thescroll_header

Today on Tablet

Cooking Tu B’Shevat-style with Eli from ‘Top Chef,’ and more

Email

Today in Tablet Magazine, Bridget Kevane, who yesterday profiled late Argentinian dissident Jacobo Timerman, talks to his son, Héctor—now Argentina’s ambassador to the United States. Tu B’ Shevat begins at sundown. If you want to know more about this tree-hugging holiday, check out our FAQ. Want to make an appropriate Tu B’Shevat meal? Take your cue from Top Chef contestant Eli Kirshstein, now a chef at a Manhattan kosher steakhouse, who cooked for Tablet. Get further into the holiday spirit with Hadara Graubart’s look at the art in the collection of Isaac Sutton, which is botanically themed. In his column on this week’s haftorah, Liel Leibovitz dares, “Try to tell Sarah and Deborah apart”—that’s Palin and The Judge, respectively. The Scroll only hopes it can be that topical.

Senate Approves Iran Sanctions

But the U.S. may not really want them

Email

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed a bill—similar to one the House of Representatives has already okayed—that would impose significant additional sanctions on the Iranian elite as well as energy companies that do business with the Islamic Republic (the bill was passed by voice vote, so the yeas and nays are not reported). This came one day after President Barack Obama warned, in his State of the Union address, “As Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise.” He was unmistakably referring to the same thing the Senate bill is: Iran’s U.N.-flouting, probably-not-merely-peaceful nuclear program.

The bill would:
• Bar U.S. financial institutions from extending loans or other assistance to companies that export gasoline to Iran or contract with it for oil-refining projects;
• Ban U.S.-Iran imports and exports (other than food and medicine);
• Empower the U.S. to freeze the assets of Revolutionary Guardsmen and other Iranians involved in proliferation or terrorism;
• Make private-sector divestment from sanctioned energy companies easier;
• Crack down on the technology black market.

The next step is for a joint committee to craft a compromise between the House and Senate bills. That bill would then be voted on by both houses; then, Obama could sign it.

Obama supported the House bill … sorta. As Allison Hoffman noted last month, the threat of further congressional sanctions may be more valuable to U.S. diplomats than actual further congressional sanctions. That’s because much more effective sanctions could come from the international community—most likely in the form of the U.N. Security Council—and the White House believes it will have an easier time corralling reluctant countries (that is, Russia and especially China) if it has a bit more flexibility to offer carrots along with sticks, and if it can point to the potential for that kooky legislative branch to do something all crazy and such if the Security Council fails to get its act together. Plus, the sanctions the bill envisions could find themselves harming these other countries’ cherished energy companies, which likely will not endear them to yet further sanctions.

It did not take AIPAC long to send us its statement praising the Senate and condemning Iran, and adding: “AIPAC urges conferees to move rapidly in order to return the bill for final passage as soon as possible. This is an urgent matter.”

While the realpolitik-inclined may not share AIPAC’s sense of urgency, at least regarding these sanctions, they probably do share its desire for a nuclear-free Iran: the White House was on record approving at least the House bill; and so was dovish “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street, AIPAC’s bedfellow at last.

U.S. Senate Approves Sanctions on Iran’s Fuel Suppliers [AP/Haaretz]
Senate Passes Iran Sanctions Bill [Laura Rozen]

Earlier: House Passes Symbolic Iran Sanctions Bill

Daybreak: IDF in Lebanon, Mostly Peacefully

Plus Israel cracks down on (Palestinian) dissidents, and more in the news

Email

• Israel has a military presence just inside the Lebanon border, protecting over 2,000 citizens who reside on the Lebanese side of the town of Ghajar. The United States and United Nations have asked it to leave; Hezbollah, a U.S. diplomat says, would prefer it to stay—it’s a P.R. coup. [WSJ]
• President Barack Obama defended Israel as one of the U.S.’s “strongest allies,” while also insisting, “Both the Palestinians and Israelis have legitimate aspirations.” [Haaretz]
• The U.S. Senate approved a bill that would impose further sanctions on the Iranian elite and on energy companies that do business with Iran (more on this at 10 A.M.). [Reuters/Haaretz]
• Formerly tolerant of them, Israel has begun preventing West Bank Palestinian protests of the security barrier and arresting organizers. In some cases, the protests have resembled “a creeping, part-time intifada.” [NYT]
• Prime Minister Netanyahu told U.S. envoy George Mitchell that he is okay with releasing hundreds of Fatah prisoners as a good-will gesture in the run-up, hopefully, to formal peace talks. [Haaretz]
• The Senate confirmed the appointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second five-year term. [LAT]

