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…)

Foxman, Beinart Spar

Over context of Israeli actions


Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has responded to Peter Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay in the NYRB—a classy move, doing it in the same venue.

In his essay, Beinart cites the ADL as one of the prime American Jewish groups that, in its all-but-unquestioning support for Israel, has enabled Israel’s least liberal elements and forced many liberal American Jews—particularly younger ones—to abandon their Zionism. But, echoing critics like David Frum, Foxman argues that Beinart fails to understand Israel’s actions and policies in the proper context: Namely, decades of Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism. Most Israelis and American Jews, according to Foxman,

understand that continuing to sit in the West Bank is not good for the country. So at Camp David in 2000 they tried a solution of ending the conflict, which included withdrawing from 90 percent of the territories and eliminating the majority of settlements. They got a big no and suicide bombs.

In 2005, they withdrew unilaterally from Gaza with the intent to do likewise in the West Bank because they saw no partner for peace. They got Hamas and rockets against their civilians. In 2008, with a different Palestinian interlocutor, they went back to a full and better offer for a Palestinian state and got nothing again. So after all that, is it surprising that the public in the last election said, nothing works, let’s hold on until there’s real change on the other side?

What Beinart diagnoses as chronic Israeli illiberalism is actually, Foxman adds, “a justified cynicism about the willingness of the other side to end the conflict and a confusion about what real options Israel has regarding its dilemma of how to withdraw and still have security.”

In his response, Beinart, while acknowledging that the Palestinians are “not blameless,” argues that Palestinian actions cannot fully explain the most revanchist elements of Israel’s society and indeed government. Hinting at something he said in his interview with The Scroll, he concludes, “the ADL too often ignores the interconnectedness of Jewish and non-Jewish dignity. After all, the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister.”

Peter Beinart vs. The ADL [NYRB]
Earlier: Beinart Speaks to Tablet
Related: The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment [NYRB]

Israeli Nukes Come Under Scrutiny

New nonproliferation push

The International Atomic Energy Agency flag.(Wikipedia)

Might the Obama administration’s calls for stricter nonproliferation efforts find Israel in its crosshairs? Probably not, but it’s still an issue worth watching.

Israel practices “nuclear ambiguity”: It has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty …but has pledged not to become “a nuclear power” … but is basically known for certain to possess nuclear warheads, though it has not declared it. (By contrast, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are non-signatories that have in effect declared their nuclear statuses; all other nuclear powers are signatories.) Israel’s status has rarely been any sort of issue, but one of the few times it has been is, well, just now. President Obama’s recent nuclear summit brought out some anger out of Mideast states like Egypt over the fact that their ostensibly “nuclear-free zone,” which they are trying to prevent Iran from spoiling, actually already has a de facto nuclear power. In fact, it was reported yesterday that some NPT signatories, led by the Phillipines, have introduced a U.N. draft resolution that would call on “all states in the Middle East that have not yet done so to accede to the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states so as to achieve its universality at an early date.” Hint, hint.

Meanwhile, perhaps the policy most emphasized by the Obama administration’s new National Security Strategy is nonproliferation. “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global nonproliferation regime that has frayed as more people and nations break the rules,” it states. “We will pursue a broad, international consensus to insist that all nations meet their obligations,” it declares. “And we will also pursue meaningful consequences for countries that fail to meet their obligations under the NPT or to meet the requirements for withdrawing from it.”

North Korea, which has developed nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT, and Iran, which is widely believed to be developing them in violation of the NPT, are frequently cited. But could this include Israel too?

Definitely not, nonproliferation expert Jeffrey G. Lewis emails. “This refers to Iran and North Korea (which it does by name), and not Israel, which strictly speaking has no obligations under the NPT,” he explained to me. “I do not believe that this statement, even in a veiled manner, in any way is supposed to refer to Israel.”

The real test, it seems to me, would be if some sort of resolution with strong bearing on Israel ever makes it to the Security Council. At which point we could expect a U.S. veto.

Summit on Nuke-Free Mideast in 2012 [JPost]
Nuclear Redaction [Slate]
Earlier: Obama Calls for Two States, Broad Engagement

Today on Tablet

So much hummus, fuzzy numbers, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Etgar Keret has some thoughts on the new hummus world record. Two political scientists take issue with Peter Beinart’s use of statistical data purporting to show declining American Jewish identification with Israel in his big essay. In an excerpt from his new history of Commentary magazine, Benjamin Balint shows how the magazine was integral to the remarkable postwar Jewish invasion of the American literary canon. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz tries to be his own prophet. The Scroll thinks that would be a pretty cool skill to have.

