. He told the crowd: “I’m speechless. Fortunately I prepared one earlier. It’s dated 1983. That’s how long the wait’s been.” The head of the five-judge panel, Sir Andrew Motion, insisted that the long-time-coming quality of Jacobson’s win “never came into our minds.” He added, “Having said that, there is a particular pleasure in seeing somebody who is that good finally getting his just desserts.”

Want to read more about Jacobson? You’ve come to the right place! We published an interview with him on Monday. We published, for the first time in the United States, Jacobson’s sensational 1999 profile of American ping-pong champion Marty Reisman. And our books critic Adam Kirsch reviewed The Finkler Question last week. We also hosted him on a podcast nearly three years ago, even before he was a bigwig Man Booker shortlist-er.

Still not had enough? Check out this essay he published last Saturday on the definitional necessity for novels to be funny. And to give you an example of the Jacobsonian wit, please find (below the jump) an exchange that did not make it into the final cut of our interview, in which the novelist recalls which prominent American magazine chose not to publish his Reisman profile, and how he got revenge. (more…)

Daybreak: Abbas Embattled

Plus A’jad arrives in Lebanon, and more in the news

Lebanese well-wishers greet President Ahmadinejad.(Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)

• The waffling of peace talks have led President Abbas to face a growing rebellion from within his own Fatah party. [WSJ]

• President Ahmadinejad was greeted in Iran by cheering crowds. [WSJ]

• The U.S. State Department responded to yesterday’s peace-talk developments—a proposed and rejected freeze in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state—with something that I’ll leave you to try to decipher. [Haaretz]

• How olive trees became symbols of the struggle between West Bank Palestinians and settlers. [NYT]

• New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino apologized for his anti-gay remarks in an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Brooklyn Sunday. [NYT]

• Robert Tishman, a huge New York real estate mogul and philanthropist, died at 94. [NYT]

Sundown: Jacobson!!!

Plus some other stories not nearly as exciting

Howard Jacobson.(Jewish Chronicle)

• MASSIVE UPSET! HOWARD JACOBSON WINS THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE! WAHOO! For links to all our Jacobson stuff, see here. More tomorrow. [Guardian]

• In a new American Jewish Committee survey showing slipping Jewish approval for President Obama, Ben Smith sees … slipping overall approval for President Obama. [Ben Smith]

• A new Palestinian Authority textbook, Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other, presents both sides’ narratives of Israel’s creation. Israel’s education minister has banned it. [JTA]

• The son of Israel’s head Sephardic rabbi said every Israeli should go Sephardic, even Ashkenazim. I smell a conflict of interest!! [Ynet]

• The Jewish comedy nerd: A history. [Jewcy]

• Holocaust-denial obfuscation at the New York Times. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

Distant observers of Israeli politics may have noticed the disproportionate care the society takes for its soldiers, including already-dead ones, as opposed to its civilians. It’s a sensitive issue, but that does not mean it’s not seriously misguided. The below video, which is about Gilad Schalit, is intended as satire, and while it’s a bit one-sided, I think it still makes an important point.

Carla Cohen, of Politics & Prose, Dies

A pillar of Washington, D.C., intellectual life

Carla Cohen.(WP)

Carla Cohen, the co-founder of the one-of-a-kind bookstore Politics & Prose, died yesterday at 74 from a rare bile-duct cancer. The superb Washington Post obituary paints her as the heart to co-founder Barbara Meade’s head (it also briefly details her life, which began in a six-child Jewish family in Baltimore). My favorite anecdote is when Cohen—politically left, to be sure, but open to thoughtful debate—nixes a coveted bookstore reading by Matt Drudge. “It’s not a question of left or right, conservative or liberal. It’s a question of sleaze versus careful, thoughtful reporting,” she said at the time. “I think he’s a rumormonger and a troublemaker, and I think he’s more interested in self-promotion than in journalism.”

Andrew Silow-Carroll, who got to know Cohen and her husband, David (who survives her, as do her 100-year-old mother and two children), while editing Washington Jewish Week, has further reminiscence. He notes that the two were to be awarded the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award from Jews United for Justice this month; David used to work at Americans for Peace Now.

And Michael Schaffer, the editor of Washington City Paper, observes of whoever ends up buying Politics & Prose (which may be a group that includes Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg), “the largest chunk of their investment in the store will not come because its inventory is that large or its Connecticut Avenue storefront is that appealing. It’ll involve buying access to the network of loyal customers Cohen and Meade painstakingly developed.”

As a fiercely proud member of that network, I’ll let my earlier words speak for themselves.

Carla Cohen Dies; Co-founder of D.C. Bookstore Politics & Prose [WP]
Carla Cohen, Washington Bookseller [JustASC]
Carla Cohen R.I.P. [City Paper]
Earlier: Reflections on a Book Paradise

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