Today on Tablet

The Turkish conundrum, video evidence, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith argues that the flotilla disaster represents the coming to a head of the United States’s contradictory alliance with an increasingly resentful Turkish regime. Staff writer Marissa Brostoff presents Harry Borden’s photographs of Holocaust survivors. Allan Nadler remembers the seminar he took with great Yiddish writer Chaim Grade at Harvard over 30 years ago. Max Boot introduces some videos you ought to see. And The Scroll steels itself for another day of this.

Passengers, Backers Spanned Globe

And we talk to Flotilla organizer Adam Shapiro

Protestors in Manhattan yesterday.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Early this morning, Israel began deporting more than 680 people detained aboard the Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla” to their home countries, from Australia to Yemen. According to Israeli authorities, more than half came from Turkey, but they were joined by contingents from Britain, France and the U.S.—and, in the case of bestselling author Henning Mankell, Sweden. It’s not clear how many Jewish activists, if any, took part in the convoy itself—85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who escaped Europe before the Holocaust, decided at the last minute to remain behind in Cyprus—but American Jews were certainly represented in the crowds who took to the streets in Jerusalem yesterday to protest the Israeli government’s decision to raid the convoy. Among them: Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old student at New York City’s Cooper Union, who lost an eye after being hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

Maybe it’s the Beinart effect, but we haven’t heard anyone publicly call Henochowicz a self-hating Jew, or any of the nastier names that have been used over the years. It’s a long way from 2002, when New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser declared one Adam Shapiro the “Jewish Taliban” after he spent the night with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah at the height of the Second Intifada. Shapiro’s parents, both schoolteachers, were subsequently harassed at their Brooklyn home and targeted by fliers denouncing their son as a traitor to America and the Jews.

As it happens, Shapiro was among the flotilla’s organizers, along with his wife, Huwaida Arraf, the American-born daughter of an Arab Israeli Christian. (Shapiro stayed in Washington, where he made TV appearances, while Arraf, who was aboard the largest ship, was featured by telephone on CNN.) Shapiro told Tablet Magazine yesterday that while he grew up celebrating Seders, he hasn’t considered himself Jewish since he was a teenager. “I consider Judaism to be a religion and not an ethnic identity,” Shapiro, now 38, explained. He hasn’t yet read Beinart’s much-discussed essay about American Zionism, but was glad to hear of American Jews wrestling with the occupation. “It seems like it’s shaking things up, and that’s good,” Shapiro told Tablet Magazine. “Obviously the American Jewish community has a role to play—if you want to engage as Jews, think about what it means to be Jewish, to follow the traditions of the Jewish people.”

However, he added, he was less concerned about the response of American Jews than of the American government, which he felt hasn’t been firm enough in condemning Israel for jeopardizing the safety of its citizens. “I identify as an American citizen, and that’s where my concern is,” he said. So was the flotilla a victory for the Free Gaza movement, at great cost to Israel’s image, as analysts across the board have declared? “I wouldn’t call this a success,” Shapiro told us, “because it’s a huge tragedy.”

Israel Begins Deportation of Activists Seized on Gaza Flotilla [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Israel Begins Deporting Flotilla Activists

And the fallout continues


• Israel has begun deporting the 600-odd flotilla activists captured on Monday. The country’s interior ministry said that about 400 Turkish nationals were being placed on flights back to Turkey, and a Jordanian news agency reports that another 126, among them citizens of several Muslim countries, had been sent by bus to Jordan. [NYT]

• The flotilla-as-Exodus meme–which, developed by several commentators on Monday, notes the parallels between the British public relations disaster in Mandate Palestine and the Israeli p.r. disaster this week–gains more traction, this time from a former Mossad agent. [Wash Post]

• Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon held a conference call yesterday evening with “more than 700 heads of Jewish federations and Jewish community leaders,” according to a press release. Ayalon’s talking points included linking the flotilla to Hamas and other Islamist organizations, and calling for a refocus on Iran. [Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

• But even some staunchly pro-Israel American Jewish leaders are voicing criticisms. “Why did it take so long to get the films [of the ship-board violence] out?” asked Malcolm Hoenlein, executive head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “It appears [the soldiers] weren’t prepared for what they found, even though they knew what they were going to find.” [Jerusalem Post]

Sundown: Soldier Recounts Raid

We’re getting all ver-Klimt, and more

Gustav Klimt’s Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III).(Business & Leadership)

• The commander who landed on the biggest flotilla ship says he was beaten, threatened by knives, and thrown down a deck. [Ynet]

• After confiscating weapons, and not including expired medicine (which was apparently most of it), the Israeli military transported the flotilla’s aid cargo into Gaza. [Arutz Sheva]

• Turkey’s foreign minister criticized the United States for preventing a stronger condemnation. [WSJ]

• Mossad head Meir Dagan, who is widely respected, testifed, “Israel is becoming less of a strategic asset for America.” [JPost]

• A Holocaust victim’s heirs are preparing to auction off a Gustav Klimt for as much as an estimated $26 million. [Ynet]

• Seeds from a kibbutz-made, genetically-modified type of cherry tomato are selling for $160,000 per pound (!). [LAT]

Kaus for Senate!

