Shalala Was Detained at Ben Gurion

Former top official is vocal opponent of boycotts

Shalala in 2007.(Stephanie Kuykendal/Getty Images)

When President Clinton made her his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala became the first Arab-American member of a presidential cabinet. That background as well as her formidable résumé in academia—she was the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin (go Badgers!) and is currently the president of the University of Miami—gave her massive credibility when, last month, she traveled to Israel and spoke out strongly against Israeli boycotts. “Whether it’s disinvestment or a boycott against Israeli academics,” Shalala, the daughter of Maronite Lebanese, said then, “it’s inappropriate and not worthy of any educational institution.”

Given all this, maybe she should have been greeted a little more hospitably? Shalala is now claiming that, despite the fact that her host, the American Jewish Congress, had notified authorities ahead of time who she was, she was detained and questioned intensively for over two hours upon her arrival at Ben Gurion Airport last month, apparently because of her Arab last name.

It is not clear if the Israeli government has since offered an apology; certainly, Shalala is owed one.

American VIP Humiliated at Airport [JPost]
Related: ‘There Will Never Be a Boycott of Israel’ [JPost]

How To Build a $100 Million Islamic Center

Legal hurdles cleared; but where’s the money coming from?

Yesterday’s Cordoba Initiative event.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Left to scrapping together futile legal challenges, opponents of the Islamic center to be located near Ground Zero are turning to this query: Will it receive support from extremist organizations? Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official, informed potential financiers earlier this week that anyone who partners with Cordoba House “needs to know there is going to be a real stigma.” Even supportive groups refer to the cost. “With a $100 million price tag,” David Harris, the American Jewish Committee Director, asks, “what are the exact sources of funding?”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan are the couple behind the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative, the latter of which held a noon event yesterday flaunting its supporters, many of them Jewish. The Cordoba Initiative is not wealthy. As of 2008, according to tax files, its net assets were $18,255. ASMA has deeper pockets, with an annual intake of nearly $1 million, according to its 2009 filing [pdf]. It received substantial grants from the United Nations Population Fund, a Dutch Fund for gender equality, as well as standard U.S. philanthropy groups. Nearly half of its funding, though, comes from the Qatari government. (The building was actually purchased by SoHo Properties, a private real estate company run by Sharif el-Gamal, a congregant of the imam.)

This obviously leaves the center well short of its ambitious fundraising goal. Oz Sultan, a spokesman for the new nonprofit that will take charge of the fundraising effort, called Park51, told me that fundraising efforts were “super-nascent right now.” Funds will arrive, he said, “from a variety of different sources,” including grants, bond issues, and private contributions. Arts funding are a possibility, he shared, noting Park51′s aspirations to create a city structure on par with the Guggenheim. “There’s not going be minarets,” he added. (more…)

Today on Tablet

A new justice, arming Lebanon, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, David E.Y. Sarna explores how newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan could apply the way Jewish law treats precedent to an American jurisprudence in need of careful evolution. Yoav Fromer reports legitimate Israeli fears that the hundreds of millions of dollars in weaponry the United States has given to Lebanon’s central governmetn could be used directly against Israel or even fall into the wrong (see: Hezbollah’s) hands. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz summons Isaiah to condemn the wickedness of the Israeli decision to deport 400 children on the grounds of illegal immigration. The Scroll is unhappy at August’s track record for having wars start during it.

A Yidisher Pop

Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie, and a lesson in Yiddish


Missed our earlier installments? Click here for the “A Yidisher Pop” homepage.

This week’s installment is about curse words, countdowns, and criminal behavior. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

חנעוודיק ווען ער איז אין טעלעוויזיע, אוּן ברוּטאַל אין פּריוואַטן לעבן. אין 36 שעה ווערט ער אַ מענטש? אַן אַקטיאָר!

Transliteration: Kheynevdik ven er iz in televizye, un brutal in privatn lebn. In 36 sho vert er a mentsh? An aktyor!

Meaning: Charming on TV, and brutal in private life. He’ll become a mentsh in 36 hours? It’s an act!