Sundown: IDF to Improve Soldiers’ Foot Odor

Plus Anne Frank banned and Gibson as Tricky Dick

Email

• Israeli soldiers are about to get some new gear: socks guaranteed not to stink for two weeks straight. No word on whether the laundry-impaired civilian will have access to the miracle footwear. [AFP]
• Public schools in Virginia have removed the “definitive edition” of Anne Frank’s diary from shelves, citing “the sexual nature of the vagina passage.” Genocide may not be taboo, but genitals are a different story. [AP]
Time magazine has an interesting casting suggestion for Mel Gibson: “This guy should play Nixon—another complex man of significant achievement with a debilitating belief that his enemies were bangin’ nails into him.” They might have something else in common. [Time]

Israel’s New Organ Donor Policies

Getting the inside track on insides

Email

Israel is infamous for having one of the lowest organ-donation rates in the developed world: a paltry 8% of Israelis are listed as organ donors, compared to roughly 35% in most Western countries. The problem is mainly that many observant Jews believe (incorrectly) that a body must be buried with all its organs intact.

Yesterday, a Slate article explored how the Israeli government has gone about trying to encourage donation. More prominently, the country gives “slight priority” to people who agree to be donors if and when they themselves are seeking an organ. (Which makes a bit of intuitive sense, no?)

More quietly, but no less importantly, Israel recently became the first country to compensate organ donors’ families. The ostensible purpose of the rewards—which run to several thousands of dollars—is to “memorialize” the deceased, but who’s kidding whom?

The Halachic Organ Donor Society exists to educate Jews and to encourage Jewish organ donation to Jews and non-Jews. Maybe it’s time to “compensate” them a bit?

Kidney Mitzvah
[Slate]

Earlier: Organ Donation’s Legality, Jewish and Otherwise

J.D. Salinger Dies

‘The Catcher in the Rye’ author was Jewish

Email
J.D. Salinger.(Javno)

The wires are reporting that J.D. Salinger died at 91. The ultra-reclusive author—a Jew who grew up in Manhattan—published only four books in his lifetime: one novel, The Catcher in the Rye; one story collection, Nine Stories; and two collections of two novellas each, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. The Glass family, which featured in many of his stories, was half-Irish, half-Jewish; so were the Salingers, though, according to Wikipedia, his mother passed as Jewish (without converting) and J.D. himself had a bar mitzvah.

Though we can be sad for his passing, in another sense this is actually potentially exciting news. Salinger has not published a book since 1963; the last thing of any kind he published, a story, appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. Since then, he has lived almost as a hermit in New Hampshire. We will now see if his typewriter has been on these past 45 years. Here’s hoping it has been.

Rabbi Links Quake To ‘Evil,’ Anti-Orthodox Articles

Cites Tropper revelations broken by Tablet

Email

Rabbi Avi Shafran, who is prominent in ultra-Orthodox American group Agudath Israel, had an … interesting explanation (well, sort of; explanation is slightly too strong a word) for the earthquake that devastated Haiti. In the quake’s aftermath, he wrote to Jews, “We must introspect, and make changes in our behavior.” He continued:

the Jewish world today is rife with “evil speech” … Jewish media are filled with accusations and “scoops”; they compete gleefully to find the vilest examples of crimes to report, to do the most attention-grabbing job of reporting them, and to be the first to do so. The very week of the recent catastrophe in Haiti, a national Jewish newspaper published a comic strip featuring grotesque depictions of religious Jews and aimed at disparaging Jewish outreach to other Jews. And another Jewish newspaper ran an editorial placing the alleged ugly sins of an individual at the feet of Jewish rabbinic leaders, simply because the presumed sinner, before he was exposed, had arranged for several respected rabbis to deliver lectures and had encouraged people to make donations to their institutions.

The comic strip, drawn by (friend-of-The-Scroll) Eli Valley, appeared in the Forward. The editorial appeared in The Jewish Star, and it concerned “accusations and ‘scoops’” about Rabbi Leib Tropper that Tablet Magazine broke. (UPDATE: Rabbi Shafran emailed in to note, correctly, that in his article, he also said that some of this stuff comes from within the Orthodox community, too.)

Yesterday, Shafran clarified his earlier post. “I did not ‘blame’ the earthquake on anything, much less a particular piece of writing or art,” he said. “I simply cited the Jewish mandate to soul-search in the wake of disaster, and quoted a Godol of our generation who suggested that speech fueled by ill will is a particularly rampant evil in our day. I cited the cartoon and editorial as recent examples, nothing more.”

It probably is an oversimplification to describe Shafran as having argued that “evil speech” caused the quake (as Gawker did). Still, the rabbi did call upon Jews “to perceive Divine messages in humankind’s trials”—he was asserting that the “evil speech” and the quake were at least somewhat related. But it is hard to believe the Richter scale is sensitive enough to register those sorts of early warning signs.

