Today on Tablet

Extreme awakening, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith argues that even as President Obama continues his rhetoric about appealing to Muslim moderates, his diplomats have begun to shift toward negotiating with extremists in the region. A Vox Tablet podcast features the rock outfit Yiddish Princess. The Scroll is really excited about Bloomsday tonight, and hopes you can make it!

J Street Challenges AIPAC Over Flotilla Letter

Relatedly, senators are inundated with mail


J Street has not openly warred with AIPAC—the more conservative Israel group whose dominance J Street was partly founded to counterbalance—in awhile. As far as energy sanctions against Iran are concerned, the two groups have actually been on the same team (which has not necessarily been the Obama administration’s team). But now, a letter AIPAC is circulating for signatures is drawing a direct challenge from the newer, smaller, “pro-Israel, pro-peace” outfit.

The AIPAC letter calls for U.S. support for Israel in the face of international condemnations of the flotilla incident and calls for an international probe. “Israeli forces used necessary force as an act of self-defense and of last resort,” it argues.

“These letters,” responds J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami, “have been drafted primarily for domestic political consumption rather than to advance the U.S. interest in peace and security in the Middle East.” (I received his letter in a press release, but haven’t seen it online yet; I’ll post it after the jump.) “J Street urges members of Congress to seek changes to the letters currently circulating before signing—or to write their own.” Among other things, Ben-Ami argues (in—what else?—a letter to legislators), the other letters do not sufficiently recognize the suffering of Gazans.

A J Street spokesperson clarified for me yesterday evening that the “letters” Ben-Ami refers to are the AIPAC one in the House, which has been lead-signed by Reps. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and Ted Poe (R-Texas); and the one signed by Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), which urges the State Department to put IHH, the Turkish charity behind the flotilla, on the official U.S. terrorist list. I’ve received a letter from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations urging senators to sign on to that one.

Now you know why your congressperson didn’t answer that letter you sent them about the pothole on your block: They get quite a few!

Members Defend Israeli Flotilla Action [Ben Smith]
Reid-McConnell Letter: Consider IHH for Terrorist List [JTA]

After the jump, J Street’s letter. (more…)

Daybreak: Actual Aid To Finally Get Through

Plus Moonbeam and Goebbels, and more in the news


• In the coda, the United Nations expects to deliver the flotilla’s humanitarian cargo to Gaza soon. [NYT]

• In Istanbul, Tom Friedman warns that U.S.-Turkey relations could be headed for catastrophe. [NYT]

• The Israeli flotilla probe will meet for the first time next week. [Haaretz]

• The East Jerusalem construction plan whose announcement three months ago, when Vice President Biden was in town, sparked tensions was just ratified. [JPost]

• California’s former governor (and current gubernatorial candidate) Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown says he regrets having compared a rival’s tactics to Goebbels’. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Many at the U.N. still endorse the Secretary General’s plan for an international flotilla probe. [Ben Smith]

Sundown: Al and Laurie

Plus Devendra gets back at Natalie, and more

Larry David.(Wikipedia)

• Al Gore reportedly cheated on Tipper with Laurie David (Larry’s ex). So not only Bill had a yen for Jewish girls! [NY Daily News]

• Entertaining profile of Micah Lasher, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s wunderkind negotiator. [NYT]

• A kosher vendor is suing the New York Mets for not letting it sell hot dogs on Friday nights and Saturdays. Wait, what? [JTA]

• A biography of the late Rabbi Schneerson has caused a stir among his followers, the Chabad Lubavitchers. [NYT]

• One reviewer says this of Emily Gould’s And The Heart Says Whatever: “I am Jewish, and grew up in an affluent Jewish suburb. I knew a lot of girls like Emily Gould. We called them Jewish American Princesses, girls who passed notes in class and made cruel fun of selected peers.” [PopMatters]

• Devendra Banhart becomes the latest artist to cancel Israeli gigs. Could this be related to his (Israeli) ex, Natalie Portman? [Jewcy]

Two Big Jewcies.

