Author Confirms S. Africa Nukes Report

Describes different Israeli responses to apartheid

Sasha Polakow-Suransky.(Random House)

At Just Journalism, former Tablet Magazine staffer Michael Weiss interviewed Sasha Polakow-Suransky, whose new book, Unspoken Alliance, was responsible for the recent report (vigorously denied by Israeli officials) that in the 1970s Israel offered to sell apartheid-era South Africa nuclear weapons. (In fact, the titular “unspoken alliance” is that between post-1967 Israel and the white South African regime. Benjamin Pogrund praised the book in Tablet Magazine last week.)

Polakow-Suransky stands by his research, though he says that certain other revelations in his book—for example, that Israel purchased uranium from South Africa in the ‘80s without safeguards—were perhaps more worthy of front-page treatment.

Most interestingly, to me at least, Polakow-Suransky lays out his typology for where Israeli politicians fell regarding the apartheid state. He sees three broad groups:

The founding fathers, like David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, who were morally opposed to apartheid and therefore had no desire for a South African partnership. “They represented the moral vision of Israeli policy,” Polakow-Suransky states.

The Labour Party realists, like current President Shimon Peres. Their desires to strengthen Israel’s security trumped other moral considerations, and therefore they sought out the helpful alliance. “It was strict realpolitik,” he explains. “So Israel and South Africa got in bed together.”

The Revisionist Zionists, like Ariel Sharon, who were hardcore anti-Communist and so approved of South African on that ground.

Polakow-Suransky explicitly denies that Israel currently has an apartheid system. However, it is nonetheless interesting to ponder how the three above categories might map on to present-day critics and supporters of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Interview with Sasha Polakow-Suransky, Source for Guardian Report on Israel and South Africa [Just Journalism]
Related: Binding Ties [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: U.S. Sanctions Brake For U.N. Ones

Plus Bibi to stop by D.C., and more in the news

Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Iran sanctions bill’s sponsors have deliberately slowed its progress—with AIPAC’s backing—now that multilateral U.N. sanctions are on track. [Laura Rozen]

• Come on down! President Obama told Prime Minister Netanyahu that, y’know, since he is going to be in Canada next week anyway, he should probably just drop by the White House and say hi. [Haaretz]

• And Netanyahu told chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel that, since he is in the neighborhood and all for his son’s bar mitzvah, they may as well meet today, and they are. [JTA]

• The “Gaza flotilla” of nine aid ships should hit the Strip by Friday or Saturday. It is not entirely clear whether the IDF will allow them through the blockade. [JPost]

• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Yasser Arafat’s Second Intifada “one of the worst mistakes of our lives.” [JPost]

• A New York left-wing activist named Lori Berenson was released from a Peruvian jail in order to raise her child, though she still may not leave the country until 2015, when her sentence for collaborating with terrorists is over. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, her lawyer is her husband and the child’s father.) [LAT]

Sundown: Rahm Eats Trayf

Plus the death of a donkey, and more

Rahm Emanuel.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

• Spotted! Rahm Emanuel and family, in Eilat! Eating shellfish! But don’t worry, folks: He bought his own shrimp. [Ben Smith]

• A $33 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation is to be divided between the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements. [JTA]

• A small, Gaza-based, Syrian-backed terrorist group blew up 200 kilograms of dynamite in a donkey cart. No one was killed; the donkey was. [Sighs.] [JPost]

• Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said he had not known of appointee Fred Malek’s Jew-counting past, and also vouched for him. [WP]

• A Belgian rocker named Eric Grossman called Elvis Costello a “douchebag” for canceling his Israeli tour. [Ynet]

Yuri Foreman Draws a Crowd

And promoter Bob Arum talks to Tablet

Yuri Foreman this morning.(All photos by Marc Tracy)

It was just like how several attendees said they hoped the old days had been: A real crowd gathered at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn this morning to see Yuri Foreman, the junior middleweight belt-holder, train for his fight against Puerto Rican sensation Miguel Cotto on June 5 at Yankee Stadium. While ordinary decent folks hit the bags, shadow-boxed, and took lessons elsewhere in the gym, dozens of reporters, hangers-on, and plain old fans watched Foreman, the 29-year-old Belorussian who in his spare time is studying to be an Orthodox rabbi, rev himself up for the biggest boxing match involving a Jew in quite a few decades.