The Earth Trembles [Cross-Currents]
A Personal Note to Cross-Currents Readers [Cross-Currents]

Related: The Odd Couple [Forward]
A Smart Career Move [The Jewish Star]
Sex, Lies, and Audiotape [Tablet Magazine]

Come Fly the Tefilin-Friendly Skies

El Al won’t confuse davening and bombing

Email
(Museum of Flight)

Are you worried that your daily prayer, including your wrapping yourself in tefillin, will end up grounding your plane and placing you in handcuffs and on the nightly news? Then have we got an airline for you! El Al, Israel’s national airline, has responded to last week’s tefilin-related airplane debacle (in which a flight was grounded in Philadelphia after an attendant thought tefilin was an explosive device) with a witty, fun advertising campaign: “Fly with us! Our cabin crew will know how to ‘defuse’ them …” reads a poster.

(Okay, okay, there’s a chance that it’s not actually a legit El Al ad. But it should be!)

El Al: We Can ‘Defuse’ Teffilin in Flight [Arutz Sheva]

Earlier: BREAKING: N.Y. Plane Grounded Due to Teffilin Scare

Today on Tablet

An Argentinian dissident, a Yiddish poet, Afro-Semitic beats

Email

Today in Tablet Magazine, Bridget Kevane examines the late Argentinian dissident and publisher Jacobo Timerman, who, sometimes by necessity, played a complex game when it came to exposing anti-Semitism in his country. Zackary Sholem Berger eulogizes the great Yiddish-language poet Avrom Sutzkever, and bemoans Sutzkever’s underappreciated status (go appreciate three of his poems—the final one especially). Music columnist Alexander Gelfand profiles two bands that combine Jewish and African folk musics: the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra and the Afro-Semitic Experience. Reading The Scroll is its own sort of experience.

Jews Reading About WASPs

Novelist Louis Auchincloss died at 92

Email

Louis Auchincloss, who wrote several delightful novels about delightful and not-so-delightful rich Manhattan WASPs, passed away Tuesday evening. He was—as Adam Sandler sang of O.J. Simpson—not a Jew. But in a 2008 essay in Tablet Magazine, Mark Oppenheimer expounded on experiencing Auchincloss as a Jew:

many decades later, reading Auchincloss is something of an education, skewed but wildly entertaining. Like watching Mad Men to learn about Kennedy-era businessmen, or HBO’s Rome to learn about ancient Rome, the more stereotyped the characters, the better; the payoff is not psychological intricacy but rather a kind of romanticized encounter with the past as other. Only it’s the WASP, not the Jew, who is the Other.

And Oppenheimer’s fine closing observation has decided what my weekend reading is going to be:

Now that Jews have been admitted to the club, we discover that it’s a rip-off, with bad food and overpriced drinks. There’s a poignant sense that maybe, in another time, it really was glamorous, that once we were being excluded from something worth having. The morality was bad, but the aesthetic was grand. Auchincloss continues to give us the pleasure of the latter without the worries of the former.

Louis Auchincloss, Chronicler of New York’s Upper Crust, Dies at 92 [NYT]

Related: Tales from School [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: In Address, Obama Warns Iran

Plus new U.N. sanctions, R.I.P. Zinn, and more in the news

Email

• In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama vowed that Iran’s leaders “will face growing consequences” for flouting international nuclear agreements; on this issue, he said, “the international community is more united.” He did not mention Israel in the speech. [JPost]
• Meanwhile, at the United Nations the administration will propose a new, tougher sanctions regime this week targeting the finances of people and institutions associated with the Revolutionary Guards. Even Russia seems willing to go along. [WSJ]
• Also at the Security Council, the French and U.S. delegations surprised observers by supporting an assistant secretary-general’s vociferous denunciation of Israeli demolitions in East Jerusalem. [Haaretz]
• Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein, accused of running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, pleaded guilty to all charges. He faces up to 100 years in prison. [WSJ]
• Popular left-wing historian Howard Zinn—he wrote A People’s History of the United States—died at 87. [Boston Globe]

