Today on Tablet

An inconvenient friendship, an enduring dance, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, prominent writer and publisher Jason Epstein details his strange, politically divisive, and strongly enduring friendship with Benzion Netanyahu, the uncompromising proto-Likudnik who is significantly to the right even of his son, the prime minister. Prompted by the comments on her last entry, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall digs up everything you need to know about “A-Ba-Ni-Bi,” the dance familiar to generations of Jewish-camp-goers. The Scroll knows that “Zum Gali Gali” one.

U.S. Exempts Donations to Illegal Outposts

Policy supports settlements, which gov’t opposes

An ultra-Orthodox family in a northern West Bank settlement.(Bar-On/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times has a nearly 5,000-word article sure to provoke conversation amid Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting at the White House today. It reports that in the past decade U.S. law has allowed the tax-exempt donation of $200 million to further Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—which the U.S. government opposes.

Most of the money, which must pass through an American charity to become tax-exempt, goes to established settlements near the Green Line that are permitted under Israeli law; two-state endgames typically envision land-swaps that would place these conurbations in Israel proper.

But, to the consternation even of Israeli security officials, smaller (but impactful) amounts of tax-exempt funds flow to illegal outposts inhabited by radical settlers unlikely to leave without a fight.

The Times isn’t breaking this story; if anything, the news is that this dynamic has long been an open secret. “It drove us crazy,” former U.S. Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer says. “It was a thing you didn’t talk about in polite company.”

The article will likely prompt closer looks at and arguments over the current state of Israeli settlements and settlement policy; the Obama administration’s relative friendliness to Israel (or lack thereof); and even The New York Times, which pretty clearly intended to publish the piece on the day that was supposed to culminate the months-long reinforcement of U.S.-Israeli ties.

The piece certainly hits home in the context of the typical locution, “I don’t want my tax money going toward” a given cause. (more…)

Daybreak: The Big Meet

Plus Turkey may cut ties, Turkey maintains ties, and more in the news

Netanyahu at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence last week.(Oded Balilty-Pool- Getty Images)

• Today’s the day: Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama will meet at the White House; the ensuing discussion and, especially, photo-op are meant to reinforce the countries’ strong ties. [WP]

• U.S. tax law has exempted more than $200 million in donations to U.S. charities that fund Jewish settlements, including illegal outposts. Much more at 10 am. [NYT]

• In advance of the White House meeting, Israel published a list of items now banned from Gaza (before, it published a stricter list of items allowed), and Defense Minister Barak met with Prime Minister Fayyad. [NYT]

• Turkey’s foreign minister explicitly said his country would sever ties if Israel neither apologized for the flotilla raid nor accepted an international probe. [WP]

• Yet there is still substantial trade and even military cooperation between the two countries. [NYT]

• An Arabic daily reported that Palestinian President Abbas offered a land-swap deal to U.S. envoy George Mitchell under which Israel would keep sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, including the Western Wall. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Fayyad’s Failures

Plus mathematician rejects prize money, and more

Grigori Perelman at work.(Facebook)

Tablet Magazine and The Scroll will be dark on Monday in honor of the Independence Day.

• Amid the almost impossible amount of adoration for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (look, the guy is in many ways great, but you would think he walks on water), here is an alternate take. [Carnegie Endowment for International Peace]

• Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev became the first Russian head-of-state to visit Birobidjan, the capital city of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. [ Iz Neias?]

• Russian mathematician Grigori “Grisha” Perelman, rejected a $1 million prize for solving the Poincaré conjecture. Um, can I have it? [NYT]

• Something, or someone, is wrong when indie rock acts start boycotting Israel. [Jewcy]

• Jon Stewart compiles Republican euphemisms for Elena Kagan’s religious background. [Daily Intel]

• Anti-Semitism in Red Dead Redemption. [Heeb]

Signing off for three days, from—where else?—Politics & Prose. Happy Fourth!

A Children’s Treasury of Mocking Mel Gibson

Like a roast, except not good-natured


We may soon be able to hear Mel Gibson tell the mother of his child that he hopes she gets raped by a gang of black-people-who-are-themselves-lower-forms-of-life. Apparently his ex-girlfriend recorded 30 minutes (30 minutes!) of ranting from Mad Mel. Figure a conservative estimate of three racial epithets per minute, and you’re approaching 100 different colorful ways for Gibson to refer to his fellow human beings.

While you await this smorgasbord of hatred, three items are worth your attention:

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Ben Greenman—author of the new What He’s Poised To Do—has reposted fragments from Mel! The Musical, which first appeared in 2006. []

• Foster Kamer has a truly ingenious Mel Gibson Quoteable Flow Chart. See what Gibson would say to you! [Village Voice]

• If you have made it to this point in your life without seeing South Park’s “The Passion of the Jew,” today is the day to take 20 minutes and, y’know, rectify that. [South Park Studios]

Larry King’s New Business

You’re not going to believe this

Larry King.(Wikipedia)

Departing CNN host Larry King has a new gig lined up: He recently invested in the Florida-based Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company, which sells technology that enables someone anywhere to replicate Brooklyn tap water for the purpose of making authentic Brooklyn bagels.