Daybreak: U.S. Considers Syria Crack-Down

Plus opponents go to court, Mavi Marmara goes home, and more in the news

The Mavi Marmara is tugged out of Haifa harbor.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Obama administration may request a “special inspection” of Syria’s nuclear sites, which could leave it vulnerable to significant sanctions. [WSJ]

• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren takes to the op-ed page to note the recent attacks on Israel and insist that it will defend itself but is also ready to make peace. [WP]

• Ukrainian authorities arrested an Israeli for allegedly ringleading a $40 million organ-smuggling operation. [Haaretz]

• Newly leaked documents demonstrate that Iran is continuing its non-peaceful nuclear program. [AP and Reuters/Haaretz]

• An outfit that was founded by right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson filed a petition in New York court to overturn the Landmarks Preservation Commision’s Cordoba House decision. [JPost]

• The infamous Mavi Marmara is on its way back to Turkey. [NYT]

Also, in case you’d forgotten, the Supreme Court received the eighth Jew in its history.

Sundown: Poor Pre-Flotilla Planning

Plus Stoudemire, Salita, Youkilis, and non-sports news


• An IDF commander reportedly told Israeli lawmakers that the military is responsible for planning blunders leading up to the flotilla raid. [Haaretz]

• After meeting with Saudi Arabia’s king, President Abbas reiterated that he will agree to direct peace talks on the condition of a total West Bank settlement freeze; the current freeze is set to expire next month. [Haaretz]

• British rock act Gorillaz cancelled an appearance in Tel Aviv—implicitly in protest of the flotilla raid—but subsequently played a show in Syria. WTF, yo? [The Arty Semite]

• Confirmed, if it wasn’t before: Amar’e Stoudemire is not rabbinically Jewish. [WSJ]

• What boxer Dmitriy Salita has left to prove. [Kaplan’s Korner]

• Boston Red Sox first basemen Kevin Youkilis, one of baseball’s top Jewish sluggers, is reportedly out for the season with a torn hand ligament. [Baseball Nerd, a.k.a. Keith Olbermann’s baseball blog]

This movie looks like a significantly more shameless version of Munich. And yet maybe awesome?

Justice Kagan

The Supreme Court gets its eighth Jewish member

Justice Elena Kagan.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate has just voted to confirm Elena Kagan, Barack Obama’s first solicitor general, to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. She will be the third current Jewish justice and the eighth in the High Court’s history. She will also be the fourth woman ever to be a Supreme Court Justice (and the third on the current court).

In an essay published this afternoon in Tablet Magazine, David E.Y. Sarna argues that Kagan’s Jewish background—and specifically her (somewhat controversial) reverence for Israel judge Aharon Barak—could provide the basis for a welcome approach to precedent as a living, evolving body of jurisprudence:

It is Jewish law’s inherent elasticity and flexibility—bounded by the Torah but expressed in the freewheeling chaos of ongoing study—that has enabled Jewish law to renew itself and remain relevant after thousands of years. This might work in American law, as well.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan Confirmed by Senate [USA Today]
Related: Law Practice [Tablet Magazine]

Generous Jews

Nearly half of ‘pledge’ billionaires are MOTs

Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

A few good billionaires, prodded by their capi di tutti capi Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, have pledged to leave at least half of their estates to charities. Let’s count the Jews!

Number of billionaires (or billionaire couples) who have taken the pledge: 40 (including, among the non-Jews, ultra-Catholic and ultra-conservative Tom Monaghan; Barron Hilton; T. Boone Pickens; and, perhaps out of guilt for The Phantom Menace, George Lucas).

Jews among them: Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Eli and Edythe Broad; Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg (yes, she is too); Larry Ellison; Joan and Irwin Jacobs; George Kaiser; Ken and Elaine Langone*; Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest; Lorry I. Lokey; Alfred E. Mann; Bernie and Billi Marcus; Bernard and Barbro Osher; Ron Perelman; David M. Rubenstein; Herb and Marion Sandler; Jim and Marilyn Simons; Jeff Skoll; Sanford and Joan Weill; Shelby White (widow of Leon Levy).

