Kristol’s New Group Draws Attention

Targeted Democrat responds, and more

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania).(Wikipedia)

I had a bit of fun at the expense of Bill Kristol and his hot-off-the-presses Emergency Committee for Israel earlier this week. (Of course, even co-founder Noah Pollak had some fun at its expense, telling Shmuel Rosner, “We will not rest until there is a pro-Israel group representing every pro-Israel person on earth.”) But most of the responses, from both sides, have been less than light-hearted:

• Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat, angrily fires back at the Committee: “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest [Sestak] does not stand with Israel.” [Ben Smith]

• In the course of explaining the group, Pollak refers to the “international lynching of the Jewish state” and implicitly denies that J Street is pro-Israel. [Rosner’s Domain]

Via Capital J, Tablet Magazine contributor Dan Luban finds that one of the group’s four principles, Rachel Abrams (wife of Elliott, stepdaughter of Norman Podhoretz), possesses a “strange obsession with (and apparent hostility to) homosexuality.” [Lobelog]

• James Besser argues that the group is less concerned about issue advocacy and more about steering election-year funds to the right places. [Political Insider]

Earlier: How Does Kristol Do It?

Teaching the Pre-Holocaust

Emerging pedagogy looks at life before wartime

Haberdashery in the open market, Warsaw, ca. 1935-38.(Roman Vishniac. © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy the International Center of Photography)

A Vienna-based nonprofit, Centropa, is pushing a new way to teach the Holocaust to children: With the use of thousands of digitized photographs and other documents, you give kids a view of, in the words of one teacher, “the beautiful life of Jewish communities in Europe through personal stories. Students appreciate more what was lost and how diverse Jewish life was in Central and Eastern European life.”

As long as we’re plugging things Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse wrote in the New York Times, in April she published, in the paper’s magazine, a look at the work of famed photographer Roman Vishniac, whose portraits of pre-Holocaust shtetl life may have oversimplified the Eastern European Jewish experience. “After the war, it became difficult to view prewar images as anything but a prelude to destruction,” she wrote, “a backshadowing that distilled the complicated, multifaceted reality of prewar Jewish life into a two-dimensional shrine.” A new look at Vishniac, Newhouse suggested, would bring about a fuller appreciation of the breadth of the culture that was wiped out.

In Teaching Holocaust, Educators Focus on Prewar Lives, Not Just Camps [JTA]
Related: A Closer Reading of Roman Vishniac
Out of Focus [Tablet Magazine]

Americans Back Israel

Israelis don’t back America back


We love you; why can’t you love us (or, anyway, why can’t you love our president)?

That’s one message, anyway, to take from some polls released this week. Gallup sees record-high support: 63 percent are more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinian Authority. According to a TIPP poll, 56 percent of Americans (and 43 percent of Democrats; and 74 percent of Republicans) would back an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, versus 30 percent who would oppose one. Another poll, this by Pew, found 66 percent for, 24 percent against.

And yet, Israelis still are not big fans of President Obama. A new poll found that nearly half of Jewish Israelis think he is pro-Palestinian, while only 10 percent said he favors Israel. And this poll came after last week’s friendly Oval Office photo-op and Obama’s interview on Israel’s Channel 2.

Since March, which represents the low point of relations between the two countries’ governments, the number of Israelis who think the Obama administration is pro-Israel has improved by … one percent.

So again: We love you; maybe the president we elected isn’t entirely against you?

Poll: Most Americans Would Back Israel Attack on Iran [Haaretz]
46% Say Obama Is Pro-Palestinian [JPost]
Earlier: Obama and Bibi Tag-Team for Friendship

A Yidisher Pop

Lindsay, Mel, and a Lesson in Yiddish


This week’s installment is about pronouns and Paul’s predictions, about Polanski’s litigations and some Yiddish conjugations. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

לינדזי ווייַזט אוּנדז אירע געפֿילן – אויב ניט מיט אַ גראָבן פֿינגער, איז עס מיט איר נאָגל!

Transliteration:Lindzi vayzt undz ire gefiln—oyb nit mit a grobn finger, iz es mit ir nogl!

