Beinart Turning Essay Into Book

Talks to Tablet Magazine about his new project

Peter Beinart.(New America Foundation)

Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart is turning his Tumblr, Stuff Hipster Squirrels Like To Eat, into a book.

Kidding! Actually, the basis for Beinart’s new book, tentatively titled The Crisis of Liberal Zionism, is the controversial essay, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” that he published in the New York Review of Books in May. Times Books is planning a late 2011 release.

I talked to Beinart when his essay first dropped, but, intrigued by the proposed title change, I decided to call him up again.

Why the change in title? Your article focused mostly on the crisis of liberal Zionism in America. Do you expect to spend more time on the Israeli side in your book?
I think there is a crisis both in Israel and in the United States, and you can’t understand one without the other. I think a lot of the book will be about the American Jewish community. But the moral challenge only arises because liberal Zionism is in crisis in Israel. What I want to try to do is suggest how you could try to build a Zionism that will be somewhat different in Israel and in the United States, a struggle in both societies to reconcile liberal democracy and Zionism. More of the book will be about the American side, but you can’t understand the American side unless you believe liberal Zionism is in trouble. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Democracy v. liberalism in Israel, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Yoav Fromer argues that, as some have said, Israeli liberalism is on-the-ropes, but he says that its main threat is actuallly Israeli democracy. Books critic Adam Kirsch reviews two reissues of works from 100-year-old Holocaust survivor and child psychologist Hans Keilson. The Scroll hopes things on the Lebanon border do not escalate.

Landmarks Commission Clears Islamic Center

Defeat for Cordoba House opponents

Officially not landmarked.(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Well, the Anti-Defamation League’s scarcely coherent opposition was apparently not enough: This morning, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status to 45-47 Park Place, the building two blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan that is the planned spot for a new Islamic center. (Last month, Mark Bergen reported on a heated hearing in front of the Commission.) Cordoba House is one big step closer to realization.

NYC Panel OKs Building Islamic Center, Mosque Near Ground Zero [USA Today]
Earlier: Ground Zero for a Fight
ADL Comes Out Against Ground Zero Center

What Is Fayyadism?

P.M. nixes unilateral independence and bi-national state

Salam Fayyad last month.(Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

“There is not going to be a unilateral declaration of statehood,” Salam Fayyad tells The Jerusalem Post in an important new article. The notion that the Palestinian Authority can construct enough of an infrastructure to enable a unilateral declaration of independence is known, informally, as the Fayyad Plan, because in the past the Palestinian prime minister, whom no less than Israeli President Shimon Peres has called the “Palestinian Ben-Gurion,” has seemed to advocate it. Apparently not. But he does wish to change facts and minds on the ground: “A solid majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution, but only a minority believe it will actually happen,” he adds. “Our plan is to create the sense that a Palestinian state is inevitable.”

Fayyad also opposes the “one-state solution.” Instead, he is a peace process-nik: “It is something that will grow on both sides as a reality,” he argues, “creating a belief that this was inevitable through the process, a convergence of two paths.” (more…)

Daybreak: Shots Fired in the North

Plus U.N. probe reax, and more in the news

An Israeli tank near the border during today’s skirmish.(Ali Diya/AFP/Getty Images)

• Three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist were killed in an artillery exchange along Israel’s northern border; a Katyusha rocket also reportedly hit the Galilee. (Another source says only two Lebanese soldiers died.) It was the most serious military incident up there since 2006. [Ynet]

• Another diplomatic dispute between them: Turkey summoned Israel’s ambassador in response to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s comment that Turkey’s new spy chief is a “friend of Iran.” [Haaretz]

• Though it “took too long,” Israel deserves praises for cooperating with a U.N. flotilla probe, though, the New York Times worries, the panel’s mandate may be too narrow. [NYT]

• The probe’s head, former New Zealand prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, spoke about its “challenging and demanding task.” [Haaretz]

• 400 children in Israel who are essentially illegal immigrants are set for deportation, provoking a strong debate in the country. [NYT]

• Their investigation of the rocket apparently launched from Sinai yesterday demonstrates that while Israeli-Jordanian diplomatic relations have been cold, military cooperation has continued. [JPost]

Sundown: But the Cheez Doodle Lives On

Plus Uncle Sam wants your Sephardic scroll, and more


• Morrie Yohai, inventor of the Cheez Doodle, died at 90. [NY Daily News]

• Charles Freeman—the onetime controversial Obama nominee—questions why most Americans accept that Israel is a valuable strategic asset to the United States.

