Today on Tablet

An oxymoronic liberal Zionism, dogs!, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Daniel Luban epically questions whether a notion of American liberal Zionism is even tenable. Shalom Auslander, and dogs. Dogs! The NBA Finals are tonight: Marc Tracy profiles Red Holzman, who oversaw past New York Knicks glory with a very specific number of wins. The Scroll is, somewhat sadly, picking the Lakers in six.

Israel Conquers YouTube

IDF Flotilla videos garner millions of views


Yesterday, the New York Times noted that one of the main battlegrounds, at this point, is YouTube, with videos from competing sides each purporting to sell different narratives of the incident: Who was armed and who was unarmed, who started it, and so on. (Me? I will continue to insist that Han shot first.)

Well, numbers aren’t everything, but the numbers have it for Israel: Despite initially holding off on releasing footage, as of yesterday afternoon Youtube’s first- and third-most viewed videos, each with more than a million views, are IDF tapes of the raid on the main ship, the Mavi Marmara. These show the soldiers being violently set upon immediately after landing. (Second place was going to something titled “American Idol Freakout!!”—more Zionist propaganda, no doubt.)

A new “mash-up” of IDF footage, which does a nice job splicing among different perspectives, has been making the rounds. Check it out below:

And check out some audio here.

Videos Carry On the Fight Over Sea Raid [NYT]

Daybreak: Blockade in Jeopardy

Plus Biden and Oren weigh in, and more


• The United States will push for some sort of alternative to the Gaza blockade. [NYT]

• Israel has clarified that its landings of five of six ships were peaceful; on the biggest, the Mavi Marmara, passengers resisted violently, it said. Activists continue to challenge the Israeli line. [WSJ]

• Vice President Biden weighed in with strong words of support for Israel’s actions. AIPAC applauded this and congressional statements of solidarity. [Ben Smith]

• Israel’s military has come under perhaps unprecedented criticism in the wake of the incident. [WSJ]

• Palestinians were apparently refusing to accept the humanitarian goods from the flotilla, which Israel took, inspected, and attempted to deliver to Gaza. [NYT]

• Israel’s ambassador, Michael Oren, argues that elements in the flotilla were unconcerned with a humanitarian goal and were instead looking “to destroy any hope of peace.” [NYT]

Sundown: New Iran Sanctions Put Off

Plus Ireland requests boat’s passage, and more

Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks today.(Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

• Remember the new push for Iran sanctions? A vote on them, which had been backed by Russia and China, will now be delayed due to the flotilla brouhaha. [Laura Rozen]

• Ireland formally requested that the Rachel Corrie, an Irish-owned ship piloted by the Free Gaza folks, be allowed to travel to Gaza. It is currently on its way. [JTA]

• The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a motion to request a Goldstone-esque probe into the Flotilla raid. Several European countries abstained; the United States voted against. [JPost]

• David Horovitz bemoans the damage done by the Israeli decision to initially withhold video showing IDF soldiers being attacked by those on board. [JPost]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu defended the raid and the soldiers, and condemned the rest of the world’s “hypocritical” response. [Ynet]

• An exegesis on the nature of humor and what makes today’s Old Jews Telling Jokes so funny. [The Awl]

The news cycle has caused us to be delinquent about posting those; we’ll try to be better. Here is the discussed one:

Talking Turkey, Blockade Bungled

And McCain blames Obama

Rural Israeli youths march in solidarity today.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

• Fred Kaplan explains just how routine a task it is to properly maintain a blockade, and so just how bizarre it is that the sophisticated Israeli navy failed to complete it. [Slate]

• The always-wise David Ignatius says the flotilla incident has hopefully revealed to the Israelis—and the world—that Turkey is serious about regional hegemony. The next step, he adds, is to make this the whole world’s problem. [WP]

• Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) says President Obama’s demand for a full settlement freeze led to the fiasco. Somehow. [The Hill]

• The Israeli government is not apologizing. [LAT]

• Noah Millman points out that, for better or (quite possibly) worse, the blockade receives broad support from the Israeli public. [The American Scene]

• Jeffrey Goldberg reports from Israel that people there are scared that their damaged reputation will make them look vulnerable. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Israeli novelist Amos Oz says the fiasco has shown the limits of the power of force. [NYT]