Total Jews: 19.

So almost half. Yasher Koach to them all!

*Couldn’t confirm, but they “have made major commitments to a new Jewish Life and Learning/Human Tolerance and Understanding fund” at Bucknell.

Pledge To Give Away Half Gains Billionaires Adherents [NYT]

Iranian Site Denies Holocaust, With Cartoons

Plus A’jad’s mysterious firecracker and a warning of war

An image from the Website.(Open Salon)

You probably won’t get it to load—which is good, in its way—but a new Website put out by an Iranian cultural foundation (apparently not affiliated with the government) contains a comic-book history, originally drawn in 2008, in which the Holocaust, “the great lie,” did not happen. Specifically, according to the site, the Holocaust is a lie perpetuated by the Jews, a device “by which the Palestine occupier Zionists have justified their occupying of Palestine and lots of their crimes for years.” Additionally, its depictions of Jews are themselves anti-Semitic caricatures (as you can see).

You can read Yad Vashem’s condemnation here. You can view some of the images here.

Weird stuff is going on with Iran right now. Earlier this week, someone reportedly attempted to kill Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though the president himself claims that the explosion near him was in fact a firecracker.

And on Tuesday, a group of ex-intelligence professionals calling themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity wrote President Obama warning him of Israel’s allegedly imminent plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. “Israel might mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran,” the letter, which also cited “the Likud lobby,” asserts.

Iranian Website Mocks Holocaust ‘Lie’ [JPost]
‘Obama Misplaced Trust in Netanyahu’ [JPost]

ADL Suggests Anti-Bullying Measures

Picks its battles wisely, for a change


In time for next week’s Federal Bullying Prevention Summit, in Washington, D.C., the Anti-Defamation League announced that it has compiled recommendations for lawmakers and the executive branch to adopt in order to play an active role in combating bullying. These include generalized notions like formulating a model anti-bullying policy to specific, up-to-date ideas like educating parents and children about Internet literacy in an effort to curb cyberbullying. (Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall and Liel Leibovitz had a heated debate about cyberbullying last month in Tablet Magazine.)

This is all great. My additional point being, of course, in the wake of the Cordoba House kerfuffle, that I hope the ADL remembers what its mandate is: In its words, to “counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.” There are still plenty of important issues—like that of bullying and cyberbullying—on which it deserves to remain an influential voice. (Whether Abraham Foxman should retain the privilege of harnessing that voice is a different question.)

ADL Offers Recommendations for Upcoming Federal Bullying Prevention Summit [ADL]
Earlier: Foxman Keeps Digging

Today on Tablet

Auslander has a visitor, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Shalom Auslander comes face-to-face with the implications of the Rotem Bill, to worrying (and hilarious) effect. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand profiles cellist Maya Beiser and pianist Matthew Herskowitz, both of whom are inspired by examples past and present of Jews and non-Jews living in peaceful co-existence. First they came for Auslander; will they next come for The Scroll?

Ethiopian Cabbage

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’


We begin this week where we left off last week: L’affaire purée. “I had no idea Ed had pea purée,” Alex Reznik, the thief and one of two Jewish cheftestants, says. This is a lie. He really is daring those karma police. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. Now I feel good—I won the last challenge. I want to get out there, I want to cook.”

And Ed, whose purée was (probably) stolen? “I’m not angry about the pea purée, I’m just confused. Did somebody take it or throw it away? I’m perplexed.” Dude: Alex took it. And won. But he won primarily on the strength of his impeccably cooked salmon.