Meaning: Lindsay expresses herself—if not by giving the finger, then with her nail!


Today on Tablet

Keret on soccer, a good-bye to Pekar, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Etgar Keret wonders if there is life after World Cup. Contributing editor Vanessa Davis gives Harvey Pekar a graphic farewell. Liel Leibovitz recommends that Israel look to the prophet Isaiah for guidance as it decides what sort of state it really wants to be. The Scroll has been wondering less if there is life after World Cup and more if there is life before football.

Daybreak: Flotilla Backers Reach to Top

Plus Abbas is told to keep talks indirect, and more in the news

Abbas in Bulgaria earlier this week.(Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Turkish charity behind the flotilla, IHH, is connected throughout Turkey’s political elite; the flotilla itself received backing from top members of the prime minister’s party. [NYT]

• Whether or not there remain disagreements over this or that issue, the United States and Israeli security establishments remain strongly linked, and the U.S. continues to purchase arms for Israel. [WP]

• The supposed U.S. spy against Iran—maybe?—got a hero’s welcome on his return in Tehran. This case is very strange. [NYT]

• Two synagogues are objecting to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s planned amphitheater for free summer concerts. [NYT]

• Palestinian President Abbas is unlikely to agree to direct talks, as the Israelis want, due to pressure from his party, Fatah. [Haaretz]

• Oh, and great Times op-ed on the conversion bill. [NYT]

Conversion Bill Takes Aim at Diaspora

Our editor returns fire in the NYT

The Knesset.(Jim Hollander/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning, Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse published a New York Times op-ed about the so-called Rotem Bill, which would give a small coterie of ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel the power over all conversions, and by extension over all other rites, and again by extension the power over Jewish religious identity in Israel. Sponsored by a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, the bill, Alana argues, represents a gigantic threat not only to Jewish life in Israel but to the “vital” tie between Israel and the Jewish diaspora:

If this bill passes, future historians will inevitably wonder why, at a critical moment in its history, Israel chose to tell 85 percent of the Jewish diaspora that their rabbis weren’t rabbis and their religious practices were a sham, the conversions of their parents and spouses were invalid, their marriages weren’t legal under Jewish law, and their progeny were a tribe of bastards unfit to marry other Jews.

It’s a sad state of affairs, one this magazine has been covering for at least half of its existence—beginning with a story that Alana alludes to when she mentions “an American Haredi rabbi who had become one of the most powerful authorities on the question of conversion [who] resigned from his organization in December after accusations that he solicited phone sex from a hopeful female convert.” She’s referring to Leib Tropper, whose power, corruption, and lies we investigated last January (and which, frankly, we’ve been mystified about the non-reaction to):

-Allison Hoffman’s profile;

-Marissa Brostoff on one woman’s side of the story;

-Hoffman on the wealthy, possibly crazy heir who bankrolled Tropper;

-Hoffman on how other Haredi rabbis have been reluctant to condemn him;

-Oh, and you can listen to the tapes.

Below, a helpful cheat sheet for Alana’s essay: (more…)

Sundown: Boat Stopped Via Secret Deal

Plus Yitzhak Rabin Gallery, new trailers, and more

The Libya-sponsored ship, docked today in El Arish, Egypt.(AFP/Getty Images)

• The Libyan ship headed for Gaza agreed to dock in Egypt under a secret deal: Libya gets to send $50 million’s worth of construction material into the Strip instead. [Ynet/J.J. Goldberg]

• The U.S. State Department may add IHH, the Turkish charity behind the flotilla, to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. [JPost]

• Former Clinton administration Health Secretary Donna Shalala—the first Arab-American U.S. Cabinet member—denounced academic boycotts of Israelis from her perch as president of the University of Miami. [JPost]

• A Spinoza-spouting hipster has opened a new Lower East Side art space called Yitzhak Rabin Gallery. Whatta town! [Art Info]

• Gal Beckerman gives hard-luck Jewish fighter Dmitriy Salita the old-school profile treatment. Check it. [Forward]

• There is definitely a hair salon in southern Massachusetts called The Perm Solution. [Merchant Circle]

James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Trailer’s dropped. Hell yes.

AND Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. New trailer’s dropped. Hell yes.