An Unaffiliate Stands Before the Law

Blogging Joshua Cohen’s ‘Witz’


The Scroll will be blogging selected sections of Witz, the new novel from Tablet Magazine columnist Joshua Cohen. Josh will be celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses with us this Wednesday, June 16.

It’s Kafka rather than Joyce who haunts the final section of Witz, in which the world’s remaining Unaffiliated—that is, those who have not converted to the brand of something-like-Judaism that has come to dominate the post-apocalyptic future, or “not chosen to be chosen” in the Newspeak of this new order—are rounded up and sent to their deaths (by a reconstituted Sanhedrin, naturally) in the reopened concentration camps of Polandland. The new genocide victims are, simultaneously, tourists, and their journeys to Whateverwitz, Whywald, and Nohausen, though mandatory, are also luxury vacations. “Give them the Grand Tour, show them the sites, take it all in, the works, allinclusive: then, terminal transfer to extermination facilities situated at the outer limits of major metropolises throughout the Pale … and then to murder them, every one of them, dead, and so only the pure will be left; that’s the plan.” They are flown first-class to Eastern Europe; “gifted with oodles of ointments to apply to their new tattoos”; taken to barracks with minibars and flat-screen televisions. “They’re not scheduled but punctually leisured to death, that’s how we like to think of it.”

But that’s not the Kafkaesque part. Each Unaffiliate either initially passes through one of several gates that leads directly to death or instead gets to pass through the Tourist Gate, and this is determined by a series of gatekeepers on loan from K’s famous parable “Before the Law” (which, I am personally convinced, is a parable about rabbinic Judaism and which I’m also sure inspired the structure of A Serious Man).

In Kafka’s version, a man stands before the gateway of the Law. (more…)

The Global Sport

Photo of the day

(Musa al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinians and Americans watch Saturday’s United States-England World Cup match on a screen mounted to the separation wall, in Bethlehem, in the West Bank.

Carrie Brownstein’s Torrid Affair With Phish

Big Jewcy has great taste

Carrie Brownstein, rocking out.(Damon Green/Flickr)

Our roommates’ Big Jewcy list continues apace with a look at Carrie Brownstein, late of Sleater-Kinney.

My favorite thing about Carrie Brownstein? She gave Phish an honest chance:

Phish occupies a unique space in music: It is extremely popular with a large group of people, yet simultaneously misunderstood, judged and dismissed by another—particularly self-identified music snobs, indie rockers and a whole slew of other folks. … Phish has never had a radio hit for non-fans to use as fodder or evidence. In fact—and this is the most shocking, and what makes the band a rare breed—many Phish-phobes have never even heard Phish’s music!

Listening, everyone??

For those who don’t recall, the Big Jewcy’s Big Party is this Thursday in New York.

The Big Jewcy: Carrie Brownstein, Musician/Writer

Jews Debate Jews Debating Obama

Plus the other half of ‘Dysentery’ weighs in


Commentary, the right-wing journal published founded by the American Jewish Committee [Ed.: The AJC no longer publishes it], has a massive symposium in which 31 “prominent American Jews” briefly discuss whether American Jews are likely to shift from the 4-to-1 support they gave President Obama in the 2008 election. Notable respondents include Elliott Abrams (whom Lee Smith profiled in Tablet Magazine), Alan Dershowitz, Abraham Foxman, Aaron David Miller (whom Lee Smith also profiled), Norman Podhoretz, Nextbook Press author Ruth Wisse, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie.

I’ll defer to J.J. Goldberg for a summary of the findings:

Don’t count on those American Jewish blockheads to stand up for Israel: 11.
Well, they’d better / Hey, they just might: 7.
I’m hoping Obama will see the light and we won’t have to choose sides: 7.
Obama isn’t Israel’s enemy / This symposium is a right-wing set-up: 4.
Miscellaneous (Both sides are nuts / We haven’t properly taught Israel to our young’uns): 2.