“When you watch Alex cook,” Kenny observes early on, “it’s like he’s throwing darts at a wall, and it doesn’t work. I think he’s probably the weakest one right now.” This we shall see. (more…)

Daybreak: U.N. Brokers Israel-Lebanon Sitdown

Plus Obama tries (again) to engage Iran, and more in the news

President Obama earlier this week.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

• U.N. peacekeepers convened a rare three-way meeting with Israel and Lebanon in an effort to ratchet down tensions after Tuesday’s deadly skirmish. [WP]

• Seeing an opportunity in effective sanctions and technical delays, President Obama is again trying to engage Iran. [WP]

• A Polish court upheld Uri Brodsky’s extradition to Germany. Brodsky, an alleged Mossad agent, is accused of fraudulently procuring a German passport for one of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassins. [Haaretz]

• Diplomacy-wise, Israel and Turkey have seen far better days. Economically, they remain strong and important partners for each other. [NYT]

• A sad, panoramic sketch of the shrinking of the Dead Sea. [NYT]

• Reginald Levy, the pilot of the plane hijacked by Black September in 1972, died at 88. He received a hero’s welcome after Israeli commandos (led by Ehud Barak) stormed the plane and rescued the passengers,. [NYT]

Sundown: U.S. Accuses Lebanon of Provocation

Plus Hitch’s cancer diary, and more

Christopher Hitchens.(VF)

• After initially taking a neutral stance on yesterday’s skirmish, the U.S. State Department has condemned Lebanon’s “totally unjustified and deliberate” attack on Israeli soldiers. [Ynet]

• The Arab world’s opinion of President Obama has decreased sharply in the past year, according to a new Saban Center poll. [Laura Rozen]

• Why Israel was not behind the attempt on Ahmadinejad’s life: An argument for the Iranian president’s dialectical utility. [JPost]

• Tablet Magazine contributor Christopher Hitchens writes about his cancer and chemotherapy. [VF]

• The tastefully named Marc Jacobs is designing a new plus-size line, leading Margarita Korol to hope that “zaftig is the new black.” [Jewcy]

• James Besser reads the tea leaves and predicts that the American Jewish Congress truly is on its way out. [Political Insider]

Looking to lower your blood pressure? Onion News Network has the answer:

Overcome Stress By Visualizing It As A Greedy, Hook-Nosed Race Of Creatures

What Happened in the North

Lebanon’s government provoked deadly skirmish

An Israeli tank prunes a tree today in the same spot as yesterday.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Image)

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post identified Jordan, not Lebanon, in the sub-headline. That was an error.

Yesterday morning saw the biggest and deadliest Israeli-Lebanese skirmish since the 2006 war—the death toll included two Lebanese soldiers, one Lebanese journalist, and one senior Israeli reserves officer—and 36 hours later, things are nowhere near back to normal. Notably, Hezbollah forces were not directly involved; this was between Lebanon and Israel. Also notably, Lebanon started it. (Don’t believe me? Ask Stephen Walt.) The IDF has alleged that the provocation was “planned,” presumably in an effort to distract the world from the impending results of the international probe into the 2005 Syrian-backed assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Yesterday morning, Israel notified U.N. peacekeepers (UNIFIL) of the planned pruning of a cypress tree in Israeli territory but on the other side of the border fence with the aid of a crane stretching over the fence (see picture). Again, to be clear: The U.N. has reported that the tree is on the Israeli side of the Blue Line—the actual border—but on the other side of the border fence, and “Israel has every right to be on the north side of the fence” (the IDF has since occupied the zone, generally about 20 yards wide, between the fence and the border). Lebanon asked for a delay in the pruning, to which Israel agreed. All of this is run-of-the-mill: “Once a week, the army prunes bushes and trees on the border in coordination with UNIFIL, which coordinates with the Lebanese,” said an Israeli diplomatic spokesperson.

At some point, though, the Lebanese—who say the Israelis want the tree down because it is hindering their observation abilities—asserted that the tree was on Lebanese territory (Lebanon disputes parts of the U.N.-enforced Blue Line), fired warning shots, and then shot the dead Israeli commander and another Israeli soldier, who was seriously wounded. According to the IDF, the snipers aimed not at the soldiers doing the pruning but at those who appeared to be in command. Israel responded with tank artillery; Lebanon responded to that with a rocket-propelled grenade; Israel responded to that with further shelling and helicopter strikes. (more…)

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