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.

Have We Overreacted?

Rotem bill, currently frozen, provoked strong opposition stateside


There’s a remarkable passage in New York Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner’s report on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s deal to freeze the Rotem bill for six months:

American Jews, who are mostly politically liberal—some 80 percent voted for President Obama—have felt their attachment to Israel strained during its military operations in Lebanon and Gaza and the recent attack on a Turkish flotilla seeking to break Israel’s Gaza blockade. And since the conversion bill is being sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu, the nationalist and mostly right-wing party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, conditions were especially ripe for mistrust.

“There is increasing discomfort among American Jews with Israel,” commented Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, which is devoted to exploring Jewish issues. “This issue is a place where they can express the displeasure that they might not be willing to state on the flotilla and other political matters.”

For that reason, some here, even among those sympathetic to the Reform and Conservative movements, like Rabbi Hartman, feel that the American reaction to the Rotem bill was overly aggressive.

“They overstated this one,” he said.

In other words, the Rotem bill was a pressure valve enabling American Jews generally loathe to criticize Israel a place to let it all out, under the justification that, unlike the flotilla raid, this potential Israeli policy was (to borrow from Jeff Goldberg) a message in a bottle that reads: “Israel to Diaspora: Drop Dead.”

However, to believe that this reaction—which was undoubtedly strong; have American Jews been so galvanized over an Israel-related issue since the Second Intifada?—derives from something more than just the substance of the bill itself, you must subscribe to a view of the world wherein there are relatively observant Jews who tend to be pro-Israel (and, frankly, not liberal), and relatively non-observant Jews who tend to be indifferent to Israel (and these, I suppose, are the liberals). Statistically and anecdotally, that binary seems to be oversimplified at the very, very best. (more…)

Daniel Schorr Dies

Foreign correspondent and story unto himself

Daniel Schorr testifying before a Senate committee, 1972.(NPR)

Daniel Schorr, the legendary foreign correspondent for Edward R. Murrow’s CBS News, the New York Times, the then-brand-new cable network CNN, the Christian Science Monitor, and finally NPR, died at 93.

Throughout his career, whether he was reopening CBS’s Moscow bureau, reporting on the construction of the Berlin Wall, or leaking news of illegal CIA-sponsored assassinations to the Village Voice (after CBS had taken him off the air), he embodied journalism’s central tenet: “Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable”—emphasis on the second half. He made Nixon’s Enemies List (and that was before the Voice leak), which he said he considered a greater honor than winning multiple Emmys. In a memoir, he attributed his outsider mentality to growing up in the Bronx “poor, fat, Jewish, fatherless.”

In addition to the Times obit—which reports that he long believed he was turned down a job there because “the paper was concerned that too many Jewish bylines might jeopardize its coverage of the Mideast”—NPR, which announced his death, has a great write-up.

Journalism Legend Daniel Schorr Dies at 93 [NPR]
Daniel Schorr, Journalist, Dies at 93 [NYT]

Jews Do It More

Says decade-old study still worth bragging about

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.(Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

This is science, people! Well, okay, science from 1998 rehashed for a Daily Beast listicle, but still! Jews and agnostics (and look, who do you think invented doubt?) have 20 percent more sex than the average. (Baptists are also above average, albeit less so; Lutherans and Presbyterians, the poor schmucks, apparently have less sex.) Also, according to another study (this one published last year), observant married Jewish women are more than twice as likely as average married women to have sex three to six times per week, which, depending on whether you’re Annie or Alvy, is “constantly” or “hardly ever.”

The Election Down Under

Aussie candidates differ on much, but not on Israel

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.(Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr., had a must-read yesterday for all the political junkies out there, about how Australia’s forthcoming elections could resonate halfway around the world in America. Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard—Dionne’s surrogate for President Obama and the Democrats—is pushing a message of “moving forward” versus “going back,” while opposition leader Tony Abbott, the conservative, wants to tar Labor as the party of high taxes and high debt.

But there is at least one issue on which Gillard and Abbott share a viewpoint, in defiance, at least in Gillard’s case, of their party-lines: They are both unusually strong supporters of Israel.

Last month, some in her party accused Gillard of taking too “soft” a line on Israel’s “excesses”; her reaction to the 2009 Gaza conflict, during which she was acting prime minister, was: “Clearly the act of aggression was engaged in by Hamas which commenced shelling with rockets and mortars into Israel. That is what breached the ceasefire, and Israel responded.”