Sundown: Mr. ‘Kill all the Jews!’ Arraigned

Plus Brittany Murphy’s widower speaks, mazel tov Omri, and more

Email

• The man who was arrested for shouting “Kill all the Jews!” on a Detroit-bound plane earlier this month pleaded not guilty to all counts. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Simon Monjack, the widower of actress Brittany Murphy, who was raised Orthodox in Britain, talks about his late wife and why he’s suing one studio for wrongful death. [The Daily Beast]
• Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, was one of nine named to the league’s Rookie All-Star Team. The Rookies play The Sophomores on February 12th. [The Jewish Chronicle]
Echoing Rush Limbaugh, a prominent hedge funder compared President Obama’s attacks on bankers to the Cossacks’ attacks on Jews; journalist Ira Stoll thinks he has a point. [Jeffrey Goldberg]
•Today is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Speaking there, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the “Nazi Amalek”—referring to the Biblical eternal enemy of the Jews—and warned of the “new Amalek.” [JTA]
• And President Barack Obama reminded us to never forget. [The White House]

A French Intellectual’s French Views of Islam

BHL in NYC

Email
Bernard-Henri Lévy (and friend) last June in Venice.(Marco Sabadin/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernard-Henri Lévy, self-styled bearer of the torch of Enlightenment and engagée intellectualism, was making the rounds in New York City this week. Last night, he got center stage at a panel discussion at Columbia cosponsored by the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), which is essentially the French Anti-Defamation League. Topic: “Freedom of Expression: The Controversy.” According to the panel’s moderator, New Yorker editor David Remnick, Lévy was the distinguished guest because of his tireless work as a champion of free speech. In his remarks, though, Lévy—wearing dark shades and his trademark way-open-at-the-neck white dress shirt—demonstrated that his commitment to free speech might more accurately be described as “selective.”

On the one hand, he maintained his staunch defense of the Danish newspaper that published Islam-satirizing cartoons in 2005 (he even criticized Remnick for failing to republish the cartoons). On the other, he advocated for laws banning Holocaust denial, and spoke out against French women wearing burqas, which, he said, constitute “a political message” rather than a religious choice.

The other French panelist, Philippe Schmidt—a lawyer who, like Lévy, is affiliated with LICRA—took these arguments even further, proposing that Internet speech be regulated by some kind of supranational body. When a Columbia law professor on the panel pointed out that U.S. participation in such a body would breach the First Amendment, Schmidt replied (in earnest, it seemed), “You can change the First Amendment.” This strange moment only underscored what had already become clear: of the five panelists, including Remnick, the Americans argued for limited restrictions on speech, while the Frenchmen argued for limited restrictions on speech unless the speaker was a Holocaust denier or a religious Muslim.

Lévy, who personifies grandiosity, is easy to make fun of (“my friend Salman Rushdie” came up repeatedly). But the chauvinism of his ideas is no joke. No one asked directly whether he and Schmidt advocated different free speech standards for Muslims than for others, though Remnick cleverly wondered whether Schmidt thought Israel should have prosecuted Jewish extremists who had directed hate speech toward Yitzhak Rabin before the Israeli prime minister’s assassination (cornered, Schmidt said yes). But in his closing remarks, Lévy asserted that, at least at this point in history, Islam is unique among the monotheistic religions in its susceptibility to extremism. “Mainstream” Judaism, he argued, is fundamentally anti-fundamentalist. Lévy’s refusal to acknowledge the significance of Jewish (and Christian) fundamentalism is shared by many on both sides of the Atlantic. But his insistence on couching his biases in a grandiloquent commitment to Enlightenment values is—to engage in a bit of chauvinism—very French.

Introducing the iPad

Please resume thinking of us when you think ‘Tablet’

Email
Moses has a new tablet: the iPad.(Innocent Bystanders/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

We dodged a close one! In the run-up to Apple’s introduction of its new mobile computing device, the product was frequently referred to as the “Tablet,” or, sometimes, the “iTablet.” While we at Tablet Magazine were flattered to have our name-coining abilities so prominently complimented, at the same time another part of us did not want to be drowned out by iTabletmania.

We need fear no more: earlier today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. Yes, it’s being referred to as a “tablet,” but that is an improper noun, if you will. Call this thing by its name, and call us by ours. And remember that ol’ Moses did not bring two iPads down from the mountain.

Apple Reveals the iPad Tablet [NYT]

Hamas Committed No War Crimes, Says Hamas

For a minute, we were worried!

Email
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.(Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

After what was no doubt an exhaustive and scrupulous investigation, Hamas has found that it committed no war crimes during last January’s Gaza conflict, despite allegations to the contrary in the U.N.-sponsored Goldstone Report. Those missiles that the group lobbed into the Negev and the town of Sderot? They were aimed exclusively at military targets, the group insisted. The head of the investigating committee, who is also Hamas’s justice minister, concluded, “The committee worked around the clock to uncover the facts, despite the certainty that there were no violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law that amount to war crimes.” Sorry you had to waste your time, guys.

Hamas Clears Itself of U.N. Gaza War Crimes Charges [AFP/Yahoo!]

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.