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.

Apply for a Free Jewish Journalism Class

I took it; it’s great


If you’re between the ages of 22 and 35, live in the New York City area, and are interested in writing about the Jewish world, you should consider applying to a free seminar that New York Times columnist and Columbia University Journalism School Professor Sam Freedman will be teaching this fall. It will be Sam’s third year running the Writers’ Seminar on the Jewish People, and I can say from personal experience that it is a fantastic resource. (Full disclosure: The seminar is sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation, a relative of the Keren Keshet Foundation, which founded Nextbook—Tablet Magazine’s parent organization—in 2003.)

First there’s Sam himself, who teaches (and models) a combination of reportorial skills and deep background knowledge of subject matter in a way that I think would have inspired me even had my beat been technology or theater or anything, rather than Jews. He provides feedback on student work that, frankly, would ordinarily cost you upwards of $50,000 a year. The students in my class ranged from talented freelancers just out of college to tenure-track Jewish studies professors, which meant highly engaged discussion during class—and a cohort of folks helping each other get their stories published, to this day.

My favorite thing about the class, though, was that I got to read, discuss, hear from, and meet about a dozen of our foremost experts on Jewish history and Jewish life: The same scholars and writers one often needs to call when writing, say, a Tablet Magazine article, would show up as guest lecturers.

All of this gets done in only four or five all-day meetings over the course of a school year—which I found to be a reasonable time commitment even as a full-time reporter.

Application guidelines and more information about the seminar are here. Enjoy.

Mainstreaming Hate, Take Two

The response to Lee Smith’s follow-up


Lee Smith’s column this week has received only 102 comments (I say only because last week’s column is up to 257). Unlike last week’s column, which quite a few people on the Internet had something to say about, there were relatively few reactions; of the principals mentioned, only Andrew Sullivan responded (“Smith is a Likudnik crank”). Why the smaller response? For one thing, this week’s column was in part a defense and clarification of last week’s, so it was by definition less provocative. For another, this week’s column was, in my opinion anyway, more careful than last week’s, specifically in the way that it handled the link between bloggers and their commenters.

(Okay, I’ll lay my cards down: I did not like Lee’s column last week; I thought it sloppily seemed to blame bloggers for their commenters, which is a fallacy. This week’s column, however, argues more persuasively and with more nuance that certain bloggers are sounding dog-whistles to certain commenters, and while I do not agree with every word of it, I urge folks of all political stripes to give it a full read, because that argument deserves to be grappled with. Also, while I am generally inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, I do think Stephen Walt* needs to respond to one charge Smith made: Namely, what the hell is he doing linking to this?) (more…)

‘Housewives to the Entire Kibbutz’

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

On Monday’s Vox Tablet podcast, Sara Ivry talks to filmmaker Toby Perl Freilich about her documentary-in-progress, which examines the 100-year evolution of the kibbutz movement. Through interviews with several generations of kibbutzniks, Perl Freilich digs around for the truth under all the myths. In some cases, the institution comes off looking pretty good; less so, according to one kibbutznik born-and-raised, when it came to the role of women, who were supposed to have been liberated from oppressive gender roles.

The Next Owner of ‘Newsweek’ Will Be Jewish

A plea against one of the candidates

Say no to Drasner.(Horkulated)

The three bidders still in the mix, according to the New York Times, are audio equipment tycoon Sidney Harman; tastefully named hedge fund guy Marc Lasry; and Mort Zuckerman chum Fred Drasner. All three are Members of the Tribe. (Harman is thought to be the front-runner.)

Some words of wisdom for The Washington Post Company, the current owner of a wonderful magazine: Don’t sell to Drasner. In addition to helping publish Zuckerman’s New York Daily News, Drasner invested a minority stake in Daniel Snyder’s ownership of the Washington Redskins. The following decade has been one of fleeting mini-success that has served only to punctuate steady mediocrity, culminating in last season’s 4-12 catastrophe.

Now, granted, the Skins are back on the right track, with a new general manager, head coach, and quarterback, and are poised to go 10-6 and make the playoffs (mark me down!). But Drasner no longer owns any stake—Snyder bought him out—so he gets no credit for this. In fact, in case you didn’t notice, I have just decided to make him my scapegoat for my past ten years of mostly-misery.

So, Washington Post Company: Read your own paper, and make the wise decision.

Audio Tycoon’s Newsweek Bid Said To Be Favored [NYT]

ADL Comes Out Against Ground Zero Center

Anti-bigotry group sides with people it calls bigots

The ADL’s new bed-fellows.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”

It adds:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. 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.

Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.

Statement on Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero [ADL]
Earlier: Ground Zero for a Fight

Today on Tablet

The prophets and Wikileaks, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz sees in this week’s haftorah, from Isaiah, a lesson that Wikileaks and its cheering section should take to heart: “That responsibility precedes redemption and that both involve hard work.” If you want to leak stuff to The Scroll, you know how to find it.

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