• Efraim Karsh argues that Arab indifference to the Palestinian cause will actually prove a boon to said cause. [NYT]

• Producers of a Sundance-screened documentary about a Nazi propaganda film are protesting its R rating, which, they worry, will prevent the film from being shown in schools. [Arts Beat]

• There is only one kaffiyeh factory left in the Palestinian territories, as cheaper imports have flooded the market and put authentic purveyors out of business. [Guardian]

• The U.S. Army is looking for a few good men. Check that, it’s looking for a Sephardic Torah. [Atlantic]

Mazel tov to James Van Der Beek, who got married to his pregnant girlfriend at the Kabbalah Center of Tel Aviv. To some, he will always be Dawson, but Varsity Blues is the best project he’s been involved in.

Peres Sparks Diplomatic Incident

Charged English anti-Semitism in Tablet Magazine; now denies it

Israeli President Shimon Peres yesterday.(Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Shimon Peres (who turns 87 today) provoked “fury” in Great Britain for saying in a magazine interview last week that Britain has a Jew problem: “In England there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment,” the 87-year-old Israeli president said. He added: “There is also anti-Semitism. There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary.” Finally, he implied that some British lawmakers have turned to anti-Israel politics to appease Muslim constituents.

Do Peres’s comments sound familiar? That is because you first read them in Tablet Magazine. (Peres is also a soon-to-be Nextbook Press author.) Israeli historian Benny Morris conducted the interview; we ran it last Monday.

Last night, Peres’s office issued a statement backtracking from his comments: “President Peres never accused the British people of anti-Semitism,” it read. “The president does not believe that British governments are motivated by anti-Semitism, nor were they in the past.” UPDATE: Benny Morris stands by every word quoted in the piece, though he does not agree with the contextualization of the passages quoted in some British newspapers. Peres nowhere said to Morris, as implied by some of the British publications, that the British were an anti-Semitic people or Britain an anti-Semitic country.

Coincidentally, we published Peres’s remarks on the same day that British Prime Minister David Cameron told a group of Turkish businessmen that Gaza was “a prison camp,” though the actual interview took place earlier. Peres “got it wrong,” according to one Conservative lawmaker, and that appeared to be the general official sentiment (though there was also assent from other quarters).

As for that interview: Maybe it demands a fresh read now, hmm? While you are on the topic, you can check out Adam Kirsch’s review of Anthony Julius’s recent book on, yes, English anti-Semitism.

Peres Calls British ‘Anti-Israeli,’ Sees U.K. Anti-Semitism [JTA]
Fury as Israel President Claims English ‘Anti-Semitic’ [Telegraph]
Peres Denies Calling British Anti-Semites [JTA]
Related: Making History [Tablet Magazine]
Albion’s Shame [Tablet Magazine]
David Ben-Gurion [Nextbook Press]

Goldberg Accused of ‘Commentary’ Mix-Up

Laughably insists he was kidding

Contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg.(

Last week, Salon reported that Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg had erroneously “referred to Commentary editor John Podhoretz as ‘the editor of Mother Jones magazine.’” Mother Jones, of course, is actually quite liberal, whereas Commentary is quite, you know, not. “This,” writer Alex Pareene concluded, is “what happens when you hire a reporter who came up without proper supervision and toilet-training.” In his defense, Goldberg claims that he was joking. Should we believe him?

After long consideration, I think that, yes, we should. Goldberg, one of the most prominent journalists on Jewish issues in the country, ultimately deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to knowing who the editor of one of the most prominent Jewish journals is. (Especially when said editor is his fellow right-wing neocon Podhoretz, with whom, I have heard, Goldberg routinely plots ways to establish “a radical rethinking of what it means to be pro-Israel” that involves condemning settlements.)