Obama Fêtes the Jews

Our dispatch from the White House party

President Obama and former Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax.(All pictures Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Of all the guests at yesterday’s first-ever reception for Jewish American Heritage Month, only one got a shout-out in President Obama’s formal remarks. “Sandy and I actually have something in common,” said Obama, directing his attention to the reclusive, legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax, who sat in the front row. “We are both lefties.” But, the president added, the similarities end there: “He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur; I can’t pitch.”

You know the old saw about how it’s always really hot on Jewish holidays? Apparently it applies to secular celebrations, too: A late-spring heat wave blanketed Washington, D.C., and while a few lucky guests bypassed the sidewalk security queue—Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols, we’re looking at you—for most of the 200 or so honorees, the weather turned out to be a great equalizer that left everyone just as damp as everyone else. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman panted his way down 15th Street, jacket slung over his shoulder, trailed by J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami. Chabad emissary Chaim Bruk, in from Montana, sweated it out with former Dallas Cowboys lineman Alan Veingrad. A lucky few clustered beneath the shade of umbrellas, which were originally packed for the predicted thunderstorms. (more…)

Daybreak: Bibi Wants Face-to-Face Talks

Plus the futile Flotilla? and more in the news

The Gazan naval police awaiting the Freedom Flotilla.(NYT)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wants to move “as speedily as possible” from the current U.S.-mediated proximity talks to direct talks. [AP]

• Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with President Obama at the White House in early June, three days after Netanyahu does. [Laura Rozen]

• Israel has alternately condemned and mocked the “Freedom Flotilla” now making its way toward Gaza, where it will attempt to breach the IDF’s blockade. The IDF has pledged to prevent the up to nine vessels from reaching Gaza. [NYT]

• Israel is set to announce its formula for compensating West Bank settlers hurt by the current six-month construction moratorium. [JPost]

• Syrian President Bashar Assad defended (to Charlie Rose) his backing of Hamas and Hezbollah, while also asserting that Iran supported informal Syrian-Israeli talks. [Haaretz]

• After a key House vote, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. military will almost certainly be repealed. Almost all the prominent non-Orthodox American Jewish groups are for this, as is Obama. [NYT]

Sundown: Son-of-Rahm Gets Presidential Gift

Plus how Israel doesn’t relate to the oil spill, and more

Rahm Emanuel at the Western Wall today.(AFP/Getty Images)

• Chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel’s family met with Shimon Peres; the Israeli president gave the bar mitzvah boy a pocket watch a Kiddush cup and a book of Psalms. [Ynet]

• Shmuel Rosner wonders why many magazines—he singles out Foreign Policy—give disproportionate attention to Israel. [Rosner’s Domain]

• Cyprus denied permission for the Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla” to mass in its waters. Though the practical effect will be minimal, Israel lauded the island nation. [Ynet]

• A conservative organization is pushing one American Christian minister’s line that the oil spill in the Gulf is retribution for President Obama’s tough line on Israel. [Religion Dispatches]

• Doug Quinn—previously seen mixing Rosh Hashanah cocktails for Tablet Magazine—is New York’s best bartender: The Times said so. [NYT]

• The White House’s Jewish Heritage reception is going on right now. Allison Hoffman will file a dispatch tomorrow, but for now, it’s streaming live!

Prominent Arab Israeli Charged With Spying

Makhoul denies working with Hezbollah

Ameer Makhoul.(Islam Times)

An Arab Israeli community leader arrested earlier this month, initially under a gag order, was indicted today on charges of spying for Hezbollah. Ameer Makhoul is accused of meeting with an operative of the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed terrorist group in Denmark in 2008; passing along information on Mossad, Shin Bet, and other security facilities; and trying to recruit other agents. He is the head of Ittijah, or The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations; his brother is a former Knesset member.

Makhoul denied the charges, and his lawyers—to which he was only recently granted access—assert that he was interrogated unlawfully. (The police deny this.) Some see the prosecution as political.

A second Arab Israeli was indicted separately for the lesser charge of meeting a Hezbollah agent.

This seems like one more thing that could make it a hot summer on the northern border.

Two Arab Israelis Charged with Spying for Hezbollah [LAT]
Earlier: Two Alleged Hezbollah Spies Arrested

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