Fibi Netanyahu

In 2001, PM boasted of manipulating Oslo accords

Netanyahu in 2001.(Channel 10)

Meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu last week, President Obama could not have been more effusive. “I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace,” Obama said. “I believe he is ready to take risks for peace.”

A newly revealed tape of Netanyahu in 2001, being interviewed while he thinks the cameras are off, shows him in a radically different light. In it, Netanyahu dismisses American foreign policy as easy to maneuver, boasts of having derailed the Oslo accords with political trickery, and suggests that the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to “beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable” (all translations are mine).

According to Haaretz‘s Gideon Levy, the video should be “Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel.”

Netanyahu is speaking to a small group of terror victims in the West Bank settlement of Ofra two years after stepping down as prime minister in 1999. He appears laid-back. After claiming that the only way to deal with the Palestinian Authority was a large-scale attack, Netanyahu was asked by one of the participants whether or not the United States would let such an attack come to fruition. (more…)

Boldface Names at Chelsea’s Wedding

Obamas, Streisand expected upstate at month’s end

The mother of the bride and the bride, last year.(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Via The Jerusalem Post, the Hudson Valley News is reporting who some of the celebrity guests at the July 31 Mezvinsky-Clinton nuptials in Rhinebeck, New York, will be.

The biggest names, of course, are President Obama and the First Lady. But also count on Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand (presumably with hubby James Brolin—he is such a rock), Kate Capshaw and Steven Speilberg, Harold Ickes, Terry McAuliffe (he is basically Bill Clinton’s manservant at this point), former British Prime Minister John Major (what, no Blair?), Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ted Turner, and Denise Rich (ex-wife of Marc, the prominent Jewish philanthropist whom the bride’s father notoriously pardoned in 2001).

This is one day on which the Hudson Valley won’t be such a Sleepy Hollow!

(Boy, writing in the US Weekly style is tougher than it looks. My respect to them.)

(And, no, still no word on whether she’s converting.)

Obama and Oprah Expected To Be At Clinton Wedding [Hudson Valley News]

Study: Attack Won’t Work, Will Cause Long War

The consequences of bombing Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study argues that Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities would fail to substantially halt the program and would lead to a long war. Grain-of-salt alert: The study was produced by a think tank that that “promotes non-violent solutions to conflict” and was written by a professor of “peace studies.”

A few months ago in Tablet Magazine, Yoav Fromer reported on a different study, by an Israeli physicist, that reached a similar conclusion: A military attack would prompt a war that would last years, not months or days.

Most other studies, Fromer adds, envision a shorter follow-up war. And almost all, including (it appears) this new study, agree on what the Islamic Republic’s immediate response would be:

Iran would initially retaliate by lobbing ballistic missiles at Israel, while Tehran’s proxies Hezbollah and Hamas would bear most of the burden by launching corresponding rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon. Most predictions also include some Iranian attempt to wage economic warfare by sealing off the Strait of Hormuz to stop the flow of oil.

Which is why, as Eli Lake does a great job reporting in the The New Republic, perhaps the real ideal is to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program via covert sabotage—and don’t think Israel and the United States are not trying.

Israel Attack Wouldn’t Stop Iran Nuclear Program, Says U.K. Study [Reuters/Haaretz]
Related: Not So Fast [Tablet Magazine]
Operation Sabotage [TNR]

Elliott and Rotten Keep Israel Gigs

Who is boycotting and who is not

Missy Elliott.(Joar Jacobsson/Flickr)

Recently, several musical acts have canceled appearances in Israel to protest government policies. Ur-alt rockers The Pixies and the legendary Elvis Costello were two prominent no-shows; guitarist Carlos Santana nixed a gig earlier this year; actress Meg Ryan reportedly refused to appear at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Earlier this week, meanwhile, the remaining members of Pink Floyd reunited to play a benefit for Palestinian refugees; in 2006, bassist Roger Waters spray-painted “tear down the wall” on the separation barrier in Bethlehem (remember, they did The Wall).