Wait, what???

Yes, this company exists. Its apologia pro vita sua reads:

As anyone who has ever been in the New York area knows, Brooklyn bagels have a unique taste and quality. Over many decades, there have been countless attempts, even by experienced New York bagel bakers, to recreate a true “New York bagel” in other cities around the country.

However, no matter how valiant the effort, no one has successfully re-created a true New York bagel until now. The one ingredient with the greatest effect has been missing, which is authentic New York water. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WATER! The purity, quality and temperature of New York City’s world renowned water completes the perfect recipe for bagels, and replicating the New York water to make the perfect New York bagel has become the holy grail of bagel bakers outside of New York.

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company’s patented water treatment technology system provides the following unique and key competitive advantages:

• Enables the replication of Brooklyn water– the key ingredient necessary to create the nation’s finest bagel anywhere in the world.

• Designed to provide maintenance-free operation for the franchisee via satellite monitoring of each store’s water system to ensure consistent quality.

• Able to assist local residents, offering up to five gallons of water free, when a boil-water alert is declared.

With this technology, The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company can firmly state that “it’s all about the water.”

I have no words. There are no words.

Larry King Heading Into Bagel Biz; Will He Have To Answer to Nate n’ Al? [Deadline New York]
The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company

Does Israel Belong at Gay Pride?

Upcoming Toronto parade begs question

Pride in Israel, 2009.(Flickr)

You’d have to be living on a small, Jew-less island not to know that Jewish communities around the globe are defining and redefining themselves through their orientations toward Israel (hello, Pittsburgh!). What might be less obvious is that, on a smaller scale, LGBT communities are, too.

Exhibit A, at the moment, is a fracas going on in Toronto, which will host its 30th annual Pride parade on Sunday, July 4 (because Canadians hate America). Back in April, the city of Toronto threatened to revoke funding from Toronto Pride if a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (which has participated in previous years) was allowed to march in the parade; a month later, Toronto Pride’s board of directors banned the group. Last week, though, after community members who are being honored at the event announced that they would not accept their awards unless this group was allowed back in, Toronto Pride reversed its ruling—and the outcry switched again to the other side. (more…)

Netherlands Defeats Brazil

The Scroll is one for one today


Well, the guy holding the Israeli flag appears to be a Brazil fan, at least judging by his yellow shirt. But Tablet Magazine’s team in this morning’s match was the Netherlands, and the Netherlands prevailed, 2-1, to advance to the semifinals.

Next, at 2:30 E.S.T.: Ghana v. Uruguay. Go Black Stars!

Earlier: Which Squad You Should Root For

Secret Meeting Sparks Furor

FM Lieberman feuds with PM Netanyahu

Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this week.(Dan Balilty - Pool/Getty Images)

Quick recap of Israel’s insane coalition politics: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu want to pull the government to the right; opposition leader Tzipi Livni and her Kadima would maybe join the government on the condition of replacing Lieberman; Prime Minister Netanyahu needs Lieberman to shore up the right at home, but while Lieberman is Israel’s top diplomat in name, in practice the country’s chief representative to the outside world has been the far more venerable and moderate Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Bibi’s double books exploded this week with revelations of a secret meeting (for “secret,” read “behind Lieberman’s back”) between Turkey’s foreign minister and Israel’s industry minister in Zurich over the flotilla fallout. So the Turkish foreign minister met not with his Israeli counterpart, as diplomatic protocol would have it, but with Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer—a member of, yup, Barak’s Labor Party. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Zionism goes viral, Jew v. Klan, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Irin Carmon gets to the bottom of that pro-Israel Latin American YouTube video you’ve probably seen. In honor of the Fourth, Marc Grossman tells of the time his little Jewish grandmother stood up to the Klan. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz reminds us that we are not promised an easy ride, particularly if we seek justice. And The Scroll will take you into the long weekend.

Daybreak: Obama Inks Sanctions

Plus Bibi and Abbas disagree on talks, and more in the news

President Obama signs the sanctions bill yesterday.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

• President Obama signed the sanctions that overwhelmingly passed Congress. They attempt to cut back on Iran’s financing and energy sector. [NYT]

• A more benevolent result of the flotilla incident is that, even among Hamas and Hezbollah, nonviolent resistance is in again. [WSJ]

• President Abbas wants progress on borders before direct talks; Prime Minister Netanyahu is ready for direct talks now. [NYT]

• Former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk says now constitutes “the most conducive environment for peace negotiations” since 2000. [WP]

• Prominent Jewish philanthropist Joan Arnow died. She and her husband, Robert, were particular supporters of UJA-New York and Shalom Sesame (!). [JTA]

• People in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood (c’mon, we must have some readers from out there; represent in the comments) sure do disagree about Israel! [WSJ]

Sundown: Oh Mel, We’d Missed You So!

