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Daybreak: Hope on Talks After All

Plus the coming Israeli energy boom, and more in the news

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The scene at a future offshore Israeli gas field.(NYT)

• The Palestinians’ chief negotiator said peace was “doable,” if difficult. The first big roadblock—no unfortunate pun intended—will come September 26, when the West Bank construction freeze is scheduled to expire. [NYT]

• Another former negotiator, the American David Makovsky, agrees that peace is not implausible, and argues that talks are the essential complement to Palestinian state-building. [WP]

• While sanctions may be putting the hurt on Iran generally, the country’s Revolutionary Guard and those with ties to it may actually be thriving by using private firms as fronts. [LAT]

• A detailed look at Israel’s new natural gas opportunities. [NYT]

• Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s declining health has basically become a public joke in the country. Less funny is that no one knows who his successor will be. [LAT]

• Richard Cohen doesn’t want compromise on the Islamic center, like moving it to a new location, because one side is right and the other side is wrong. Instead, he calls for “moral suasion” from leaders. [WP]

Sundown: Charities Reluctant on Pakistan

Plus those crazy L.A. ‘Persians,’ and more

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The spread at Adelle Nazarian and Alexander Borookhim’s nuptials.(LAT)

• Jewish and other charities are responding to the Pakistan flood, but more slowly than they did the Haitian earthquake; some suspect politics have played a role. [Jewish Journal]

• Goldberg v. Lazio on Meet The Press. [Atlantic]

• “It’s a community center. They’re going to have a gym. They’re going to have point guards. Muslim point guards.”—Al Franken [News Desk]

• Speaking of which, shortly after Amar’e, the NBA’s biggest big man is soon to visit Israel. Will we soon welcome Dwight Howard to the Tribe? Would we even want to? [JTA]

• Considering the Cordoba Initiative controversy, Ron Radosh considers not one but two Tablet Magazine articles, and quotes yours truly to boot. [Pajamas Media]

• This article is technically about opulent Persian weddings in L.A., but various hints make it pretty clear who they mean by “Persians.” [LAT]

It’s bad enough that Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Itay Schechter was yellow-carded for pulling a yarmulke out of his sock and putting it on after scoring against Austria’s FC Red Bull Salzburg. Turns out he wasn’t even aware of the anti-Semitic chants the Austrian crowd had offered. In fairness to the Austrian fans though, it must really suck to lose 3-2, at home, in a Champions League qualifying match to a bunch of Jews.

Obama and the Jews

Has he lost support over Israel?

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President Obama last week.(Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow considered the recent Pew finding that 33 percent of American Jews identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, which is significantly higher than in 2008 and 2006. Blow concludes that President Obama has alienated some members of this constituency by “having taken a hard rhetorical stance with Israel, while taking ‘special time and care on our relationship with the Muslim world,’ as Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, put it in June.” It is a pretty sloppy column: There are several problems with it, the chief one being that it fails to mention that this is an unusually Republican year overall, and the only weird thing would be if that weren’t reflected in the (still overwhelmingly Democratic) Jewish numbers.

Eric Alterman has a nice response: (more…)

Rabbi on the Fringe

Hasidic tale gets updated for the stage

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Yehuda Hyman in The Mad 7.(Frank Wojciechowski)

Every August, the Fringe NYC arts festival does the great service of bringing hundreds of new shows to downtown stages during an otherwise-dead season. While a few of the productions have larger aspirations, hoping to catch a producer’s eye for a future run in a bigger house, most are decidedly non-mainstream fare: Some of the titles at this month’s festival include Amsterdam Abortion Survivor, Headscarf and the Angry Bitch, and Love in the Time of Swine Flu. (“And the Tony goes to … .”)

In the midst of all these hip new offerings, though, you’ll find something (at least partly) old and traditional: The Mad 7, a one-man show inspired by The Seven Beggars by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, the legendary Hasidic storyteller who died in 1810 (and whose biography, by Rodger Kamenetz, is due out this fall from Nextbook Press).

“Nachman was definitely a Fringe performer in his time,” Yehuda Hyman, who wrote and performs The Mad 7, told The Scroll. “He went against the establishment. He was untraditional, adventurous, and somewhat outrageous. Besides all that, he would occasionally disappear from his followers and show up in another town in costumed disguise, pretending to be someone else. What could be more Fringe?” (more…)

Frank’s Favorite Tree Is Gone

Storm fells Amsterdam chestnut

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The view of the tree from the Annex attic.(AP)

Earlier today, a storm knocked down the so-called “Anne Frank tree” in Amsterdam. The horse-chestnut tree, which lived to approximately 170, had already suffered from fungus and moth infestation; a judge stayed an order to remove it in 2007 following a popular outcry.

