Obama, Dems Tout Pro-Israel Bona Fides

No effort is made to challenge prevailing assumptions

Netanyahu and Obama in the Oval Office earlier this month.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After a year-and-a-half during which the United States has enjoyed at best a bumpy relationship with Israel, will Jewish voters bestow the same love on Democrats running in November’s midterm elections as they did on President Obama in November 2008? To try to get a “yes” on that, Obama and House Democrats have leaked a series of talking points that purport to show that Democrats and Obama have been just as good for Israel as the previous administration—if not better!

Many have said that the notion of “support for Israel” should be redefined because, sometimes, the way for the United States to be Israel’s best friend is to criticize it; that, in the case of American backing of Israel, there is such a thing as loving not wisely, but too well. This is, broadly speaking, the J Street line: We are “pro-Israel,” it says, but part of that involves telling Israel that, say, continued settlement beyond the Green Line, combined with demographic trends, is actually bad for Israel.

Certainly you could find plenty of people to agree with that notion. But these Democratic talking points indicate that the alternate, tough-love definition of “pro-Israel” has not penetrated the broader domestic political consciousness. The Obama administration and national Democrats are still playing by the old “pro-Israel” rules, which almost certainly favor the other side. As far as the midterms are concerned, the government that supports Israel best supports it most. (more…)

Flying the Friendly Skies With Clinton

William Daroff’s excellent adventure

Clinton on the shuttle yesterday.(William Daroff)

William Daroff, an FOTM and the Vice President for Public Policy of The Jewish Federations of North America, had a pretty awesome flight yesterday, from the look of his Twitter (via Laura Rozen). He boarded what appears to be the 6 pm National-to-LaGuardia shuttle; secured the foursquare mayoralty (if you don’t know what that means, you’re best left in the dark) of both the National runway and, apparently, of the airspace above National Airport; he then announced to his nearly 4,000 (!) Twitter followers that there is a VIP on his flight; and then, upon landing, once no longer at risk of Tweeting something that would land him in a Secret Service black site in Romania, he revealed: The VIP was Secretary of State Clinton, a.k.a. MOTB (Mother of the Bride), and she was flying up to the City to continue up to Westchester to make arrangements for her daughter’s wedding to the tastefully named Marc Mezvinsky this weekend. (Bonus for Daroff: “we discussed #EU action today strengthening #Iran sanctions.” I’m super-jeal!)

Reported Daroff, “Clinton was accompanied by her mother and a bevy of staff. She read WP, NYT, SkyMall, & the ‘Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source.’” Plus a book: How To Be The Mother of a Bride Who Has Just Converted to Judaism. Just kidding about that last one! Anyway, Twitter: It’s what’s for dinner.

Today on Tablet

Cohen and Shteyngart team up to drink, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, novelists and contributing editors Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen join editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse for smoked fish, alcohol, and a Vox Tablet podcast not to be missed. Guess which group had disproportionate influence on music during the czarist era in Russia? Adam Kirsch reviews the new book that shows it was the Jews. The Scroll is sad it wasn’t invited to the Brighton Beach drinkathon.

Jews for ‘Sister Act’

Broadway show will find non-churchgoing fans

Whoopi Goldberg in the original ‘Sister Act.’(IMDB)

When Sister Act came out in 1992, a generation of Jews who would never step foot in a church learned songs such as “Hail Holy Queen.” Church culture became cool, and before you knew it, kinderlach were requesting Sister Act at slumber parties. Now, when Sister Act arrives on Broadway next spring, a generation of young Jewish adults will relive their childhood explorations of church music.

For the uninitiated, Sister Act tels the tale of Deloris Van Cartier, originally played by the EGOT-winning Whoopi Goldberg. After witnessing her lover and manager take out a snitch, the night club songstress must get herself to the nunnery via police protection. And so Sister Mary Clarence is born. Hilarity ensues as she adjusts to the habit while bringing tight beats to the church choir and inspiring the community to wake up and pay attention (oops, that’s from Sister Act 2, the one starring one Lauryn Hill.)

Mor Rossler, 27, watches Sister Act whenever it is on the tube. (more…)

Daybreak: Europe Moves Against Iran

Plus Yoffie speaks out, and more in the news


• Following the Americans, the European Union instituted tougher-than-ever economic and energy sanctions against Iran. [LAT]

• West Bank settlers yesterday protested the demolition of a single home. [NYT]

• Russia, in many ways one of Iran’s prime patrons, has seen its relations with the Islamic Republic deteriorate significantly since it voted for sanctions at the U.N. Security Council. [NYT]

• Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Reform movement, expresses bewilderment at why some in Israel, led by David Rotem, would push their conversion bill at a time like this. [JTA]

• Roger Cohen wonders why we haven’t heard more about the lives and deaths of the nine flotilla activists, including the one American, and wonders whether, say, a Jewish kid caught in some crossfire would receive the same non-attention. [NYT]

• Soon after the United States raised the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic status from “bureau” to “delegation,” France went a step farther, raising it from “delegation” to “mission,” which includes an ambassador. [NYT]