And, 20 years ago, Wellstone for Senate!

Those are some fast Jews!

What They Talk About When They Talk About Gaza

Your Flotilla opinion round-up

The Palestinian Ambassador to the Arab League.(Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

• Yoav Fromer argues that Israel’s pre-existing image problem and the activists’ relative savvy should have dissuaded Israel from attempting to “resolve a political challenge through military action.” [Tablet]

• While the American Jewish Committee (and the Anti-Defamation League too) fingered the Free Gaza movement, J Street called for a “credible, independent” Israeli-sponsored investigation. [JTA]

• Though he defends the soldiers, Peter Beinart blames their political leaders for the blockade itself and pro-Israel Americans who have succumbed to the “epidemic of not watching.” [The Daily Beast]

• Leslie Gelb goes the opposite route: He says the soldiers mishandled the raid, but that enforcing the blockade was legal and just, and “only knee-jerk left-wingers … would dispute this.” [The Daily Beast]

• Ralph Peters says the incident is best understood as Turkey’s assertion of increased hegemony. [NY Post]

If you buy the blockade, notes Shmuel Rosner, then enforcing it is clearly necessary. [Slate]

• To J.J. Goldberg, Israel is Charlie Brown, always thinking that, this time, it really can kick the football. [Forward]

• “One really does have to marvel at the incredible own goal the Israelis have just scored.” Hey, over here we prefer football—real football—analogies, Mr. Muqawama! [Abu Muqawama]

• Hussein Ibish notes that, in a sense, everything went exactly according to the activists’ plan, and according to their best wishes. [Ibishblog]

• George Packer sees “a classic triumph of civil disobedience over state power.” Oh, and nice headline, Mr. Packer! [Interesting Times]

• Reza Aslan says Israel’s “vaunted” hasbara, or public relations machine, even with all its storied “power and potency,” cannot clean up this mess. First, aren’t “power” and “potency” the same thing? Second, is there any evidence the hasbara has had either any time recently? [The Daily Beast]

Murder in Damascus

Who killed a top Iranian general?


And now for something somewhat slightly different: A top general in Iran’s increasingly prominent Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was reportedly assassinated on May 16 in Damascus. It is not clear by whom. His death had been known, but Syrian authorities described him as a businessman killed in the course of a robbery. According to Debka News, though, which cites French intelligence and Syrian exiles, the lethal intruders nabbed documents and laptops but no valuables.

Khalil Sultan (no, not that Khalil Sultan) ran the IRGC’s covert operations in Damascus and Beirut, Debka says. And it theorizes that his killers may be:

• A “foreign element” with “an interest in sabotaging Iran’s covert activities” (well, I can think of one);

• Syrian Sunnis, who want to minimize Shiite—read: Iranian—influence;

• Iran itself, which may have been troubled by Sultan’s close friendship with a top general who reportedly defected.

Western sources disclose that his death caused deep shock in top Syrian and Iranian government and security circles. His assassins’ success in reaching this top secret agent in the most closely-guarded neighborhood of the capital, seat of Syrian government institutions and domicile of senior officials, has caused Syrian intelligence and the regime as a whole deep embarrassment.

Me? I just can’t wait to see this summer’s new line of fake mustaches.

Iranian Guards General Assassinated in Damascus [Debka News]

Yes We Cohen!

Prominent politico forges Dutch Third Way

Job Cohen.(a href="">NYT Mag)

The New York Times Magazine—a weekly magazine of Jewish life and culture—profiles Job Cohen, the longtime former Amsterdam mayor now leading his Labor Party into the Netherlands’s June 9 elections. His parents hid from the Nazis and his grandparents were killed at Bergen-Belsen, and he is “in many ways a traditional European leftist.” But he has forsaken the European left’s typical (and bankrupt) multiculturalism, instead—like several charismatic left-wing Boomer politicians before him—crafting a Third Way “for mainstream parties on the Continent to successfully combat the swelling tide of populist, anti-immigrant voices” like that of Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party. (Perhaps Cohenism is the sort of thing author Paul Berman has in mind?)

