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Today on Tablet

The Jews and their magazines, a German incident, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Victor Navasky explains to new Newsweek owner Sidney Harman why it is the Jews who will be the ones who save magazines. Ze’ev Avrahami dissects an incident earlier this year in which a 16-year-old Jewish boy was beaten up in an east German town. Katie Robbins describes how she and her fiance are incorporating older and contemporary, egalitarian rituals in their upcoming wedding. The Scroll sure hopes someone saves magazines, anyway.

Amar’e Stoudemire’s Excellent Adventure

Maybe-Jewish star returns from the Holy Land

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Amar’e Stoudemire, the sporting world’s most famous maybe-Jew, departed Israel yesterday after a week-long trip. The New York Knicks power forward’s Twitter feed lets us piece together his itinerary: Arrival in Jerusalem, where he hung out with “family and friends”; the necessary Dead Sea excursion, where he was “rejuvenated”; then up to Tel Aviv (“This city reminds me of Miami”—very perceptive, Amar’e, although Miami actually has more Jews); time for a work-out; and, finally, homeward-bound.

In the meantime, we learned that he may not, technically, be Jewish after all. “His mother says there’s some Jewish blood on her side, but Amar’e is just a total student of history and had been planning a trip to Israel for awhile,” his (Jewish) agent explained. “Is it possible [that he's Jewish]? Maybe. We’re going to do some research.” Um, okay.

And then there was the interview he gave in Israel (after the jump): Amar’e Stoudemire pledging to fast on Yom Kippur, abstain from bread during Pesach, and even celebrate Shabbat (he does say that his basketball schedule may require breaches of these rituals—Tamir Goodman he ain’t). Does he come off as a bit over-earnest and out of his league? You bet. Does he seem like a fool? Absolutely not. Does one sense a Knicks-inspired publicity ploy? The cynic in me wants to, but honestly I don’t think the evidence is there. (And apparently, the Knicks are weirded out by the whole thing.) Is he, ultimately, likeable? Incredibly, and I would bet anything he is more likeable to Gentiles now, too. This is honestly one of the more quietly fascinating sports stories in some time.

Really, I don’t know exactly what to say about the whole thing except that you should read Bethlehem Shoals’s take (Shoals is the pen name of one Nathaniel Friedman, and his own background is an integral part to his essay); that keeping Amar’e Stoudemire in the Tribe is just one more reason to oppose the ultra-religious zealots currently attempting to seize control of Israeli Judaism; and that, um, well, you should really watch the interview after the jump, in which Stoudemire shows off the Star of David tattoo on his left hand and in which he has the definitive statement on LeBron James’s ditching the Cleveland Cavaliers: “There maybe could’ve been ways he could have made it a little more kosher.” OMG. (more…)

Daybreak: U.N. Confirms Israeli Side

Plus the attempt on A’jad’s life, and more in the news

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A U.N. staffer near the border.(Mahmoud Zayat/AFP/Getty Images)

• A United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon reported that Israeli soldiers had been in Israel when yesterday’s skirmish began. [NYT]

• IDF soldiers have since entered those “enclaves” that are in Israel proper but lie on the other side of the border fence in order to prevent further attacks. [JPost]

• Someone reportedly tried to assassinate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though his office is denying it. [Ynet]

• Israeli shelling of Gaza killed at least one militant. [Haaretz]

• The full Senate opened debate on Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination, which is expected to pass. [NYT]

• The death earlier this week of Morrie Yohai—the inventor of the Cheez Doodle—continues to make waves in the snack industry. [NYT]

Sundown: Israeli Officer Dies in Battle

Plus Bloomberg brings it, and more

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Michael Bloomberg speaking today.(Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

• A high-ranking IDF reserves officer was killed in this morning’s skirmish with Lebanon. I’ll have more on the fallout tomorrow. [Haaretz]

• “Part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance.” My mayor, Michael Bloomberg, gave an inspiring speech at Governors Island in support of Cordoba House. [NY Daily News]

• There is another burqa ban. But this one applies to Jewish women in the Israeli town of Bet Shemesh. And it is because the burqa is thought to imply inappropriate sexuality. Very odd. [Jezebel]

• The oldest synagogue in Washington, D.C., is being moved, whole, on a flatbed truck. Also very odd. [WP]

• The New York City subway system. For Jews. [Heeb]

• Tonight, at 9 pm, the National Geographic Channel is airing an investigation into the Dead Sea Scrolls’ authorship. If you’ll be watching Shark Week instead, this backgrounder seems to have the relevant info. [National Geographic Channel]

The time: 1992. The place: The Valley. The event: Paul Rudd emceeing a very lucky young woman’s bat mitzvah.

Paul Rudd: Bat Mitzvah DJ from Jewish Forward on Vimeo.

Foxman Keeps Digging

Claims (falsely) that ADL was taken out of context

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Memo to Abraham Foxman: Remember the first rule of holes. (For update on Foxman’s latest op-ed, see end of post.) He is bewildered at the “very painful” anger many have expressed concerning the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the Islamic center slated to be built a couple blocks from Ground Zero. Did I say “opposition”? Apparently I and everyone else misread the ADL’s statement. “We didn’t say it should be found, and we didn’t say we were opposed to it, okay?” Foxman tells The Jerusalem Post.

Actually, it’s not okay. Foxman is not telling the truth. The statement, released last Friday, reads:

But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.

That is opposition, crystal-clear. There is no other way to read it. (more…)

Favre’s Exit Means Rosenfels’s Rise

If QB1 retires, then Jewish slinger will take snaps

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Sage Rosenfels during a preseason game last year.(Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Brett Favre, the star quarterback who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in the ‘90s and led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season, has reportedly announced that he is retiring. Of course, Favre has tended to retire the way boxers and rappers do: Temporarily (this is Favre’s third-ever retirement announcement). On the other hand, the dude turns 41 this fall, is a grandfather, and has started a record 309 consecutive regular-season and playoff games; and on top of all that, he had ankle surgery in the offseason. So Favre’s permanent departure from football—even following one of his best seasons ever—does have the ring of plausibility. (As always, Kissing Suzy Kolber is invaluable on the will-he-or-won’t-he question.)

Meanwhile! The Vikings’ depth chart reveals that, should Favre not play (and should they not sign a random free agent in the next few weeks), Minnesota’s starting quarterback will be Tarvaris Jackson, and their immediate back-up will be Sage Rosenfels—the NFL’s only current Jewish quarterback. Last year, Rosenfels was the only member of the Vikings’ roster not to play a single down. But this season, as the second-string, he should see some action. You know, assuming Favre actually retires.

Favre Ready To Call It Quits [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Earlier: Vikings’ Jewish Quarter Back Got Zero Playing Time

Beinart Turning Essay Into Book

Talks to Tablet Magazine about his new project

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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• 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

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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

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Contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg.(JeffreyGoldberg.net)

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

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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…)

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