Take it from us: Goldberg may not know toilets. But Jews? Jews he knows.

Thursday Link Dump: Congrats to John Podhoretz! [Salon]

Israel Agrees to U.N. Flotilla Probe

Gambling that cooperation will produce good results

Barak and Ban last week.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel and the United Nations have effectively struck a deal whereby Israel will cooperate with a General Assembly probe into the spring’s flotilla raid. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today announced the panel and its four members: A former New Zealand prime minister; the outgoing Colombian president; and Turkish and Israeli representatives. The panel will commence August 10. (Presumably this was all discussed when Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Turtle Bay last week.)

“Israel has nothing to hide,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. “The opposite is true. It is in Israel’s national interest to ensure that the factual truth about the entire flotilla incident will be brought to light and the entire world, and that is precisely the principle we are promoting.” The United States has duly backed the deal.

This is a fascinating gamble. (more…)

Krav Maga Is the New Tae Kwan Do

IDF martial art gains popularity

Trading Karate Kicks for Martial Arts(NYT)

Trend! American children—Jewish and not—are taking Krav Maga classes. The official martial art of the Israel Defense Forces (though it actually originated in the Jewish quarter of 1930s Bratislava, which faced fascist and then Nazi intimidation), it has spread from various regional police departments to Hollywood (Ashton Kutcher recently studied it for a role) to, finally, suburbia.

A year ago, Lee Smith reported on Krav Maga for Tablet Magazine:

Where most martial arts take years of training to become proficient, Krav Maga, which translates as contact combat, was suited to the exigencies of a growing community of non-professional soldiers that needed to learn how to protect itself and fight in a hurry. Its emphasis is less on form than efficiency, and it instills a spirit of heightened aggressiveness, where practitioners are taught to attack and defend at the same time and use any available object as a weapon.

“This is not to be used if someone takes your parking space at the mall,” cautions one instructor. Well, perhaps unless said mall is in Massapequa.

Trading Karate Kicks for Martial Arts [NYT]
Related: The Good Fight

ADL Draws Fire for Cordoba House Stance

Foxman fails to reconcile group’s position, values

ADL Director Abraham Foxman.(Life)

The Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to Cordoba House, the Islamic center planned for two blocks away from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, has become news itself. J.J. Goldberg provides a nice round-up of infuriated center-left voices (though he omits contributing editor Jeff Goldberg’s and TNR’s Jonathan Chait’s).

Meanwhile, contributing editor Seth Lipsky’s New York Sun editorializes in favor of the ADL’s decision and credits prominent opponent Sarah Palin with having seichel (one of us, one of us?).

In its statement (which, as Bradley Burston notes, “sounds like unfiltered honesty”), the ADL justifies its stance with reference purely to the survivors’ interests. But whatever Abraham Foxman and the rest of the ADL’s decision-makers may believe as private citizens, the ADL’s mission is not to advocate for survivors’ rights; it is to advocate (as its mission statement says) for “democratic ideals” and “civil rights.” Given that the people behind the Cordoba House are, by the ADL’s own admission, private, law-abiding citizens going through the proper channels to try to achieve a private, Constitutionally protected goal, it is indisputable that those sworn to uphold “democratic ideals” and “civil rights” are obliged to take their side.

“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” Foxman apparently said. Okay then: If the dictates of Foxman’s conscience compel him not to align the ADL on the side of Cordoba House, then one could muster respect for that. But then the solution would be to have the ADL say nothing at all—not to harness it to go precisely against its self-declared, century-old values. To continue to promote itself and accept donations on the basis of those values would border on dishonest.