Meanwhile, from the other half of Dysentery, Dissent posts an essay co-written by founding editor Irving Howe in the aftermath of the Six Day War. “Israelis should take a constructive and humane attitude toward the problem of the Arab refugees,” the 1967 essay argues, “who, even if exploited by the Arab governments, are suffering human beings and deserve more sympathy and active help than they have gotten from a nation itself comprised of refugees.”

Obama, Israel, and American Jews: The Challenge—A Symposium [Commentary]
‘Commentary’ Polls the Experts [J.J. Goldberg]
From the Archives: Irving Howe and Stanley Plastrik, ‘After the Mideast War’ [Arguing the World]

Today on Tablet

The northern problem, Birthright, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Nicholas Noe sets the stage for what could be the forthcoming Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Books critic Adam Kirsch considers Birthright, and what its true goals are (hint: you put lots of young people on a bus together for several days). The Scroll needs to get on one of those trips.

Weather App Divides Jerusalem

But which side has better weather?

(The author.)

Earlier this month, Mideast iPhone users checking the device’s weather application found that Jerusalem had been divided into … you guessed it: West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Ditto visitors to Yahoo!’s weather page.

The American Israeli Action Coalition drew the long straw and duly issued a press release condemning the “blunder” (which “bites Yahoo! and Apple to their Cores”). By Sunday, Jerusalem was reunited.

What’s weird is that Facebook allowed Golan residents to say they were Israeli nine months ago, and still no peace deal with Syria!

iPhone’s Two-City Solution Disturbs the Mideast Peace [LAT]
Earlier: Facebook Updates the Golan’s Status

Daybreak: U.N. Wants Its Own Probe

Plus more ships set sail, and more in the news


• As two Iranian-sponsored ships set sail for Gaza, the United Nations will press ahead with plans for an international probe into the flotilla incident in addition to Israel’s. [Haaretz]

• No U.S. citizen is involved in Israel’s probe—the international observers are Irish and Canadian—in an effort to lend it credibility. [JPost]

• Israelis are trepidatious about what the probe will find and the consequences thereof, but glad it’s not an international one. [LAT]

• What’s Egypt to do? It can’t let Turkey become the new top pro-Palestinian Sunni state … but it sure likes that blockade of bordering Gaza. [WP]

• Ireland is asking Israel to withdraw a designated diplomatic staff member over the eight fake Irish passports allegedly used in the January assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. [Ynet]

• A former Jersey City, New Jersey, deputy mayor got three years for corruption charges stemming from Syrian Jewish scion Solomon Dwek’s whistle-blowing. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Sundown: AIPAC, Bibi Back the Probe

Plus Israeli guard shot in West Bank, and more

Comrades carry slain policeman’s coffin.(David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

• AIPAC applauded the Israeli-led probe into the flotilla and the blockade (in a press release we received), while Prime Minister Netanyahu predicted that it would vindicate the Israeli government’s actions. [Haaretz]

• Meanwhile, in the probe’s composition Ben Smith sees further evidence of echoes between the Palestinian question and the Irish one. [Ben Smith]

• An Israeli police officer was shot dead in the first fatal attack on Israeli security in the territory in more than a year. [NYT]

• The University of California, Irvine suspended its Muslim Student Union in response to the disruption of Ambassador Michael Oren’s lecture several months ago. [JTA]

• Eyal Press on the new, emerging, nonviolent “white intifada.” [NYRB]

The New York Times—a weekly magazine of Jewish life and culture—has really outdone itself with this report on a bunch of old Jews (assuming that Frank Levy, Robert Brustein, Bob Schwartz, Marty Brustein, and Dick Zimmern are Jewish). [NYT]

Sometimes kittens wear hats.

You Never Bring Me Flowers

An old Jew tells a joke


Except when you do.