Sundown: U.S. Pressuring Abbas on Talks

Plus Oliver Stone on Jewish media dominance, and more


• In a leaked memo, U.S. diplomats threatened to withdraw strong support for a Palestinian state if President Abbas does not quickly accede to direct talks. [AP/Haaretz]

• Director Oliver Stone blamed “Jewish domination of the media” for preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust and “the most powerful lobby in Washington” (hint: Not the AARP) for “messing up” U.S. foreign policy. [JTA]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu compared the U.N. Human Rights Council’s flotilla probe to the Goldstone committee. [Ynet]

• Michiko Kakutani is famous for being harsh on novels, so if she calls a new one “wonderful” and “supersad, superfunny, superaffecting,” you may want to consider reading it. [NYT]

• This story is a week old, but depressing enough to be flagged: The Hamas operative who shot and killed an Israeli security agent last month has a daughter who, a couple weeks before that, had had a tumor removed from her eye at an Israeli hospital with funds from an Israeli organization. [Ynet]

• A conservative synagogue in Olney, Maryland—a town in heavily Jewish Montgomery County (whence comes your faithful blogger)—was vandalized with swastikas and slogans. [Vos Iz Neias?]

Oliver Stone may think the Jews are an insidious influence on the body politic. But what does he think of the Magic Loogie Theory?

Against the Israeli Boycott

Jacob Weisberg and Johnny Rotten make common cause

Johnny Rotten.(Robert Yager/Independent)

Slate Group Editor Jacob Weisberg makes the case against the Israeli cultural boycott:

That supporters of this boycott seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe—or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that systematically violate human rights—underscores their bad faith. Boycotters are not trying to send the specific message, “We object to your settlement policy in the West Bank.” What they’re saying is, “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.” Like the older Arab economic boycott of Israel, which dates back to the 1940s, the cultural boycott is a weapon designed not to bring peace but to undermine the country.

A couple weeks ago, former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten announced that he would not cancel a gig in Israel next month despite hate mail he has received*. Rotten expanded on his stance recently: (more…)

And Thanks For All The Fish

Tomorrow’s Vox Tablet today

(Eric Molinsky)

In tomorrow’s podcast, Vox Tablet brings you a conversation among editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse and the authors of two of our favorite summer novels, contributing editors Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen. Though stylistically quite different, Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and Cohen’s Witz both offer dystopic visions of the future in which the things they love, whether literature and passion (Shteyngart) or rigorous Jewish life and thought (Cohen), are on the verge of extinction. Their wide-ranging discussion, conducted over drinks and smoked fish at a down-on-its-heels Brighton Beach establishment on a sweltering summer day, covers such topics as the pending collapse of the U.S. empire, rhinoplasty, crucifixion, and, here, Shteyngart’s declaration that if we all get is some delicious fish to eat and a few other material pleasures, well, that would be enough:

My Hagee Problem—And Ours

Why the enemy of our enemy isn’t always our friend

Hagee in Jerusalem in March.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

In The Weekly Standard, Jennifer Rubin writes a praise-poem to Christian Zionists, and specifically to the Rev. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith gave the group much more nuanced treatment a few months ago; I don’t think I can give Rubin’s article a similarly moderate hearing, as she essentially glosses over CUFI’s theological underpinnings, which include the belief that the Second Coming depends on Jews inhabiting the Holy Land.

But just as important as what Rubin fails to mention about evangelical Christians’ Zionism is what she fails to mentions about Hagee. Jonathan Chait reminds us that Hagee first entered national consciousness in early 2008 when he endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for president, only to have the record show that Hagee had once said that Hitler was God’s agent for punishing those Jews who did not do the sensible thing and move to Palestine, as the Bible had demanded. (more…)

Trayf That Isn’t Trayf

Take the bug, leave the pig

Yup, he’s kosher!(Wikipedia)

When you look at lists of kosher foods, invariably nestled alongside the usual suspects (cow, chicken, fish with scales), you see some wild-cards: Gazelle, for example, and addax, whatever addax is (looks a lot like gazelle). Last week in Jerusalem, some folks cooked up a special feast featuring exotic-but-kosher animals, prepared under the laws of kashrut, and had themselves quite a time. Swordfish! Buffalo! Grasshopper? Hrmm. Maybe just let us know when you find the kosher versions of lobster and bacon.

On the Menu: Kosher Guineafowl, Locust [Ynet]

Punk in the Beerlight

David Berman and his father’s sins

David Berman last night.(Joanna Yas)

In the era of swift downloads, even “indie” musicians work tirelessly to be seen. They tour, collaborate, and reunite; they pitch songs for commercials and hit the festival circuit. But not David Berman. The former frontman for legendary, and genuinely indie, outfit Silver Jews is notoriously reclusive, so much that his reading last night at NYU was billed a “very rare appearance” and promptly sold out. A published poet and cartoonist, Berman was capping a summer writer’s conference run by Open City publishers. But those expecting only poetry were perplexed. Before us stood an afflicted son who outlined his quixotic effort to bring down his estranged, “somewhat satanic” father.

