The Israeli Nuclear Issue

Some want ‘ambiguity’ cleared up


Since May, Israel’s strategic “nuclear ambiguity”—under which it has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has never publicly tested weapons, and yet is widely known to have nuclear bombs—has come under scrutiny in light of a 1990s U.N. resolution declaring the Mideast to be a nukes-free zone as well as the recent attempts to sway Iran from its path toward nuclear capability.

The little-noticed catch is that a March document signed by NPT signatories—including the United States—urged, in one paragraph buried amid many, that Israel become a signatory as well (which would in turn compel it to give up its weapons).

“Israel believed it had assurances from the Obama administration that it would reject efforts to include such a reference,” the New York Times’s Mark Landler wrote last weekend, “and it saw this as another sign of unreliability by its most important ally.” (more…)

The Most Un-Kosher Thing You Will Ever See

Photo of the day


The pig’s head stuffed with lobster at Montreal gastronomic mecca Au Pied de Cochon.

Photo by 1000yregg.

Go … Germany?

They take on Spain for the final Finals spot

Germany celebrating victory over Argentina in the quarter-finals.(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

As we hoped, the Netherlands took care of Uruguay yesterday, 3-2 (with the help of one of the most sensational goals you will ever see). Today at 2:30 E.S.T.: Germany v. Spain.


In Israel, they’re having no trouble hoping that Germany ends up, well, uber alles. “Israelis support Germany,” the AP reports,

for the same reason fans around the world do: They are one of the competition’s strongest teams, with beautiful footwork, aggressive strikers and a no-nonsense defense.

The passing of time and Germany’s consistent public contrition for the Holocaust has softened many Israelis. And Germany’s strong political support for Israel at a time when the country feels like the target of international hostility makes their soccer team more endearing.

Adds Howard Wolfson, who asks “Is It Okay To Root for Germany?” (and answers that it is), “I’m looking forward to putting history and politics aside for 90 minutes and enjoying a great match. Hopefully that will be ok.”

It will be. Until Sunday, when we’ll be rooting for the Righteous Oranje to put the beatdown on whoever wins today.

Some Israelis OK With Cheering for Germany [AP]
Is It Okay To Root for Germany? [The Goal Post]
Earlier: Going Dutch
Which Squad You Should Root For
Postcard from Berlin

When America Went Kosher

We all answer to a higher authority

Uncle Sam goes kosher.(YouTube)

In case you missed it over the holiday weekend, check out Sue Fishkoff’s excellent New York Times op-ed on how Hebrew National hot dogs became as American as the Fourth of July. Yes, kosher is now Zeitgeisty—safer and more ethical, and the next best thing to local. But all that began with Hebrew National’s famous 1972 “We answer to a higher authority” ad campaign.

Fishkoff discusses when ballparks began to have exclusively kosher stands (the first, I’m proud to say, was Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in 1993), and explains why Hebrew National isn’t sufficient for many Orthodox Jews. My favorite point of Fishkoff’s, though, concerns the ad campaign’s timing, which

captured a pivotal moment in American Jewish history: a newly confident but still largely immigrant community, basking in Israel’s victory in the June 1967 war, was almost reflexively looking back over its shoulder, not quite sure of its position in the majority-Christian society.

American Jews have always tried to balance their desire to be fully American with an equally strong desire to preserve their Jewish identity. As the social historian [and Tablet Magazine contributor] Jenna Weissman Joselit points out, one way that immigrant groups cement their position in a new society is by appropriating the foods of the dominant culture while simultaneously integrating their own into the mix. What better way for Jews to signal their full acceptance into American society than by stamping their imprimatur—kosher certification—on that most American of food products, the hot dog?

Next: Pesadik cookie dough.

Red, White and Kosher [NYT]
Earlier: Kosher Is Hip
It Oughta Be Kosher (more…)

The Sway Machinery Hit the Road

Catch the klezmer-rock act on the West Coast


Get psyched, folks. Tablet Magazine is sponsoring a forthcoming West Coast tour of The Sway Machinery and Antibalas.

If you are unfamiliar with The Sway Machinery’s highly original and highly awesome blend of jazz, rock, and klezmer, then do listen to the podcast we featured them on several years ago.

Dates after the jump. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Cahan from the Great Beyond, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith gets specific on the question of what Israel’s preconditions for peace are. Contributing editor Seth Lipsky, one-time editor of the Forward, has an imaginary conversation with that paper’s founder, Abraham Cahan, on the occasion of his 150th birthday. The Scroll has imaginary conversations with itself every day.

Your Jewish Fall Fiction Preview

Ten new novels to know

When you work at a magazine, you get advance copies.(The author)

Borrowing from one round-up in The Millions and another in The Second Pass, here are some superlative forthcoming books.