And during the whole Mahmoud al-Mabhouh affair earlier this year, Tony Abbott asked the government—then run by Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd—not to expel an Israeli diplomat over the forged Australian passports that had been used by some of the (allegedly Mossad) assassins. (Rudd didn’t listen.)

So American political observers may want to pay attention to the election, which is next month. From Israel’s perspective, however, it’s a wash.

Going Back or Forward? Australian Vote Leads The Way [WP]
Gillard Accused of Soft Line on Tel Aviv [The Age]
Tony Abbott Calls For Restraint on Israel [The Australian]
Related: Murder in Dubai [Tablet Magazine]

Ami Eden Named JTA’s New Head

Our editor reflects on a great mentor

Ami Eden at a Tablet Magazine party in June.(Yasmine Soiffer for Tablet Magazine)

Nine years ago this month, I got my first paying journalism commission. If memory serves, I was tasked with interviewing a Florida grandmother who had been kicked out of her senior living complex because she had taken in her grandson, which was against housing rules. For the life of me, I couldn’t reach the woman. I called every single person with her last name in the Florida phonebook, I called the housing development, I called the lawyer she had allegedly hired, I called the AP and Miami Herald reporters who had written about the story—no one would get back to me. After two days of trying, I gingerly approached the Forward‘s news editor, Ami Eden, and conceded defeat. He barely looked up from his computer, but I knew that he was secretly rolling his eyes at the young intern who couldn’t get some Bubbe on the phone.

Years later, Ami would admit that this was, in fact, exactly what he was thinking. But that afternoon, as I sulked dejectedly at my desk, he did something deeply, profoundly generous: He gave me another assignment. I got this one right, and over the next few months, I became—in no small part because of his guidance, insight, and friendship—a journalist.

Yesterday, Ami was given responsibility for overseeing (and, I hope, revamping) JTA, the historic Jewish news agency. It’s a move that is good for the Jews, good for JTA readers, and even good for non-JTA readers—since, if my experience working with Ami is any indication, he will give every one of his competitors a run for their money. That includes Tablet Magazine, as well as that other official publication of American Jewry. In short, yesterday was a banner day not just for Ami and the JTA and the Jews, but for American journalism.

JTA Publisher Steps Down, Editor Tapped To Lead Agency [JTA]

Today on Tablet

Summer is tomatoes and blockbusters, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Joan Nathan tells you exactly what to do with those great summer tomatoes. Liel Leibovitz manages to fit both Isaiah and Inception into his weekly haftorah column. Roslyn Bernstein finds that a visit to Coney Island today brings back memories of the Coney Island of old. The Scroll is planning some major tomato-eating this weekend.

A Yidisher Pop

Snooki, Levi, and a lesson in Yiddish


This week’s installment is about being and having, tanning and loving, new mammals and irate mothers-in-law. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

זי איז שיין, זי איז קלוג, און אַ ביסעלע מעוברת. וואָס איז אַזוי שלעכט, פֿאָקס?

Transliteration: Zi iz sheyn, zi iz klug, un a bisele meuveres. Vos iz azoy shlekht, Fox?

Meaning: She is beautiful, she is smart, and she is a little pregnant. What’s the problem, Fox?


Daybreak: Six-Month Freeze on Bill

But Reform woman arrested at the Wall, and more in the news


• Prime Minister Netanyahu cut a deal under which there is a six-month freeze in the Knesset on the controversial Rotem Bill. [Haaretz]

• In Jerusalem, American Jews, led by an Orthodox rabbi, protested the arrest of a Reform woman for holding a Torah at the Western Wall. [JPost]

• Hezbollah expects a U.N. tribunal to indict its top members in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [NYT]

• Among the papers recovered from Kafka’s boxes so far includes correspendence between him and his friend, Max Brod, and between him and another great writer, Stefan Zweig. [Haaretz]

• Israel is returning the flotilla boats to Turkey. [Ynet]

Sundown: PLO Diplomats Promoted

Plus Obama’s newly strong support for Israel, and more

President Obama today.(Brendan Hoffman-Pool/Getty Image)

• The U.S. State Department upgraded the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission, bringing it to the level it enjoys in Canada and most European nations. [Haaretz]

• Longtime JTA Executive Editor and Publisher Mark J. Joffe is stepping down. A big mazel tov to his replacement, current Editor-in-Chief Ami Eden. [JTA]

• After waffling, writes Aluf Benn, the Obama administration has determined that the old Mideast fundamentals—containing Iran, securing oil, etc.—indeed make Israel “a vital ally.” [Haaretz]

• And the Obama administration (and other national Democratic politicians) have the talking points to get that message out. [Laura Rozen]