Says author Russell Shorto:

Some see in Cohen’s rise the possibility of a new Dutch society, and with it perhaps a hint of how new national identities could form in Europe. In what would be confirmation of the worst fears of a Wilders, the new identity prototype has an inclusiveness that inverts the centuries-old formula. As the Jew and the Turk stood side by side with their fellow candidates—which included a good mix of other ethnicities as well as native Dutch—Cohen proclaimed, “This is the Netherlands!”

Read the whole thing. And, of course, check out the Yes We Cohen! Facebook group.

The Integrationist [NYT Mag]
Related: No Debate [Tablet Magazine]

Egypt Lifts the Blockade, ‘9/11 for Turkey’

Your midday Flotilla update

Prime Minister Netanyahu visits a wounded soldier in Tel Aviv today.(Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

The two biggest pieces of news are that Egypt, whose blockade of its border with Gaza has complemented Israel’s land-and-sea blockade, opened the Rafah crossing; and another boat, currently off the coast of Italy, is en route to Gaza, with a second likely to join it. Egyptian officials said the opening at Rafah is temporary and designed to allow humanitarian aid.

Turkey, whose government many suspect had a pretty big role in organizing and sponsoring the flotilla, continues to ratchet up the rhetoric. A day after the prime minister described the Israeli raid as “state terrorism,” the country’s foreign minister declared, “Psychologically, this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey.” (Ooof.) “Citizens of member states were attacked by a country that was not a member of NATO,” he added. Turkey has also recalled its ambassador.

Here is a helpful profile of the Free Gaza Movement, which is the group behind the flotilla.

The IDF’s top general praised the soldiers’ performance.

Finally, I linked to it in the morning round-up, but Ben Smith’s story is worth a closer look. For one thing, it gets at the terrible irony of this happening just when it was clear that the U.S. “charm offensive” aimed at winning over Israel (and American Jews) was making real progress. But it also provides a great illustration of the insane bizarro world you enter when the subject is Israel. On the one hand, this truly was a screw-up, to the extent that the United States’ exceedingly mild language could get it into real trouble with the Muslim countries to which it has been practicing outreach. On the other hand, seemingly the rest of the entire world does not yet even buy the basic fact that—whether or not enforcing the blockade (as well as the blockade itself) was right or wrong—these were not unarmed, harmless, passive civilians on those ships.

“The situation is that they’re so isolated right now that it’s not only that we’re the only ones who will stick up for them,” said an American official. “We’re the only ones who believe them—and what they’re saying is true.”

Egypt Opens Gaza Border as New Ship Tests Israeli Blockade [WSJ]
Israel Says Free Gaza Movement Poses Threat to Jewish State [WP]
Turkish Foreign Minister: Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla ‘Like 9/11’ for His Country [WP]
‘We’re The Only Ones Who Believe Them’ [Politico]
Israel Bites the Bait [Tablet Magazine]

Four Rabbis and a Wedding

Über-Jewish union in the NYT

Jews getting married.(Flickr)

Before spending the rest of the day discussing you-know-what, can we take a brief blogpost to recognize that the New York Times—whose new official Scroll epithet is “a daily magazine of Jewish life and culture”—chronicled the wedding of two rabbis by two more rabbis?

And there’s more! Gawker’s nuptial scorekeeper, one Phyllis Nefler (which could be a Jewish name, although I hear it’s a pseudonym), determined that the Glazer-Skloot union was actually not the weekend’s Jewiest. That honor, rather, belongs to the happy coupling of Julie Goldman and David Weinfeld. The bride’s father sits on the board of the American Jewish Committee’s Boston chapter; the bridegroom wrote his thesis on American Jewish humor and “identifies” with Larry David (wow). Only one rabbi at their wedding, though.

Erin Glazer and Joseph Skloot [NYT]
Scoring Sunday’s Nuptials: Welcome to Wedding Season [Gawker]

Today on Tablet

Ingall comments back, Kirsch on Scoop, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Marjorie Ingall addresses readers’ exclamatory objections to last week’s blockbuster column (here) on how liberals should educate their kids about Zionism. Books critic Adam Kirsch looks at the history of neoconservatism through the lens of hawkish Sen. Henry Jackson and his 1970s followers, so-called “Scoop Jackson Democrats.” F. Gregory Gause III crafts a valid isolationist critique of U.S. policy in the Mideast while debunking an invalid one. Josh Lambert has his weekly look at forthcoming books of interest. And The Scroll is back after a three-day weekend. What, did something happen while we were gone?