Most Anticipated: Though Jonathan Franzen isn’t Jewish, Freedom—his first novel since 2001’s massively acclaimed The Corrections—features a character who is the son of a bigwig Jewish neoconservative (September).

The One You’re Most Likely To Read: Adam Langer’s The Thieves of Manhattan. Short, fun, and about New York’s literary scene (July).

Most Charming: Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector. She’s a very charming writer: here, read her New Yorker stuff while you wait (July).

Longest: Adam Levin’s two-volume debut The Instructions (sounds like this, which sounds like this) stretches the tale of a 10-year-old named Gurion Maccabee (I get it, I guess?) over 900 pages. Please allow me to be the first to call Levin “The Josh Cohen of the McSweeney’s set” (November).

Roth: (more…)

Daybreak: Style Over Substance

Plus Israel files internal Gaza War charges, and more in the news

The two new friends yesterday.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

• The main achievement of yesterday’s White House Summit, says the lead editorial, was to show solidarity and friendship for diplomatic and political purposes. Little of substantial note seemed to have been achieved. [NYT]

• Israel indicted soldiers in four separate cases related to their conduct in last year’s Gaza conflict. [NYT]

• The perspective of over a month has clarified that passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara were preparing for a fight, and that the IHH, though maybe not strictly a terrorist group, has questionable ties in the Islamic world. [WSJ]

• 83-year-old Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak is reportedly getting increasingly ill, possibly from cancer. [Haaretz]

• Airline workers in New York lost the luggage of four members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s security detail; one suitcase ended up at LAX, with four 9 mm handguns stolen. [NBC New York]

• Want to live in Iran? Then, in the immortal words of Wesley Willis, cut the mullet. [NYT]

Sundown: Brooks Unbound

Plus Wolpe on Hitch, NYT on Jews, and more

David Brooks.(Flickr)

• Christopher Beam (an FOTS—Friend of The Scroll) profiles New York Times columnist David Brooks. [NY Mag]

• A large number of Israeli Holocaust survivors are indigent. [LAT]

• Rabbi David Wolpe movingly praises Christopher Hitchens, whom he frequently debates over the existence of God. [WP]

• “Is there anything left to be said about anti-Semitism?” A different daily magazine of Jewish life and culture finds plenty. [NYT]

• Word has Lindsay Lohan involved with a female IDF soldier. [New York Daily News]

• The United States is donating $15 million toward the preservation of Auschwitz. Since it’s the government doing it, in a sense it, too, is tax-exempt. [CNN]

A group of IDF soldiers uploaded a video of themselves dancing to Ke$ha to YouTube, and now face disciplinary action. For those not observing the Three Weeks, it’s below; for those observing the Three Weeks, click the sound off and watch.

All The Tax-Exempt Charities

Pushback against NYT article commences


In the hours since the New York Times published its 5,000-word blockbuster detailing how U.S. law has allowed more than $200 million to be donated, tax-exempt, to American charities that aid Jewish settlement beyond the Green Line, the dominant and most persuasive counter-narrative to emerge is: Tax law exempts donations to nearly all charities, for reasons that have nothing to do with the particular substance of specific charities’ work.

Or, in the tongue-in-cheek words of Slate blogger Tom Scocca, “The secular government of the United States, barred by fundamental Constitutional principles from involvement in religion, has goals and policies that are not identical to the goals and policies of certain religious organizations in the United States. It is as if the church and the state were somehow separated or something.”

NGO Monitor emailed a press release detailing more than a dozen U.S. charities, for which donations are also tax-exempt, that promote “anti-Israel agendas, demonization, and ‘one state’ policies th[at] single out Israel.” These include the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Birthright Unplugged, the Rachel Corrie Foundation, International Solidarity Movement, and Free Gaza Movement. (The Times, as well as my post, noted that donations to this last group, which helped sponsor the flotilla, are tax-exempt).

“The scale of funding for these organizations is at least comparable to the $200 million in donations over the past decade,” NGO Monitor asserts.

The corollary to this counterargument goes like this: Since money that goes to these groups is just as tax-exempt as money that goes to groups with completely opposite agendas; and since, as the article reports, pro-settler charities have been long known to accept tax-exempt funds; then why did the New York Times decide to publish a nearly 5,000-word exposé on the front page on the day that Prime Minister Netanyahu made his first friendly trip to the White House in an unusually long time? That question, of course, answers itself. The follow-up—has the Times earnestly, appropriately attempted to drive the conversation, or inappropriately, non-objectively inserted itself into the conversation?—is something readers will have to answer for themselves.