Fans will recall that Anne could view the tree from the Annex. “Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs,” she wrote, “from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

Because this was clearly your next question, “tree” or “trees” is mentioned in In the Aeroplane Over the Sea three times: (more…)

The New Anti-Semitism, Continued

Park51’s Khan sees resonance with Islamophobia

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(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf (who himself was profiled in the New York Times this weekend), compared opposition to her Cordoba Initiative’s plans for an Islamic center in lower Manhattan to “a metastasized anti-Semitism.” She added, “That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned.”

Separately, contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg notes, “Anti-Muslim sentiment in America today has many of the hallmarks of the anti-Semitism of yesteryear. American Jews should be able to see that.”

One American Jew who did see that was Daniel Luban, writing in Tablet Magazine last week about “The New Anti-Semitism”:

Many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified

Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism [Ben Smith]
What Is ‘The Seed of Islam’? [Atlantic]
Related: The New Anti-Semitism [Tablet Magazine]
For Imam In Muslim Center Furor, a Hard Balancing Act [NYT]

Today on Tablet

Eat and love but don’t pray, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall takes the film Eat Pray Love (and the book on which it’s based) to task for its misuse of prayer as a feel-good solution to your problems. Today’s Vox Tablet covers fin de siècle Russian-Jewish composers who attempted to create a Jewish national music inspired by the folk stuff coming out of the Pale of Settlement. Josh Lambert offers his weekly column on forthcoming Jewish books. The Scroll, suffice to say, won’t be seeing the Julia Roberts movie.

Direct Talks, Next Month

What they’ll talk about when they talk about peace

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Clinton and envoy George Mitchell announce the direct talks Friday.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Few issues more reliably provoke cynicism than the Mideast peace process. After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last Friday afternoon—yes, a Friday afternoon in August; a few of the least paid-attention-to hours in the entire year—that direct talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas would take place in Washington, D.C., beginning on September 2, with the goal of reaching a comprehensive deal within one year (!), it did not take long for most commentators to respond with, as New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner put it, “an almost audible shrug.” And that’s if the talks happen! Abbas said yesterday that he would not abide them if the West Bank construction freeze—currently scheduled to expire in the final week of September—is not extended.

Which is a good segue to the causes behind the cynicism. Chiefly, it is this: Right now, it is very near impossible to conceive of a deal that would both contain all the usual Israeli demands—no right of return, of course, but also at the very least land-swaps, potentially East Jerusalem, and, according to Netanyahu yesterday, a demilitarized Palestinian state—and be something that Abbas, who is old (and sick ?) and whose Fatah party can barely hang onto power as it is, could sign without prompting a popular reaction in which the more radical elements of Palestinian society (see: Hamas) are put in a good position to take over; which is something in turn that Israel and its American sponsors will justifiably not permit. (more…)

Daybreak: Melting Point

Plus the Islamic center around the world, and more in the news

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President Abbas last Friday.(Atef Safadi/AFP/Getty Images)

• President Abbas threatened to end the announced direct peace talks if the West Bank construction freeze is lifted, as it is currently scheduled to be in late September. [AP/LAT]

• Iran unveiled a new long-range unmanned bomber drone, which President Ahmadinejad called a potential “ambassador of death.” [NYT]

• Iran’s Russia-built Bushehr nuclear reactor will be fully ready in two to three months. The United States would prefer it hadn’t been built, but at the same time doesn’t consider it a big deal. [Laura Rozen]

• The Park51 debate is working at cross-purposes with post-9/11 U.S. efforts at image-building in the Islamic world, with many Muslims worldwide wondering why the prospect of a mosque near Ground Zero bothers people so much. [LAT]

• What does the new Gaza City mall symbolize? Well, that depends on whom you ask. [NYT]

• What the gigantic, newly discovered offshore natural gas deposits mean for Israel. [NYT]

Sundown: Is Iran Ready To Deal?