But there is another side to this coin. Despite having received calls to cancel tonight’s Tel Aviv show, hip-hop artist Missy Elliott arrived in Israel yesterday, making visits to Masada and the Western Wall (where she left a note). And Johnny Rotten, of the Sex Pistols, announced that he will not cancel his August show, even though he has received hate mail on account of it.

I think the Pink Floyd/Johnny Rotten comparison is interesting (and, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that Pink Floyd is outrageously anti-Israel—improving Palestinian refugees’ living conditions is a good cause). Floyd—undoubtedly one of the greatest and most important rock acts of all time—pushed the (over)produced and concept-heavy golden age of classic rock to its logical extreme and culmination. In other words, it was acts like Floyd that, in the mid-1970s, provoked the heavily stripped-down reaction embodied by The Ramones, The Clash, Patti Smith, and, of course, The Sex Pistols. What’s my point? Maybe playing Israel—in spite of others’ reservations, or even one’s own—is the punk-rock thing to do.

Missy Elliott Arrives for Show, Visits to J’lem and Masada [JPost]
Johnny Rotten Keeping Tel Aviv Gig, Despite Hate Mail [JTA]
Pink Floyd Reunites for Palestinian Benefit Concert [Palestine Note]
Related: Artists’ Boycott Strikes a Dissonant Note Inside Israel [NYT]

Today on Tablet

Deli steak, unkindness to the deaf, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, deli maven David Sax elegizes the Romanian Jewish steakhouse, where they grilled the meat, now most famously and, perhpas, exclusively embodied by the Lower East Side’s Sammy’s Roumanian. Contributing editor Eddy Portnoy shows that pre-World War II East European Jews were relatively intolerant of the deaf among them. The Scroll will update you on the conversion bill and other matters throughout the day.

You’re Tearing Me Apart, Maryland!

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’


As a Marylander, I am sworn to crabs, particularly Chesapeake Bay blues; as a Jew, well, they are trayf. My solution has been to eat the crabs but hold the pork (I’ve heard this called “New Orleans kosher,” but it works for us Maryland Jews—who include such luminaries as Karl Shapiro! and David Brooks!—as well). Tonight, my dual loyalties will be tested again.

The Quickfire Challenge is this: Cook crabs, and make them good. And the guest judge is Patrick O’Connell, of the legendary, and outrageously delicious, Inn at Little Washington.

Okay, who’s going to be the one to make the joke? “Well, I had crabs,” says Angelo, this season’s resident villain. “So it just brought back bad memories.” Dude.

Everyone goes to work, slicing and dicing, in some cases while the critters are still alive. “There’s crabs everywhere, it’s flying all over,” says Alex Reznik, one of two Jewish cheftestants. “I got crab shit everywhere.” I usually pull for the Jews, but tonight I’m rooting for Tim, who hails from Baltimore, and therefore knows his way around a crab. “That’s the star,” he says. “Give it the microphone, and let it sing.”

Question: Do you think the crabs know that when the chef pours Old Bay on them, it’s basically T minus 45 seconds from there?

Amanda, the other Jewish cheftestant, announces that she is going to prepare her crabs with Sauterne. Yes, of course you are. (more…)

Daybreak: Bibi Moving To Halt Conversion Bill

Plus the non-freeze, the non-talks, and more in the news

Netanyahu at this week’s Cabinet meeting.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu is feuding with his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, over the conversion bill Lieberman wants the Knesset to consider by the end of next week (and which today Jeffrey Goldberg describes as an assault on the Diaspora). [JPost]

• For practical purposes, the West Bank construction freeze has not, strictly speaking, involved a total moratorium on building. [NYT]

• The “proximity talks” do not appear to be accomplishing much; Palestinians accuse Netanyahu of playing for time. [NYT]

• This morning, the Libyan-sponsored ship that had been heading for Gaza but then agreed to divert to Egypt was waiting off the dock of El Arish, in the Sinai. [NYT]

• Keeps getting weirder: The CIA says it paid $5 million to the alleged Iranian nuclear scientist who has just returned home after showing up at the Pakistani Embassy, and who has claimed U.S. agents abducted him. [WP]

• U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Jewish groups to make Alan Gross, an American Jew imprisoned in Cuba for helping Cuban Jews connect to the Internet, a cause of theirs. [JTA]

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