Religious Groups Do Religious Things [Scocca]
Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank [NYT]
Earlier: U.S. Donations to Illegal Outposts Are Tax-Exempt

Obama and Bibi Tag-Team for Friendship

Two happy faces, at least for the press

The two heads-of-state today.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

How often do you hear Mark Twain quoted at a high-level diplomatic summit? Not often enough, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to do his part to fix that: In his brief appearance today at the Oval Office with President Obama, Netanyahu announced that, pace Twain, rumors of the demise of the U.S.-Israel relationship are greatly exaggerated. In fact, they’re “flat wrong.” (Video here; transcript here.)

It was the first joint appearance by the two men in months, and a departure from their recent pattern of press blackouts and leaked reports of snubs. But with Israeli-Turkish relations maybe on the (slow) mend and both the Israelis and the Palestinians making refreshingly positive noises about the prospects for moving from proximity talks to direct peace negotiations, whatever topics Netanyahu and Obama needed to discuss, in “robust” fashion, in private—settlements, Iran, nuclear non-proliferation, the World Cup—were evidently overshadowed by the importance, for both, of giving off the impression of being copacetic.

So, in front of an audience limited to the American and Israeli press pool, they sat side by side, Bibi in a black-and-white striped tie and Obama in a red one, tag-teaming to give sunny responses. Is Netanyahu a partner for peace? “I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace,” Obama assured. How quickly will things move now that we’re heading into the last few months of the settlement-construction freeze? “When I say the next few weeks, that’s what I mean. The president means that, too,” Netanyahu insisted.

Netanyahu will meet later this afternoon with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who got on the phone earlier today with Netanyahu’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, and with envoy George Mitchell, before joining Netanyahu and Obama for lunch. Tomorrow, Bibi will be in New York to address Jewish leaders at the Plaza Hotel; we’ll have more for you as the week goes on.

Obama, Netanyahu Promise To Work toward Direct Mideast Peace Talks [WaPo]
Obama-Bibi Reset [Politico]

Related: Personal History [Tablet Magazine]

Going Dutch

As World Cup semis begin, we have a new team

Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder celebrates a goal against Brazil last week.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

And then there were four. Going into the quarter-finals, Tablet Magazine was rooting for two teams: Ghana and The Netherlands. Ghana was defeated in painful—but truly painfulfashion by Uruguay, 1-1 on penalty kicks. The Netherlands, on the other hand, made brilliant work of perennial favorite Brazil, 2-1.

Uruguay and The Netherlands play today at 2:30 E.S.T.; Spain and Germany, last week’s other two victors, play tomorrow. It should be obvious which is Tablet Magazine’s team now:

Hup, Holland, Hup!

Earlier: Which Squad You Should Root For

Bris, Sashimi-Style

Morimoto caters elaborate affair

Chef Masaharu Morimoto.(A Very Big-Deal Bris)

Recently, socialites Michael and Julianne Wainstein hosted a bris at a tony Meatpacking District space with a powerful guest list, a special drop-in from Israel’s chief rabbi, and catering by TriBeCa’s Morimoto restaurant.

My first question: Was that restaurant’s famed chef, Masaharu Morimoto, asked to slice and dice anything besides fatty tuna?

My second question: Will bris jokes ever get old?

A Very Big-Deal Bris [Page Six]

Vote on Kagan Any Day Now

Would-be justice still has full Senate to go

Elena Kagan.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded last week, so now we await the inevitable mostly party-line vote sending her to the full Senate, where there will be a bit more wrangling, filibuster threats, maybe one extra controversy we don’t quite know about yet, a vote, and then, finally, a new Supreme Court justice. For now, let us wallow in the “vapid and hollow” process—her words!

• Politico does the Politico-y thing and says that Kagan’s “vapid and hollow” critique has never rang more true, so doesn’t that make her a hypocrite? (Um, no?) [Politico]

• Endorsements!. [Philadelphia Inquirer; WP; Slate; NYT]

• Jeffrey Rosen notes that Kagan would have the seat once held by Justice Louis D. Brandeis (under the same logic that governs, say, lineal championships in boxing: She would replace Stevens, who replaced Douglas, who replaced Brandeis.) Kagan should model herself after Brandeis, adds Rosen, who “eloquently defended [the] economic and moral justice” of Progressive laws. Brandeis, of course, was the High Court’s first Jew; should Kagan be confirmed, she will be the current Court’s third. [NYT]

• I linked to it last week, but please watch Jon Stewart’s take on the Committee’s questions about her “Upper West Side” background.

The word “Senatize” ought to go in the Oxford English Dictionary: “v.: To make something funny unfunny, stilted, and lasting longer than ten seconds.”

Earlier: Kagan Hearings Kick Off

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.

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