• David Frum says Oz’s dovishness would be more workable if he had more counterparts in Hamas. [Frum Forum]

• Thomas Friedman puts the incident in the context of fraying relations between “two of America’s best friends.” [NYT]

• Bernard Kouchner, France’s foreign minister and one of Europe’s most prominent liberals, called the raid “a very grave mistake” from Israel’s perspective. [Ynet]

• Hussein Ibish dissects why Israel’s attempt to sell its counter-narrative is failing. [Ibishblog]

• Tablet Magazine columnist Etgar Keret finds himself an unlikely diplomatic correspondent. [Haaretz]

• Israeli novelist David Grossman says the fiasco is merely the natural extrapolation of the cruel and unwise blockade itself. [Guardian]

The Flotilla Clarifies the Conflict’s True Nature

Your afternoon sanity break


This has been making the rounds, and deservedly so.

First, a little historical background. The side of the conflict that I support comprises nothing but honourable and courageous men and women. They are motivated by nothing more than a desire to defend their own families and rich culture. Their cause is right and these people are completely justified in every action, no matter what they do. By contrast, the other side is composed entirely of amoral murderous thugs who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. Far from achieving a just settlement and a lasting peace, these thugs are only interested in perpetuating the cycle of violence and brutality.

Why The Gaza Flotilla Attack Proves That I Am Right About Israel/Palestine [Conniptions]

Turkish Delight?

Flotilla backers, majority of activists hail from Turkey

The Turkish and Palestinian flags wave at a protest.(Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Lee Smith devoted today’s column to the Gaza flotilla’s Turkish connection, and the odd situation this puts the United States in. As further facts about the flotilla and its supporters come to light, this Turkish link seems all the stronger.

For the starters, there are the passengers. Of the 682 detainees, over half—380—were Turkish. Nearly half of the dead—4—were Turkish, too.

Then, as always, you must follow the money. I.H.H.—the group behind the flotilla—is funded, the New York Times reports, by many of the same wealthy, religious, Istanbul-based merchants that are credited with having brought Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist party to power.

Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador from Tel Aviv. For the record, it says it will normalize relations … when Israel lifts the Gaza blockade.

Bad Moon Rising [Tablet Magazine]
Israel Freeing Flotilla Detainees [Ynet]
Turkish Funds Helped Group Test Blockade [NYT]

The Yiddish Robin Hood

New musical has a greedy Jew, but in the neighborly way

Scene from The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer.(Michael Priest Photography)

Last weekend, I checked out a preview of The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer, a new Yiddish-language musical (with English and Russian supertitles) that opens tomorrow night at the Baruch (College) Performing Arts Center in Manhattan.

The show is produced by the National Yiddish Theater, or Folksbiene, and arrives as that 95-year-old troupe faces real competition from the New Yiddish Rep, which started three years ago partly in reaction to what its founders saw as a certain stuffiness in the older company. The New Yiddish Rep has been stealing a good deal of the very small limelight for Yiddish theater, and the companies have had their public spats. But Hershele seems to mark a reconciliation of sorts—New Yiddish Rep director Shane Baker (whom I profiled last year) appears in the new show. And Hershele is silly, but it’s not stuffy. (more…)

Shoah Stories Win Prestigious Prize

A love story swallowed by the Holocaust

The Grunewald tracks.(Photo by the author)

Congratulations are in order to Sarah Wildman and Slate magazine: Her and their series, “Paper Love: Inside the Holocaust Archives,” won the 2010 Peter R. Weitz Journalism Prize, which is given by the German Marshall Fund “for excellence and originality in reporting on Europe and the transatlantic relationship.” In five parts, Wildman reports on the recently opened International Tracing Service archive, as well as her quest to find the fate of her grandfather’s apparent lover, who was trapped in Berlin after he had escaped. Read it in parts on the Internet, print it out and read it on a train, but do read it.

The final installment closes with Wildman at the train tracks in Grunewald, the posh neighborhood in western Berlin. On these train tracks, “on Jan. 29, 1943—the day of Valy’s deportation, 1,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz, 100 to Theresienstadt. The tracks stretch out into the distance, covered with vegetation in places but still totally visible.”

This picture of the fateful Grunewald track comes from my post from a month ago about my own visit to Berlin.

Paper Love [Slate]
Earlier: Postcards From Berlin

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]

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