Plus Bibi demurs on Gilad, Hodgman thinks like us, and more


• It’s been reported that Mel Gibson told his ex-girlfriend that he hopes she is “raped by a pack of [n-words].” But it turns out he was just doing a spot for the ADL’s “Anti-Semitism is Anti-Me” campaign. [HuffPo]

• In a special address on the subject, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would be hesitant to free terrorists who would be likely to strike again in exchange for captured soldier Gilad Shalit. [Haaretz]

• Files listing all the French collaborationists will soon be made public, scanned, and put online. “I’m not in the mood to see a four-hour documentary on the Nazis,” says Annie Hall somewhere. [Telegraph/Vos Iz Neias?]

• In the comments, we’re alerted to a podcast with Sam Munson over the politics in his novel. [Forward]

• Jesse Michaels, of legendary punk act Operation Ivy, discusses his late father, essayist Leonard. [Jewcy]

Hey, look! Here’s John Hodgman, on last night’s Daily Show, making the exact same joke about Nazi-harboring World Cup teams that I made yesterday morning!

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
You’re Welcome – World Cup
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

No, Don’t Pray for Hitchens

Just hope he gets well

Christopher Hitchens.(Christian Witkins)

“Prayers are being said for Christopher Hitchens—despite his anti-religious beliefs—with the news that he has cancer of the esophagus,” reads Page Six. Since the item doesn’t actually say who is doing the praying, I can only assume that they are either snarking at a sick unbeliever, or that they are ignorant of their offensiveness. Hitchens (a Tablet Magazine contributor who late in his life discovered that his mother was Jewish) has devoted a good part of his intellectual life to ferociously battling the idea that God exists, culminating in his 2007 best-seller God Is Not Great. I find that suggesting prayer for a man who resents even the concept that there is Someone to pray to is pretty repugnant (and I say this as one who would not mind prayers if I found myself in Hitchens’s current position).

I think he would agree. Here is how he concludes his recently published memoir, Hitch-22, brilliantly merging his unbelief with his apparently parallel crusade against earthly dictatorship:

Over the course of the last decade, I have become vividly aware of a literally lethal challenge from the sort of people who deal in absolute certainty and believe themselves to be actuated and justified by a supreme authority. To have spent so long learning so relatively little, and then to be menaced in every aspect of my life by people who already know everything, and who have all the information they need …

After various past allegiances, I have come to believe that Karl Marx was rightest of all when he recommended continual doubt and self-criticism. Membership in the skeptical faction or tendency is not at all a soft option. The defense of science and reason is the great imperative of our time … To be be an unbeliever is not to be merely “open-minded.” It is, rather, a decisive admission of uncertainty that is dialectically connected to the repudiation of the totalitarian principle, in the mind as well as in politics.

Pray for Christopher Hitchens [Page Six]

Send Bieber on Birthright!

Pop sensation could head for the Holy Land

Bieber is 16. I know, right?(Wikipedia)

Justin Bieber is a pop star who looks like he’s about 11—don’t worry, though, he’s 16. If a celebrity is someone famous for being famous, Bieber is a celebrity who is famous for perennially being a trending topic on Twitter. For his upcoming world tour, Bieber’s fans are having a contest to see which country wants him the most. Currently:

Third Place: Poland.

Second Place: North Korea (Gawker explains how Bieber is so popular in a country that doesn’t have Twitter, or the Internet).

First Place: Israel.

I don’t think I need to tell you what to do now.

Latvian Rightists Celebrate Nazis

‘Holocaust obfuscation’ continues in the Baltics

An opponent of the march watches it go down in Riga. Great t-shirt.(Ilmars Znotins/AFP/Getty Images)

A Latvian court ruled that a group can march today to commemorate—in, like, a celebratory way—the 1941 Nazi invasion. The decision earned the condemnations of Latvia’s prime and foreign ministers, as well as the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The march is properly understood in the context of “Holocaust obfuscation,” which Dovid Katz reported on for Tablet Magazine. An Eastern European (and maybe particularly Baltic?) phenomenon, Holocaust obfuscation does not deny the Holocaust, but states that the crimes of occupying Nazis and the crimes of occupying Soviets were more or less equivalent. This march perhaps takes Holocaust obfuscation one step further (and several too far!) by cheering the relief of Soviet occupation that Nazi invasion brought.

“To celebrate the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Riga on July 1,” said the director of Israel’s Simon Wiesenthal Center, “is to celebrate the mass murder of all those victimized by the Nazis in Latvia—primarily Jews, but also Communists, Gypsies and the mentally ill.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is slated to visit Latvia over the weekend to honor the roughly 66,000 Latvian Jews whom the Nazis murdered.

Latvian March To Mark Nazi Invasion Condemned [JTA]
Related: The Crime of Surviving [Tablet Magazine]

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