Bearded for years, Berman arrived at the reading clean-shaven, with a powder-blue suit jacket and cropped hair salted gray. (When he goes downtown, he no longer wears a corduroy suit.) He moved comfortably and deliberately at the podium, weaving his poems, uninterrupted by introductions, in with a deeply personal narrative. He spoke about quitting—”I always saw myself as a quitter”—various childhood pursuits, then music, then writing. Some in the audience surely considered other unsaid things Berman quit: A disabling drug addiction and depression. Seven years ago, he went clean after a suicide attempt and embraced Judaism anew. (You can hear him discuss his music and faith in this Vox Tablet podcast, in which he also straps on a guitar and sings Walt Whitman.) (more…)

Today on Tablet

Benny Morris and Shimon Peres get together, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, in a pretty remarkable juxtaposition, famed Israeli ‘New Historian’ Benny Morris interviews Israeli President Shimon Peres. Everyone knows how to survive summer camp; parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall reveals how to survive the return from summer camp. Josh Lambert has his weekly round-up of forthcoming Jewish books of note. These include Adam Langer’s new novel The Thieves of Manhattan, of which The Scroll has a copy already, and can’t wait to read.

Sherrod Turns Pawn in All-Jewish Race

Candidate Pollak won’t dissociate from Breitbart

Shirley Sherrod last March.(Wikipedia)

Last week, conservative impresario Andrew Breitbart’s posted video of a black U.S. Department of Agriculture bureaucrat telling an NAACP gathering that she didn’t fully help a white farmer. This prompted Ag to fire her, which prompted revelations that her remarks were deliberately taken out of context, which prompted offers to rehire her and an apology from President Obama. Now, the Shirley Sherrod affair has entered this week’s news cycle in a heated U.S. Congressional race featuring two Jewish candidates.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), running for re-election, called on her opponent, Joel Pollak, to stop writing blogposts for Breitbart’s site. Yesterday, Pollak’s spokesperson announced that the Republican candidate will not accede to that demand. “Andrew used intemperate language in his debate with the NAACP, which was wrong,” Pollak said in a statement. “It was even more wrong for the White House and the NAACP to punish a woman for alleged racism without conducting a full and fair investigation.”

Pollak is the first Republican whom influential Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has ever endorsed, which to an extent has embodied how some American Jewish voters may be willing to compromise their generally Democratic politics over the Israel issue. Pollak is about as attractive as a Republican could be to a Jewish Democrat: He is Jewish and strongly pro-Israel, and believes abortion and gay marriage are issues best left to the states. At the same time, in this case he is declaring himself on the side of a debate associated with the Republican Party’s activist right wing, including the Tea Partiers. Will that turn off Jewish Democrats who may have been willing to look the other way when it came to, say, Pollak’s opposition to Obama’s health-care reform? It is barely three months till we find out.

Schakowsky Foe Disdains Call To Quit Breitbart
Earlier: Dershowitz Endorses First Ever Republican
Being Andrew Breitbart

Daybreak: Enter Barak, Bearing Messages

Plus the freeze truly will end in Sept., and more in the news

Defense heads Barak and Gates, last month.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Defense Minister Barak arrives in Washington, D.C., today. Main talking points: Current sanctions alone won’t stop Iran from getting the bomb; Israel will treat Hezbollah’s attacks as Lebanese attacks. [WP]

• Michael Hayden, final CIA director under George W. Bush, said he has personally come around to the view that a U.S. bombing of Iran “may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.” [WSJ]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed that the 10-month settlement freeze really will come to a close in September. [JPost]

• Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator has agreed to meet with the European Union’s foreign policy chief. [NYT]

• Egyptian President Mubarak canceled a planned appearance at an African Union meeting Uganda. No reason was given, which means everyone assumes he’s dying (and, let’s face it, everyone probably has a point). [JPost]

• In a rare display of civic consciousness in Los Angeles, residents of Silver Lake gathered to remember the famed neighborhood “Walking Man,” Marc Abrams. [NYT]

Sundown: Rights Council To Probe Flotilla

Plus what Mad Mel said now, and more

Mel Gibson, maybe or maybe not in costume.(IMDB)

• The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed a three-person team to investigate the flotilla raid. [Haaretz]

• Mel Gibson reportedly told the mother of his child, “I want Jew blood on my hands.” 13th-century Englishmen reported relief that Gibson has found a new target. [Huff Po]

• The 50 Most Influential Female Rabbis in America (only six appeared on Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis). My personal congratulations to Avis Miller, whose High Holiday sermons were not to be missed. [Forward]

• A reader writes in to contributing editor Jeff Goldberg: “You and your psychopathic friends at tablet magazine and commentary and aipac are criminally responsible for the actions of the israeli government.” Commentary running things? That strunz? Not in this life. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Old-school sportswriter Vic Ziegel—he covered baseball, boxing, and the ponies for New York’s Post and Daily News—died at 72. [NYT]

• Palestinian nationalism, via the Guinness Book of World Records. [IHT]

The video below promotes a Brazilian megachurch’s planned $200 million, 10,000-seat replica of the Temple—yes, as in Solomon’s Temple—in São Paulo. It is quite creepy.

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