Foreman was a man of few words this morning. He moved from jumping rope—for like ten straight minutes!—to the ring, where he first shadow-boxed and then sparred with a pads-wearing trainer, and then finally to the speed bag. As a sport, boxing tends to enforce a dialectic between competition and spectacle: The more competitive a bout gets, the more spectacular it is; the more lop-sided, the more boring. Training is a little different, though. The most important part of this morning for Foreman, it was clear, was his time in the ring, but the segment that made for the most exciting viewing was the speed bag. I can’t quite ascertain its practical value—if a boxer ever tried to hit another boxer with that sidehand, up-down motion, he would certainly get pummeled by a hook to the body to be followed by a definitive opposite-hand uppercut. But it sure is cool to see as stunning a physical specimen as Foreman hit the bag in a speedy blur.

Foreman at the speed bag.

Foreman wasn’t taking much in the way of questions, but I did get a chance to chat with legendary promoter Bob Arum, the old Jewish guy behind the young Jewish guy. Arum also promotes Cotto and, most notably, the world’s greatest fighter, Manny Pacquaio. (I of course asked him whether we are going to be treated to the fight everyone wants to see: Pacquaio vs. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. He said it was too soon to tell.) (more…)

Madoff Play With Wiesel Scene Still On

Run out of D.C., it heads upstate

Elie Wiesel last year.(Gergely Botar/AFP/Getty Images)

There was a to-do in last week when Theater J, the Washington, D.C., JCC’s theater company, canceled what was to have been the world premiere of a play about Bernard Madoff. They canned it, specifically, after Elie Wiesel complained about its depiction of a fictional jailhouse scene between him and the notorious Ponzi schemer. (Wiesel reportedly lost a substantial sum in the morass of Madoff’s machinations!)

Well, if you still want to see the play—which is called Imagining Madoff, and was written by Deborah Margolin—you can check it out at Stageworks Hudson, a couple hours’ drive north of New York City.

Also, the NPR show All Things Considered did a brief segment on the legal legitimacy of Wiesel’s objection.

Theater Cancels Play With Wiesel Character [NYT]
When Truth Meets Fiction, Lawyers Intervene [NPR]

Discuss Our Column

Marjorie Ingall wants your responses


Many of you seem to have a lot to say concerning my little cri de coeur about reconciling my liberalism with Zionism, and my uneasy feeling that I’ve fallen down on the parenting job by not addressing my ambivalence head-on with my kids. I appreciate all the comments, positive and negative. (Well, maybe not so much the one calling me a vapid ignoramus, but then I just took deep breaths and bought shoes on the Internet until the sad feelings passed!)

I’d love to continue to engage with you on this subject. I’ll devote my next column to responding to readers’ comments and questions. Send your suggestions, objections, and queries to—please try to be civil so your own mama would be proud of you—in as few words as possible, by day’s end Wednesday, and I’ll answer as many as I can next Monday. Thanks!

Never Never Land [Tablet Magazine]

The Non-Pulitzer-Winning ‘National Enquirer’

Journal with Jewish DNA strikes out


Great feature in GQ about the National Enquirer’s failed bid to win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the John Edwards sex scandal. The author is with executive editor Barry Levine when the Pulitzer winners are revealed. (The awards for best investigative reporting went to a story about post-Hurricane Katrina hospital patients who were euthanized and a story about—what else?—corrupt cops. The Enquirer wasn’t even a finalist.)

“So, okay,” the author writes,

There’s one school of thought that says whatever the Enquirer turned up on Edwards is, from a media-ethics perspective (and therefore from a journalism-prize perspective), tainted, that even if Source Y volunteered corroborating evidence freely, the fact that the paper found Source Y by greasing X poisons the well. But it’s also entirely possible—and plausible—that the newspaper editors and J-school types on the Pulitzer board are uptight prigs who just don’t want to reward the UFO-chasers at the Enquirer for straight-up eating their lunch.

Last month, in the run-up to the annual Pulitzer announcement, Levine told Senior Writer Allison Hoffman, “We’re not holding our breath. Whether we win or not, we received a huge amount of recognition from the mainstream media.”

Hoffman noted the publication’s extensive Jewish DNA: In addition to top editor Levine, the former editor-in-chief and the head of American Media Inc. (which owns the Enquirer) are Jewish.

All The Dirt That’s Fit to Print [GQ]
Earlier: Tabloid Awaits Pulitzer Announcement

The Schlemiel Goes To War

Nextbook author speaks to Jewish West Point grads

Professor Ruth Wisse.(Harvard)

Ruth Wisse—a professor of Yiddish at Harvard and the author of Nextbook Press’s Jews and Power—gave a special commencement address last week to the 13 Jewish cadets who graduated this year from West Point. It’s well worth your time.

