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Today on Tablet

An Orthodox sex scandal and the money behind it

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman has a blockbuster: the largely untold story of how Lieb Tropper, once a modest ultra-Orthodox rabbi from Monsey, New York, emerged as a central figure in setting worldwide standards for conversion to Judaism … before he was brought down by revelations that he tried to persuade a prospective convert to have sex with other men. Josh Nathan-Kazis retells, in true-crime style, the stunning 1870 murder of a prominent New York City Sephardic banker—Nathan-Kazis’s ancestor, as it happens. We will certainly try to match the excitement of these two stories on The Scroll today.

Trouble With Turkey

What a diplomatic to-do means for Israel and the U.S.

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Israeli diplomats and the Turkish ambassador. Note the height disparity between the sofas.(Ynet)

Israel’s relations with Turkey have been better. After a Turkish television series depicted Mossad agents as evil and murderous, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, on orders from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, summoned the Turkish ambassador to reprimand him in front of Israeli TV cameras. The deliberate humiliation has become a cause célèbre in the Arab media; Israel’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned by the government there; an Israeli cabinet minister criticized Ayalon’s treatment of Turkey’s envoy. This is the type of thing for which that odd word “brouhaha” may as well have been invented.

Just as importantly, the counter-attacks have begun. Turkey is cozying up to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned this. Lieberman is traveling to Cyprus today to sign a shipping agreement, which one imagines the Turks will be aware of and not pleased with. At least Defense Minister Ehud Barak is due in Ankara on Sunday, and hopefully he can clean matters up somewhat. And just this morning, Ayalon apologized.

Where does all this leave the United States? The country is an ally to both antagonists. Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn argues:

The previous Democratic administration, that of Bill Clinton, managed to link Turkey and Israel in a strategic alliance that served U.S. interests in the region. The downward spiral began under George W. Bush, but in the first year of the Obama administration everything fell apart. The Americans need to ask themselves how this happened and whether Turkey is lost.

Turkey is a regional military and cultural hegemon that borders Iraq and Syria (oh, yeah, and Iran), as well as Europe. It is also the world’s largest, if not only, secular Muslim democracy. Losing it would not be a favorable outcome for either America or Israel.

Israel Alone Can’t Be Blamed For Row With Turkey [Haaretz]
Arab Media: Turkish Ambassador Humiliated by Israel [Ynet]
Turkey Summons Israeli Ambassador [Ynet]

Daybreak: Iranian Physicist Killed; Iran Blames U.S. and Israel

Plus a 7.0 hits Haiti’s capital, and more in the news

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• A Tehran University physicist associated was assassinated outside his home in a bomb blast. Iran has fingered the United States, Israel, and other Western interests. A White House spokesperson called the charge “absurd,” and an Israeli spokesperson declined to comment. [LAT]
• This morning, the influential speaker of Iran’s parliament claimed that Iran learned several days ago that the United States and Israel were planning terrorist acts in the country. [Haaretz]
• Three Israelis thought to be present in Haiti have not been accounted for since the earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince yesterday, likely killing thousands. (For a list of humanitarian agencies with a presence there, including several Jewish ones, see here.) [Arutz Sheva]
• An editorial is a special “appreciation” of Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and others, and later recovered Frank’s diary. [NYT]
• Nearly three-quarters of Israelis support peace negotiations with the Palestinians, while slightly more than three-quarters believe their government is working “well or even better.” [JPost]

Sundown: Hamas Does Damage Control

Plus an allegedly anti-Semitic Chicago conference, and more

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• After last week’s tension in Gaza—rockets fired into Israel, a fatal skirmish at the Egyptian border—Hamas asked Gazans to observe a ceasefire. [Haaretz]
• The head of the American Israeli Action Committee demanded the resignation of Hannah Rosenthal, Obama’s anti-Semitism envoy, and said J Street, which she used to advise, “fool[s] around with the lives of seven million people.” [Arutz Sheva]
• Pope Benedict XVI told diplomats that he favors a two-state solution. [JTA]
• The Anti-Defamation League is alleging that a Muslim-interest conference held in Chicago last month contained much anti-Semitic rhetoric. The organizers deny the charge. [JTA]
• A Brandeis University-sponsored study found that Israel studies at American universities grew significantly over the past several years. [JTA]

J Street Establishes Local Chapters

Dovish political org. comes to a city near you

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They say all politics is local, and J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, seems to agree. The group is opening dozens of headquarters grassroots advocacy groups around the country, centered around certain intra-state regions (i.e., southern Florida) or metropolitan areas (i.e., Chicago), in order to get its message across through more than just the national political and media structure,. To that end, chapters are designed to cover specific congressional districts. Also to that end, they tend to be concentrated in more Jewish areas: New York has five chapters, for example, and New Jersey three. Meanwhile, Montana, as yet, has no J Street Local affiliates. Get on that, guys: there are Jews in Montana, too!

