Sundown: U.S. Pressuring Abbas on Talks

Plus Oliver Stone on Jewish media dominance, and more


• In a leaked memo, U.S. diplomats threatened to withdraw strong support for a Palestinian state if President Abbas does not quickly accede to direct talks. [AP/Haaretz]

• Director Oliver Stone blamed “Jewish domination of the media” for preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust and “the most powerful lobby in Washington” (hint: Not the AARP) for “messing up” U.S. foreign policy. [JTA]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu compared the U.N. Human Rights Council’s flotilla probe to the Goldstone committee. [Ynet]

• Michiko Kakutani is famous for being harsh on novels, so if she calls a new one “wonderful” and “supersad, superfunny, superaffecting,” you may want to consider reading it. [NYT]

• This story is a week old, but depressing enough to be flagged: The Hamas operative who shot and killed an Israeli security agent last month has a daughter who, a couple weeks before that, had had a tumor removed from her eye at an Israeli hospital with funds from an Israeli organization. [Ynet]

• A conservative synagogue in Olney, Maryland—a town in heavily Jewish Montgomery County (whence comes your faithful blogger)—was vandalized with swastikas and slogans. [Vos Iz Neias?]

Oliver Stone may think the Jews are an insidious influence on the body politic. But what does he think of the Magic Loogie Theory?

Against the Israeli Boycott

Jacob Weisberg and Johnny Rotten make common cause

Johnny Rotten.(Robert Yager/Independent)

Slate Group Editor Jacob Weisberg makes the case against the Israeli cultural boycott:

That supporters of this boycott seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe—or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that systematically violate human rights—underscores their bad faith. Boycotters are not trying to send the specific message, “We object to your settlement policy in the West Bank.” What they’re saying is, “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.” Like the older Arab economic boycott of Israel, which dates back to the 1940s, the cultural boycott is a weapon designed not to bring peace but to undermine the country.

A couple weeks ago, former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten announced that he would not cancel a gig in Israel next month despite hate mail he has received*. Rotten expanded on his stance recently: (more…)

And Thanks For All The Fish

Tomorrow’s Vox Tablet today

(Eric Molinsky)

In tomorrow’s podcast, Vox Tablet brings you a conversation among editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse and the authors of two of our favorite summer novels, contributing editors Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen. Though stylistically quite different, Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and Cohen’s Witz both offer dystopic visions of the future in which the things they love, whether literature and passion (Shteyngart) or rigorous Jewish life and thought (Cohen), are on the verge of extinction. Their wide-ranging discussion, conducted over drinks and smoked fish at a down-on-its-heels Brighton Beach establishment on a sweltering summer day, covers such topics as the pending collapse of the U.S. empire, rhinoplasty, crucifixion, and, here, Shteyngart’s declaration that if we all get is some delicious fish to eat and a few other material pleasures, well, that would be enough:

My Hagee Problem—And Ours

Why the enemy of our enemy isn’t always our friend

Hagee in Jerusalem in March.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

In The Weekly Standard, Jennifer Rubin writes a praise-poem to Christian Zionists, and specifically to the Rev. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith gave the group much more nuanced treatment a few months ago; I don’t think I can give Rubin’s article a similarly moderate hearing, as she essentially glosses over CUFI’s theological underpinnings, which include the belief that the Second Coming depends on Jews inhabiting the Holy Land.

But just as important as what Rubin fails to mention about evangelical Christians’ Zionism is what she fails to mentions about Hagee. Jonathan Chait reminds us that Hagee first entered national consciousness in early 2008 when he endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for president, only to have the record show that Hagee had once said that Hitler was God’s agent for punishing those Jews who did not do the sensible thing and move to Palestine, as the Bible had demanded. (more…)

Trayf That Isn’t Trayf

Take the bug, leave the pig

Yup, he’s kosher!(Wikipedia)

When you look at lists of kosher foods, invariably nestled alongside the usual suspects (cow, chicken, fish with scales), you see some wild-cards: Gazelle, for example, and addax, whatever addax is (looks a lot like gazelle). Last week in Jerusalem, some folks cooked up a special feast featuring exotic-but-kosher animals, prepared under the laws of kashrut, and had themselves quite a time. Swordfish! Buffalo! Grasshopper? Hrmm. Maybe just let us know when you find the kosher versions of lobster and bacon.

On the Menu: Kosher Guineafowl, Locust [Ynet]

Punk in the Beerlight

David Berman and his father’s sins

David Berman last night.(Joanna Yas)

In the era of swift downloads, even “indie” musicians work tirelessly to be seen. They tour, collaborate, and reunite; they pitch songs for commercials and hit the festival circuit. But not David Berman. The former frontman for legendary, and genuinely indie, outfit Silver Jews is notoriously reclusive, so much that his reading last night at NYU was billed a “very rare appearance” and promptly sold out. A published poet and cartoonist, Berman was capping a summer writer’s conference run by Open City publishers. But those expecting only poetry were perplexed. Before us stood an afflicted son who outlined his quixotic effort to bring down his estranged, “somewhat satanic” father.

Bearded for years, Berman arrived at the reading clean-shaven, with a powder-blue suit jacket and cropped hair salted gray. (When he goes downtown, he no longer wears a corduroy suit.) He moved comfortably and deliberately at the podium, weaving his poems, uninterrupted by introductions, in with a deeply personal narrative. He spoke about quitting—”I always saw myself as a quitter”—various childhood pursuits, then music, then writing. Some in the audience surely considered other unsaid things Berman quit: A disabling drug addiction and depression. Seven years ago, he went clean after a suicide attempt and embraced Judaism anew. (You can hear him discuss his music and faith in this Vox Tablet podcast, in which he also straps on a guitar and sings Walt Whitman.) (more…)

Today on Tablet

Benny Morris and Shimon Peres get together, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, in a pretty remarkable juxtaposition, famed Israeli ‘New Historian’ Benny Morris interviews Israeli President Shimon Peres. Everyone knows how to survive summer camp; parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall reveals how to survive the return from summer camp. Josh Lambert has his weekly round-up of forthcoming Jewish books of note. These include Adam Langer’s new novel The Thieves of Manhattan, of which The Scroll has a copy already, and can’t wait to read.

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]

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