Speaking to the college grads, she recalled her own doctoral dissertation, titled, “The Schlemiel as Modern Hero.” The schlemiel—the quintessential bumbling Yiddish everyman (who, as Marissa Brostoff observed, continues to find new incarnations)—is, Wisse notes, “a man so naïve that he doesn’t understand the premise of the fight into which he has been conscripted.”

Hence the following joke: During World War I, an officer announces to his troops, “The moment has come! We’re going to charge the enemy. It’ll be man against man in hand-to-hand combat.”

A Jewish solider responds: “Please, sir. Show me my man! Maybe I can come to an understanding with him.”

“We now know,” Wisse continues,

what happened to the people who created those jokes. They were slaughtered in the millions. What we call the Holocaust targeted precisely the population that created schlemiel comedy. We learned from that episode that sweetness was no laughing matter and that joking—which momentarily releases tension—offered no defense against real belligerents. The schlemiel who initially made us laugh also taught us to raise our guard.

Her point? “In this season of convocation, we your relatives, friends, and well-wishers honor you who have trained for the armed forces, acting on the knowledge that radical innocence is no match for radical evil.”

War Is No Joke [The Weekly Standard]
Related: Jews and Power [Nextbook Press]
Look Out! [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

Rosenbaum and Kahane, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Ron Rosenbaum remembers the Jewish Defense League. Books critic Adam Kirsch tackles Anthony Julius’s tome on British anti-Semitism. And The Scroll tries to get some reading done as well.

Did Inna Grade Leave a Will?

Yiddish writer’s papers may wind up in Jerusalem

Inna Grade.(Jack Manning/The New York Times/Redux)

The New York Times (a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture) has published the latest in its series of items on Inna Grade, who died two weeks ago. (The Times broke the news of her death. Oh, no, sorry, that was us, though you wouldn’t know it from the NYT—not to be peevish or anything.)

Inna Grade was the 85-year-old widow of the Yiddish writer Chaim Grade. She was best known in Yiddish literary circles as a somewhat miserable person who spent three decades after her husband’s death blocking scholars and translators from coming anywhere near his work. Many of those scholars and translators started chomping at the bit when Grade died earlier this month, seemingly without a will—and thus no clear inheritor of Chaim’s literary estate.

But a New York attorney is now claiming that Grade composed a will, back in 1992, and that he has a copy. The lawyer told the Times that Grade wanted her husband’s papers to go to a Hebrew University professor of Yiddish named Yehiel Szeintuch and his wife. If valid, the will is a blow to organizations like the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which has reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Chaim Grade’s papers. Additionally, the Times reports that two septuagenarians who say they are Inna Grade’s first cousins have come forward as well, but have not expressed interest in her husband’s estate.

One thing is for sure: There’s a great sultry jazz number missing from Fiddler on the Roof. “If Inna’s got a will, baby, Inna’s got a way.”

New Twists in the Tale of Chaim Grade
Related: Keeper of the Flame [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: Obama Accuses Syria

Plus Australian ‘crisis,’ and more in the news

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Obama in the Oval Office yesterday.(Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

• President Obama informed the Lebanese prime minister that he still believes Syria is transporting Scud missiles to Hezbollah. [Ynet]

• We learned that Australia’s expulsion yesterday of a Mossad representative related to the Dubai/Hamas assassination followed the country’s intelligence chief’s personal trip to Israel. Israeli diplomats called this “a very serious crisis.” [Haaretz]

• Others joined Shimon Peres in denying the report that Israel offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid-era South Africa. [NYT]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell revealed that he intends to set a “deadline” for a peace agreement to emerge from the proximity talks. [Foreign Policy]

• Israeli police suggested that the attorney general indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for allegedly attempting to subvert a corruption investigation. His indictment for alleged corruption has previously been recommended, though not followed through on. [WSJ]

• The guest list to Thursday night’s White House Jewish Heritage reception is beginning to trickle out. Hopefully invitee Sandy Koufax will show. (We will have a report afterward.) [AP]

Sundown: Out of the Outback

Plus one great big ball of falafel, and more

Giant ball of falafel, with Omri Casspi.(JTA)

• Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat over continuing fallout from the Dubai murder of the Hamas weapons procurer. [Ynet]

• An Israeli chef made the world’s largest falafel ball—30 pounds!—right here in New York City, at what sounds like a typical Greek diner. [JTA]

• The unlikely tale of Henry Roth’s soon-to-be-posthumously-published seventh novel. [NYT]

• Nextbook Press editor Jonathan Rosen is participating in an exciting-sounding forthcoming exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Birds, guys! Birds! [Whitney Museum]

• Simon Monjack, the husband of the late actress Brittany Murphy, was found dead. They’re saying natural causes. [AP/NYT]

• Beef roll-up: The Jewish deli meat presentation you may not have tried, yet. [NYMag]

Marjorie Ingall’s column today has 52 comments! Keep ‘em comin’!