J Street Releases Plans to Open Regional Offices [New Jersey Jewish News]
J Street Local [J Street]

U.S. Won’t Withhold Israeli Aid

Envoy Mitchell’s hint was apparently innocuous

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Mitchell last November.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

While being interviewed last week on Charlie Rose, U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell noted, “under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel.” That’s technically true. But since Mitchell has been tasked by the Obama administration with getting the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the Israelis were a little curious as to whether Mitchell was speaking more than just matter-of-factly, and as more than just a person who happens to be familiar with that area of American law. Was his answer a hint? A veiled threat?

Turns out that, according to an assistant secretary of state, Mitchell was merely answering a direct question:

Mitchell was simply asked a question with an historical context. You know, are there sticks that are available? And I think he mentioned that this is a step that the United States has taken in the past … He wasn’t signaling that this is something that we’re forecasting in the future. You know, but it is—it obviously is something that we have in our toolbox. It’s not that we’re out, you know, wielding that particular tool at this particular time.

If Mitchell was in fact launching a trial balloon, to see how the notion of threatening to withhold Israeli aid would go over, then he appears to have gotten his answer.


State Dept.: U.S. Not Planning to Withhold Israel Loan Guarantees
[Haaretz]

Israeli Supermodel Refaeli Shoots New Ad

Sorry, what were we saying?

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Haaretz, arguably Israel’s premiere daily, brings news that Bar Refaeli, arguably Israel’s premiere supermodel, “has made another mark on the international lingerie map” by shooting a commercial for French company Passionata. If it is big enough news for Haaretz to cover, then we feel a certain journalistic responsibility to put in the shoe-leather reporting on it as well. Let’s take a look.

[0:00] That’s definitely Bar Refaeli. She used to date Leonardo DiCaprio, right? Maybe she still does? [00:26] Ah, yes, that is definitely lingerie she is wearing. It is appropriate, perhaps, that this lingerie maker is French, since “lingerie” is a French word, at least I assume … [00:52] … okay so this is their full-body type of lingerie, which (1:03) Breaking: that is new lingerie. She has just changed! Or something. [1:12] She just changed again. Okay just watch the rest of it. You know, if you want.

WATCH: Israeli Model Bar Refaeli Strips for French Underwear Company [Haaretz]

Will White House Dictate Israel-Palestine Terms?

Obama could dictate premises and force a yes or no

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Obama at the White House last week.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It sounds too satirical to be true: the Israelis and the Palestinians have not sat down at the final-status negotiating table because they cannot agree on what to agree on. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem formally on the table before talks begin; Israel doesn’t. Israel wants no firm deadline; the Palestinians want a two-year timetable. And so on. And the actual discussions haven’t begun yet!

The Obama administration appears fed up with the parties’ inability even to talk, and so is considering a novel solution: the White House would fabricate what it deems are fair preconditions to the actual talks (“terms of reference” is how you say it in diplomatese). President Barack Obama would send letters outlining them to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas. The two sides would simultaneously face the same deal. If nothing else, they would be on the same page.

Either or both sides could still reject those terms, of course. But at least the onus would more firmly be on them to say yes or no, and a dynamic could occur in which one side says yes and thereby puts massive pressure on the other side to follow suit. Maybe—just maybe—the two sides would both bite, and actually sit down together. It would be a start.

Obama May Define Terms of Peace Talks [Ynet]

Earlier: The Road Map to Real Negotiations

Today on Tablet

Kirsch on the quasi-Jewish Dönme

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Adam Kirsch reviews a new book about the Dönme—a small group of Sephardim once based in Salonika, Greece, who subscribed to the teachings of the heretic Sabbatai Zevi and converted to Islam, but also maintained observance of much Jewish ritual. “The Dönme may not have been Jews,” Kirsch writes, “but they functioned in the Turkish imagination as Jews—they were clannish, untrustworthy outsiders, who were actually more threatening than the actual Jews because they had so long pretended to be Muslims.” The Scroll will update you with the latest on Jewish news and opinions all day.

What Has ‘Invention of the Jewish People’ Invented?

Nextbook author Halkin takes prominent book to task

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The Western Wall during Tisha B'Av, July 2009.(Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Hillel Halkin—whose biography of 12th-century Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi is forthcoming from Nextbook Press—reviews Shlomo Sand’s much-discussed The Invention of the Jewish People in The New Republic. (Evan R. Goldstein reviewed it for Tablet Magazine.) Halkin is not a fan; specifically, he deplores Sand’s allegedly ahistorical charge that Jews only began to conceive of themselves as a coherent people in the mid-1800s. Halkin concludes his review with a mini-manifesto, about Jewish historical writing and its relation to the Jewish present, that is worth flagging:

If Israel is going to be Jewish and fully democratic, it will have to find other ways for non-Jews to become Jews, or to identify with Jews, than the forbidding Orthodox conversion that is currently their sole societal option. A revival of historical interest in how, in certain times and places in the past, non-Jews have been successfully integrated into the Jewish people in large numbers, and without too many questions asked, might be a contribution to such a process.