What Happened at Sea

The Flotilla fallout

An IDF speedboat escorts a boarded ship to Ashdod, Israel.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

For our take, please go here.

Daybreak: U.S. Extracts Measured Condemnation

Plus two more ships, and more in the Flotilla news

President Obama yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

• The U.N. Security Council condemned “acts” resulting in the nine “Freedom Flotilla” deaths, in a statement watered down at U.S. insistence from the Turkish original. [NYT]

• Two more ships affiliated with the flotilla—including an Irish vessel called the “Rachel Corrie”—are apparently still out there. “This is not the end,” the flotilla organizer pledged. [Ynet]

• “We’re the only ones who believe them,” a U.S. official says regarding the Israelis’ insistence that their soldiers were attacked. “And what they’re saying is true.” [Politico]

• Israel is still detaining hundreds of activists. And with Israeli border security on high alert, two infiltrators from Gaza were shot and killed Tuesday morning. [NYT]

• A general Arab Israeli strike was called for today, with some warning of a “new intifada.” [JPost]

• A helpful round-up of international reaction shows Arab countries, China, Britain, and more condemning Israel’s violence and demanding an end to the blockade. The U.S. statement is by far the least harsh. [WSJ]

• Yet the fallout is widely seen as likely to increase the U.S.-Israeli strain. [NYT]

Sundown: Syria Lays Groundwork for War

Plus Gingrich is both sorry and not a Nazi, and more

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.(Gingrich Productions)

Tablet Magazine and The Scroll will be dark Monday in honor of Memorial Day.

• A Hezbollah camp in Syria is a transit point for missiles that are trucked into Lebanon. This is not promising for the prospect of a peaceful summer. [Times of London]

• An Israeli journalist points out that the Israeli military’s hyperactive, loud, and at times asinine response to the Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla” is probably not as wise as just quietly diverting the completely non-threatening boats or letting them through the blockade. [Ynet]

• Progressive political group Democracy for America said it will continue to back Marcy Winograd, who is challenging staunchly pro-Israel Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) in the primary, despite Winograd’s support for a one-state solution and her demand that Harman and others “pledge allegiance to this country.” [Ben Smith]

• JDub Records CEO Aaron Bisman reports from yesterday’s White gala. [Jewcy]

• Brandeis University will try to manage its financial difficulties without selling off parts of its art collection, as it had planned. [NYT]

• Am I the only one who thoroughly enjoys it every time some public figure who says something stupid or worse has to prostrate himself in front of the ADL and insist he is not a Nazi? Anyway, it’s Newt Gingrich’s turn. [ADL]

From our Irish friends, have a happy Memorial Day. Please think of those who protect us and then do not return home.

Glenn Beck Says Jew Follows Nazi Logic

Also, dog bites man

Glenn Beck.(Wikipedia)

Point One: The President of Jewish Funds for Justice, Simon Greer, is essentially a Nazi, says Glenn Beck.

(Specifically, according to Beck, Greer’s philosophy of prioritizing the common good “leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany.”)

Point Two: Everyone is a Nazi to Glen Beck, says Lewis Black.

Who’s right? We report, you decide.

Beck Attacks Jewish Funds for Justice’s Simon Greer; Says Putting “The Common Good” First “Leads to Death Camps” [Media Matters]

Shirtless Einstein Prompts Lawsuit

Hebrew U goes after GM

The controversial ad.(Motor Trend)

The fierce protectors of Albert Einstein’s reputation—a.k.a. the good folks at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which owns the rights to Einstein’s image—are suing General Motors over an advertisement that shows a shirtless and admirably cut Professor Albert. The graphic graphic is part of a GMC Terrain ad that is slated for the September issue of People that will reveal the magazine’s choice for Sexiest Man Alive (we’ve got money down on Idris Elba).

“Dr. Einstein with his underpants on display is not consummate with and causes injury to [the university's] carefully guarded rights in the image and likeness of the famous scientist, political activist, and humanitarian,” a Hebrew U. lawyer says. Though we will agree: Ideas are sexy too!

The university owns the rights to Einstein’s image and guards them vigilantly—most of the time. Several years ago, it tangled in court with California-based Electronic Arts over a video game that imagined Einstein dueling with Hitler. On the other hand, it has been willing to sell Einstein’s image to help hawk computers, cameras, and, of course, Coca-Cola.

Full ad below the jump. Warning: It’s utterly ridiculous. (more…)

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