• An interesting survey on responses to the Rotem Bill, from the Orthodox newspaper of Long Island’s Five Towns. [The Jewish Star]

• Wish I was going to “Jewstock,” on Bank Lake, north of Budapest, in a couple weeks. [JTA]

Heeb dug up this Milton Berle cameo from a 1984 episode of Diff’rent Strokes:

So That Happened

Smith’s column gets quite a response


Lee Smith wrote a column yesterday, which pointed to several prominent bloggers who are “obsessed with Israel and the machinations of the U.S. Israel lobby” (he didn’t, shall we say, mean it in a good way) and accused them of being “Jew-baiters” (he didn’t mean that in a good way, either). It provoked … well, I am not positive that 211 comments is a Tablet Magazine record, but, I mean, it must be. This was, after all, an article in part about comments and commenters.

First, though, quick-links to the responses of the bloggers whom Smith referred to by name:

• Andrew Sullivan: “There are no substantive arguments in the piece, and there are no quotes in the piece from any of the bloggers and writers concerned that could even faintly be called anti-Semitic. There is just cherry-picking of vileness that often shows up on comments sections (which this blog does not even have). I mean: seriously. [Andrew Sullivan]

• Stephen Walt calls it a “screed.” [Foreign Policy]

• Phillip Weiss looks at our funders and related boards—apparently William Kristol is our distant cousin (and not just from the Old Country)—although he also (graciously) acknowledges that we have “some bandwidth,” for example having published “a pretty good piece today.” Actually, Marissa’s piece is great, not pretty good, but close enough. [Mondoweiss]

• Dan Luban (a Tablet Magazine contributor) wonders, at Jim Lobe’s blog (which Smith mentions), why Smith, “a neoconservative political operative,” gets a column to use “exclusively as an echo chamber for talking points from Commentary and the Weekly Standard.” Answer one: Don’t ask me, I’m just the blogger! Answer two: Smith’s profile of Robert Malley would never run in the Standard. [Lobelog]

Additionally, some unmentioned writers got in on the action. (more…)

Court Compromises on Kosovo

Ruling likely won’t set precedent for Palestinian cause

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Vice President Biden, yesterday.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

In late 2008, the United Nations General Assembly voted to ask the International Court of Justice the following question: “Is the independence of Kosovo in accordance with international law?” Today, the ICJ answered: Yes, it is. This stamp of approval for the unilateral declaration of self-sovereignty by this one-time province of Serbia could have profound implications on other separatist/secessionist movements around the world—notably the Palestinians’.

… Or it may not.

Earlier this year, Milena Miletic laid out the possibilities in Tablet Magazine: “The first would be for the court to state that the declared independence of Kosovo violates international law,” Miletic explained. “The second would be for the court to rule in favor of Kosovo’s independence. …The third and most widely expected outcome is for the court to issue an opinion each party can interpret as it pleases, a result unlikely to increase international stability.”

The ICJ appears to have chosen Option 3. Writes the Times: “Legal experts emphasized that while the court had ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was legal, it had scrupulously avoided saying that the state of Kosovo was legal under international law, a narrow and carefully calibrated compromise.”

What does this mean for the Palestinians? (more…)

Emergency Committee v. J Street

Penn. candidate is proxy battlefield for Israel groups


Earlier this week, when J Street cut an ad defending Rep. Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, it was implicitly picking a fight with the Emergency Committee for Israel, the brand-new Bill Kristol-founded outfit that announced itself in part with an attack on Sestak for his allegedly not-pro-Israel views.

(By the way, for a great take on Kristol’s committee-forming-mania, read Jonathan Chait.)

Now, the New York Times has smartly compared and contrasted the two groups’ pro- and anti-Sestak ads (which you can find after the jump).

The Emergency Committee attacked Sestak’s 2007 praise for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has subsequently been accused of being a Hamas front. “The target audience,” says the Times, “is not really Jewish voters in Philadelphia and its suburbs—they tend to be a reliable Democratic constituency and an important source of campaign donations. Rather, the ad is aimed more at mobilizing the right and evangelicals in support of Mr. Sestak’s Republican opponent, former Representative Pat Toomey.”

J Street responded by depicting Sestak’s repeated insistences of support for the Jewish state. “It does not dwell on the finer points of the attack but goes big picture,” the Times notes, “casting Mr. Sestak as a defender of Israel. By featuring President Obama, the ad suggests that J Street, anyway, believes that the link will be a plus for Mr. Sestak in November, or at least for its cause.” (more…)

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