Reform Leader Gets Tough on Iran

Yoffie calls for unity on importance of sanctions

Rabbi Eric Yoffie.(Union of Reform Judaism)

Last week, the Forward published an op-ed by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Reform movement, in which he called on liberal and centrist Jews—his constituency, in other words—to “wake up” to the dangers of a nuclear Iran. The basic message wasn’t news to anyone who’s been paying attention to the Iran issue, but Yoffie’s real argument wasn’t about whether Iran is a threat to the Jewish state. It was about the imperative for the Jewish community to set aside increasingly partisan differences and mobilize as a whole on this existential issue. The left, he wrote, may be underestimating the threat to both Israel and the U.S. But the right isn’t helping by mixing up its opposition to the Obama administration’s Iran policy with its broader discontent, thereby turning off people administration supporters who might otherwise be willing to sign on to a tough-on-Iran platform.

Yoffie talked to Tablet Magazine today about his diagnosis, and how he hopes the left will respond.

What prompted you to write this now?
As I said in the essay, the conservative response was the motivating factor. The common sense notion is that you need American support for dealing with Iran, and the anti-government rhetoric seems so counterintuitive and counter-productive. I have heard it, and having that experience in several instances had me shaking my head, and saying I need to write about it. On the one hand it indicates concern for Iran, but on the other hand it seems to be so counterproductive and not focused on Iran at all, but focused on all kinds of other agendas. Do we care about Iran, or is it a pro-settlement agenda, or an anti-Obama agenda? And is Iran getting lost in the fog?

You wrote that you were puzzled about the relative silence from left and center of the Jewish community on Iran. Why do you think that’s been the case?
On the liberal, centrist side of the equation, I don’t think people feel as passionately about it as they should. So much of the rhetoric on the right strongly suggests, implies, or directly acknowledges that what we’re really pushing for is military action, and that really makes the left and center uncomfortable. My view is that, as the Obama administration has said, we’re not taking anything off the table, but that while it’s getting late, crippling sanctions can still make a difference. I think that’s the way to go. Liberals and centrists are scared off by the implication of military action and that’s a factor in their thinking. But that can’t be a reason for staying silent.

You invoke 1967 to indicate how urgent the threat is.
This is the critical time. It’s not something we can wait six months to talk about. We have to talk about it right now. I think we’re running out of time on the ability of economic sanctions to be effective. So there is real urgency now. And the Obama people have ratcheted up the rhetoric. But if it’s between that and delivering results, results have not been delivered yet. (more…)

Critics Accuse Essay of Ignoring Israel’s Enemies

Conservatives wonder at Beinart’s omission

David Frum.(Wikipedia)

When The Scroll last visited l’affaire Beinart, there were a notable lack of critical right-wing responses to the essay. (Unrelatedly, Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse has weighed in.) Now, however, at least two responses—one from David Frum, one from James Kirchick—have supplied the following rebuttal: That Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay understates (or altogether elides) the threats that Israel faces, and therefore is unduly harsh on the Israeli government and its more hawkish American Jewish supporters.

“There is no mention that Palestinians voted Hamas into power in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections,” Tablet Magazine contributor Kirchick argues.

There is similarly no mention of the murderous anti-Semitism spewed in Palestinian schools, television, radio, and newspapers, or the medieval propaganda sponsored by Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Egypt. And, perhaps most tellingly, there is no mention of the poll, conducted just last month by An-Najah National University in the West Bank, which found that 77 percent of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution.

The foundational error in Beinart’s piece is a grievous misunderstanding for why the Arab-Israeli conflict persists to this day: Arab intransigence.

Beinart responded to this line of argument by claiming, first, that his essay was less concerned with the motives behind the Israeli government’s actions than the far less explicable ones behind the American Jewish establishment; and, second, that “Arab intransigence” (and worse), while far from irrelevant to the conflict, is also not necessarily the main motivating factor. (more…)

Blown Disguise

An old Jew tells a joke



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