Indecent Proposal
[TNR]

Related: Yehuda Halevi [Nextbook Press]
Inventing Israel [Tablet Magazine]

Earlier: ‘Times’ Weighs In on ‘The Invention of the Jewish People’

Daybreak: Silicon Valley, Israel

Plus we welcome our robotic Israeli overlords, and more in the news

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• David Brooks sees Israel’s economic success and start-up culture as “the fruition of the Zionist dream,” which nonetheless threatens the long-term viability of the state’s secular, modern, and democratic character. [NYT]
• Israel will never give up control of united Jerusalem, including those areas on the Arab side of the Green Line, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted. [Haaretz]
• “Israel is developing an army of robotic fighting machines,” this article begins. [WSJ]
• U.S. National Security Adviser Jim Jones arrives in Jerusalem today for government and military talks. [JPost]
• Mina Bern, one of the major stars of the Yiddish stage in Poland, Russia, Israel, and New York City, died at 98. [Forward]
• And, as The Scroll noted last night, Miep Gies, who helped protect Anne Frank’s family and was the one who first recovered her diary, died at 100. [NYT]

Miep Gies Is Dead

Anne Frank protector who saved diaries after arrest was 100

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Gies in her Amsterdam apartment in 1998.(NYTimes.com)

Miep Gies, who with three others sheltered eight Dutch Jews from the Nazis in a secret annex to Otto Frank’s Amsterdam office during World War II, died Monday night at the age of 100. She was an employee of Frank’s business who helped protect the Frank family; another family, the van Pels; and her dentist, Fritz Pfeffer, after the Germans occupied the Netherlands and started deporting Jews in 1942. When the Gestapo raided the annex on August 4, 1944, arresting the hidden Jews and sending them to concentration camps, Gies avoided arrest and saved the papers of the teenaged Anne. After the war, when only Otto Frank returned from the camps, Gies gave him his daughter’s diary, which was first published in the Netherlands in 1947. Gies, who remained anonymous until an American author identified her and helped her publish an autobiography, Anne Frank Remembered, in 1987, was subsequently honored with West Germany’s highest civilian medal in 1989 and knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 1996. “I am not a hero,” she wrote in Anne Frank Remembered. “I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did and more—much more—during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the heart of those of us who bear witness.”

Miep Gies, Protector of Anne Frank, Dies at 100 [NYT]

Sundown: All Mitchell Is Saying Is Give Peace A Chance

Plus world’s best boxer scared of Jews’ best boxer, and more

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• Special Envoy George Mitchell is in Paris, requesting French and European Union support for the new U.S. effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. He is in Brussels tomorrow. [JPost]
• Manny Pacquaio, generally agreed to be the world’s best boxer, did not want to fight his fellow welterweight Yuri Foreman, who is a practicing Orthodox Jew. The Filipino megastar’s main concern is the five-and-a-half inches Foreman has on him. [LAT via JTA]
• A Chabad rabbi in upstate New York pleaded guilty to child endangerment over allegedly touching two boys inappropriately. [WTEN Albany]
• Swastikas and other graffiti were found spray-painted on an Orthodox synagogue in Sacramento, California. [JTA]
• The New York Times Book Review favorably reviewed Tablet Magazine columnist Seth Lipsky’s The Citizen’s Constitution. [NYTBR]

Make Casspi An All Star!

Campaign to send Israeli NBAer to Dallas game

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Omri Casspi, the Sacramento Kings rookie who is the first Israeli to play in the NBA, has been tearing it up as of late, averaging a respectable 13 points a game (which is bound to rise now that he’s been starting more and more). So it’s not too late to vote him into the NBA All-Star Game, held next month in Dallas. It is, however, too late to start a special Twitter feed devoted specifically to getting Casspi into the game: Yediot Ahronoth’s twitter.com/Casspi4Allstar has already got that beat covered. Check it out!

Casspi4Allstar (via Kaplan’s Korner)

German Woman Who Conspired Against Hitler Dies

Von Moltke, 98, also essential reading for historians

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When one thinks of Righteous Gentiles, one thinks of Raoul Wallenberg or (more complicatedly) Oskar Schindler—non-Jews who saved Jews from the Nazis’ policy of extermination. But expand the definition, and such a one as Freya von Moltke, who recently died at 98, is appropriately included. What Moltke did was join her husband, Count Helmuth James von Moltke, in organizing the so-called Kreisau circle—named after the Moltke family estate at which it convened—to come up with ways to depose Hitler during the war (it is unclear whether her husband was in direct contact with the military conspirators who attempted to assassinate the Führer). The New York Times notes:

Mrs. Moltke could have faced the death penalty simply for serving food and drinks to the conspirators. … She contributed ideas, particularly on legal issues, and her expertise. In an enduring contribution, she gathered up Kreisau circle documents and letters from her husband and hid them in the estate’s beehives. In 1990 she published them as Letters to Freya. The papers have proved valuable to scholars for their gripping portrayal of heroic, almost certainly futile resistance.

Emphasis on heroic.

Freya von Moltke, Part of a Core of Nazi Resistance, Is Dead at 98 [NYT]

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