Plus Allen is back and more Jewish than ever, and more

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Former Sen. George Allen.(Wikipedia)

• President Ahmadinejad hinted he may compromise with the West: Give up high-grade (e.g., weapons-quality) fuel enrichment in exchange for lower-grade fuel for a reactor. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• How the Flotilla Fiasco proved dialectically useful, opening up an opportunity for the diplomacy that culminated in today’s announcement of direct talks. [Ben Smith]

• As part of his rehabilitation tour, former Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia)—who was felled by the infamous “macaca” remark—described his exploration into his North African Jewish roots. [JTA]

• Israel formally complained to the U.N. about a Lebanon-sponsored ship set to sail for Gaza Sunday with activists onboard. [Haaretz]

• Some radical Muslims despise the Park51 project. In fact, to them it is such an evil thing that, yup, guess whose fault it really is. [Pajamas Media]

• Your weekend reading assignment is this really long and provocative blogpost that has been making the rounds, on why some segments of European society have such a problem with Israel. [Jerusalem Letters]

A kosher taco truck featuring brisket and latke? Los Angeles, you win this round.

‘These Jews Wailing Away With Their Songs’

Your Vox Tablet preview

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(Eric Molinsky)

This week on Vox Tablet, host Sara Ivry talks to history professor James Loeffler about the place of music in the lives of Russian Jews, and of Jews in Russian music, at the turn of the last century. Long story short, Jews figured prominently, and music brought together not only Russian Jews and Christians, but also cosmopolitan Jews and their less well-heeled brethren, as evidenced by this anecdote about the composer Anton Rubinstein:

Is There A New Understanding on Iran?

The U.S. and Israel hash it out through articles

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A satellite image of construction near Qom, Iran.(NYT)

Today, the Times reported that the United States has persuaded Israel that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons for at least one year; that there will be ample warning before the “breakout” actually occurs; and, therefore, there is no need to consider a military strike as early as the beginning of 2011, as Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg had reported in a story last week. “We think that they have roughly a year dash time,” says Obama’s top nuclear adviser. “A year is a very long period of time.” The article argues that Israeli officials have genuinely bought these claims, at least to an extent, thereby lowering the chances of an attack within the next year.

In addition to reassuring Israelis on both the general time-frame and the advance warning Israel will receive—officials believe, for example, that it would take weeks, perhaps months, for Iran to go nuclear even after (publicly) kicking international inspectors out—the administration is arguing that sanctions and sabotage are working well. (Indeed, a great subplot to the article is the between-the-lines implication that we are basically sabotaging the shit out of Iran—“The public explanation by American officials is that the centrifuges are inefficient and subject to regular breakdowns,” the Times hints. Remember that forestalling the program through covert sabotage is probably the ideal outcome here.)

Goldberg notes that the Times story basically confirms his reporting. What may have changed in the intervening week or so is that “The top leaders of Israel are increasingly convinced that Obama means what he says when he says he is ‘determined’ to stop Iran’s nuclear program.” (Which makes sense: A key argument Goldberg offers is that, even if you don’t think Obama cares all that much about Israel or Iran specifically, he is a massive believer in nonproliferation, and the first rule of nonproliferation is: No new members of the club.) (more…)

The Things A Guy’ll Do To Get Elected

Photo of the day

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New York State Senator Kevin S. Parker in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Although it was the first time the Senator was introduced to this tradition,” reports Ditmas Park Blog, “the senator took the hollowed horn of the ram and with no rehearsal was able to blow consecutive blasts as a pro. Those gathered were surprised and amazed at the Senator’s talent.”

Poll Finds Jews Trending GOP

Though vast majority are still Democrats

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President Obama yesterday, on his way to the Vineyard.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

I argued yesterday that, as the midterm elections approach, the Israel issue is not seen as being broadly resonant. However, there is no reason it wouldn’t remain resonant within the Jewish community. In fact, the big new Pew poll—the same one that reported that 18 percent of Americans incorrectly believe President Obama is Muslim—found that 33 percent of American Jews identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, which is way up from 26 percent in 2006 and way, way up from 20 percent in 2008 (the year roughly 22 percent of Jews voted for Republican candidate John McCain).

Is this the beginning of a trend? Is it significant even to the midterm elections? Ron Kampeas is skeptical. Though Pew polled over 3000 people, only 60 identified as Jewish, and, according to Kampeas, “mainstream pollsters regard numbers below 250 respondents as unreliable.” On the other hand, that 60 figure represents two percent of the overall sample, closely reflecting Jews’ proportion of the population. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Keret and son, Hebrew priestesses, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Etgar Keret discusses the Ten Commandments with his four-year-old on a hot Tel Aviv day. Jeremy Gillick profiles Kohenet, a woman-based movement seeking to assert its stake in the feminine divinity and earthier roots of Judaism. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz finds that shame works best when it’s self-induced. The Scroll whole-heartedly agrees.

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