Anti-Defamation League Rebuked for Opposition to Planned Mosque at N.Y.’s Ground Zero [Haaretz]
Earlier: ADL Comes Out Against Ground Zero Center

Today on Tablet

All about kibbutzim, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, on our Vox Tablet podcast Toby Perl Freilich discusses her documentary-in-progress about the 100-year history of the kibbutz movement, and also offers the first of five video excerpts. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall reports on Jewish camps for special-needs children. Josh Lambert previews forthcoming books of interest, including a memoir about growing up the child of two shrinks. The Scroll suggests Hemingway as the antidote to such a book.

Reader, She Married Him

Yale rabbi co-officiates Chelsea Clinton’s nuptials


Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky were married in Rhinebeck, New York, Saturday in an interfaith ceremony. Rabbi James Ponet and the Rev. William Shillady (who is Methodist) co-officiated.

Ponet, a Reform rabbi, has been Yale’s Jewish chaplain for nearly 30 years. (Fun fact! He co-teaches a class, “The Family in the Jewish Tradition,” with none other than Dr. Ruth Westheimer.) Shmuel Rosner finds, in something Ponet once penned about Hanukkah, the basis for a philosophy that seems to condones intermarriage. Wrote Ponet:

Hanukkah implicitly celebrates … the capacity to sustain intimate relations with another without totally ceding your own sense of self, the ability to love without permanently merging, to be enchanted by the exquisite beauty of another without losing sight of your own charms.

And at the Forward’s Sisterhood blog, Allison Kaplan Sommer praises Ponet, who in the case of her own marriage juggled familial backgrounds (New England Reform and Jerusalem Orthodox) nearly as disparate as those of the Clintons and the Mezvinskys.

Mezvinsky’s father was brought up Orthodox, his mother Reform; he was raised Conservative.

Chelsea Clinton Marries Marc Mezvinsky in Rhinebeck, N.Y. [WP]
The Clinton Wedding and the Lesson of Hanukkah [Rosner’s Domain]
In Praise of the Rabbi Who Married Chelsea Clinton [Sisterhood]

Daybreak: Apparent Misfire Hits Jordan

Plus path to direct talks pursued, and more in the news

Jordanians put out fire from rocket in port of Aqaba.(AFP/Getty Images)

• A rocket (and possibly several) hit the Jordanian resort town of Aqaba this morning; it was probably aimed at Eilat, and probably fired from Egyptian Sinai. According to various reports, there was one death. [NYT]

• Egypt denied that any rockets were launched from its territory. [JPost]

• President Obama personally wrote to President Abbas warning that failure to accede to direct talks would cause a serious diplomatic breach. [WP]

• Now the administration is working the Israeli side for a trilateral meeting to establish a direct negotiations framework and discuss the September expiration of the settlement freeze. [Haaretz/Forward]

• Erich Steidtmann, who was under investigation for participating in massacres of Jews around Lublin, Poland, in 1943, died at 95. [NYT]

• Israel is appointing an officer to oversee efforts to try to minimize civilian casualties in combat zones. [LAT]

Sundown: Rocket Hits Ashkelon

Plus Staten Island Jew-listing, and more

Ashkelon police handle a rocket’s remains today.(David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

• A rocket from Gaza hit Ashkelon—the first in more than a year—causing damage and panic, though no casualties. [NYT]

• Staten Island’s Democratic congressman fired his communications director for leaking a list of his midterm opponent’s Jewish donors under the title, “Grimm Jewish Money Q2” (“Grimm” is the opponent’s unfortunate last name). [Politico]

• A tour of Ariel Sharon Park, a remarkable, state-of-the-art waste-management facility in Tel Aviv. [Slate]

• Tablet Magazine contributor Benny Morris discusses what is open (and what isn’t) in the Israeli archives. [Chronicle of Higher Ed.]

• Renowned NBA blogger Bethlehem Shoals (née Nathaniel Friedman) plumbs Amar’e Stoudemire’s purportedly Jewish background, and finds murky evidence both ways, and nothing dispositive. [Fanhouse]

• The FBI had been keeping a file on Howard Zinn for six decades. [FBI]

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) brings it.

By the way, given who officiated his wedding, I think it’s safe to say that Weiner will be in Rhinebeck this weekend congratulating the happy couple. We weren’t invited, but we wish them mazel tov anyway.

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