Hungary Passes Controversial Bill

It would equate Nazism and Communism


Last month, Dovid Katz wrote in Tablet Magazine about “Holocaust obfuscation”: The phenomenon, in various Eastern European countries that fell under Soviet rule after World War II, of equating the suffering of Jews under the Nazis with the suffering of locals under the Communists. Focusing on Lithuania, Katz wrote,

Holocasut obfuscation does not deny a single Jewish death at the hands of the Nazis. Instead, it uses as a starting point the idea that the Nazi genocide was not a unique event but rather a reaction to Soviet “genocide” (and antecedent to further Soviet genocide) in which the same elements of Lithuanian society that often sided with the Nazi invaders were persecuted and imprisoned by the Communist regime, whose officials included Jews.

Now, in Hungary—whose Jews experienced a unique but no less brutal iteration of the Holocaust—legislators from the country’s center-right majority have passed a law equating the crimes committed by the Communist regime to those committed by the Nazi-affiliated one, and criminalizing those who depreciate the Communists’ crimes.

Significantly, the bill seems to be a fairly direct response to a law passed this past February by the country’s earlier, left-majority that criminalized Holocaust denial.

Katz argues that Holocaust obfuscation “originates in the desire to airbrush the Holocaust out of history. This wish,” he continues,

is intimately intertwined with Eastern Europe’s special kind of anti-Semitism, which maintains a love for Israeli, American, and other Western Jews, as well as for the prewar Jewish heritage but loathes present-day Jewish communities. At the heart of that loathing is the sin of memory: Local Jews know that the few Jews who survived usually did so thanks to the Soviet Union, while local nationalists sided with Hitler and carried out much of the killing.

Hungary Equates Communism to Nazism
Related: The Crime of Surviving

First Dubai-Related Arrest Made

Alleged Mossad agent could face German trial

The false passport for Michael Bodenheimer.(JPost)

Reportedly, an Israeli Mossad operative named Uri Brodsky was arrested in Poland earlier this month in connection with the assassination in January of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Neither Poland nor Israel will confirm this, exactly; Brodsky denies the accusations. Germany sought Brodsky’s arrest (and indeed may have intentionally leaked word of it) because Brodsky allegedly procured a fraudulent passport for Michael Bodenheimer—a real-life Israeli rabbi who, being the American-born son of a pre-World War II German citizen, is entitled to a German passport. A Polish court says that a decision on Brodsky’s extradition to Germany will be decided within a month. Top Israeli spy correspondent (and Tablet Magazine contributor) Yossi Melman reports that, although the two countries have a bilateral extradition treaty, in Brodsky’s specific case it is by no means a sure thing.

So now this is back in the news, and with it comes renewed discussion of the assassination’s wisdom (or lack thereof). Israel “now,” writes columnist Yaakov Katz, “has a new crisis to deal with—this time with one of its last two remaining friends in Europe: Poland and Germany.”

And while Melman points to Poland’s efforts to keep the arrest quiet as evidence of its friendship with Israel, he adds,

The fact that this is the first arrest of an Israeli suspected of being a Mossad agent involved in the Dubai assassination indicates that the matter refuses to fade away.

The Dubai hit may have been a success operationally, but it has severely damaged Israel diplomatically. …

The political damage to Israel comes as a series of actions—or lack of actions—indicate that the world is sick of Israel’s deeds and sees Israel as a neighborhood bully that disregards and violates international norms. Israel’s good friends, like Australia, Germany and France are finding it difficult to defend Israel and to justify their support of Israel to their publics.

Of course, as a defender of the assassination might say, Mabhouh could not be reached for comment.

Is Israel Losing Another Ally Because of Dubai Hit? [Haaretz]
Analysis: Was Mabhouh Worth It? [JPost]

Poland To Rule on Suspected Israeli Spy Within a Month
Related: Murder in Dubai [Tablet Magazine]

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