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Moldovan Menorah-Destroyers Avoid Prosecution

Blatantly anti-Semitic incident did not incite religious hatred

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The prosecutor in Moldova’s capital city of Chisinau has decided not to file any charges related to an allegedly anti-Semitic incident there last month. Then, a group of Orthodox Christians stormed a Hanukkah menorah set up near the town center, tore it down, and replaced it with a cross, while the priest leading the group declared: “We are an Orthodox country. Stephan the Great defended our country from all kinds of Zjids, and now they come and put their menorah here. This is anarchy.” Incitement to racial or religious hatred is outlawed in the tiny Eastern European country.

The non-prosecution should surprise no one, since the whole mess was the Jews’ fault in the first place.

No Charges Filed Against Moldovan Anti-Semites [JTA]
Earlier: Moldovan Church Blames Jews for Anti-Semitic Attack

Portman Doesn’t Like Playing Jewish Characters

But she’d be so good at it!

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Portman in New York last November.(Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for IFP)

Natalie Portman is Jewish: in fact, she was born Natalie Hershlag in Jerusalem. She also just played a Jewish woman in one section of the film New York, I Love You. Yet, apparently, she is not keen on future Jewish roles. “I’ve always tried to stay away from playing Jews,” she reportedly told British Elle. “I get like 20 Holocaust scripts a month, but I hate the genre.”

We have two things to say to Portman. First, to quote actor Andy Garcia: “Typecast? I certainly hope so. I spent seven years without working.”

Second, however many Holocaust scripts you get each month, we get at least as many Holocaust books. We feel you.

The Three Kinds of Movies Natalie Portman Won’t Do [iVillage Entertainment]

Earlier: New York, You Deserve Better

Mumbai Chabad Threatened

Note cites Hitler, pledges attack

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“Israel is dogs. We will strike again—heil, Hitler.” So reads the handwritten note that the Chabad house in Mumbai was sent. A picture of Hitler was reportedly attached.

In November 2008, Islamic terrorists staged a massacre in the Indian city, killing 170. The Chabad was one of several sites specifically targeted, and six occupants were killed.

Mumbai Chabad Receives Threat [JTA]

Dispute Over Kafka’s Israeli Papers Is Transparent and Simple

Just kidding, it’s totally Kafkaesque

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A writer would be tempted to describe any conflict over Franz Kafka’s estate as “Kafkaesque,” even if it were relatively ordinary and clear. However, in the Czech Jewish writer’s case, the eponymous adjective really does seem apt. According to The Washington Post, unpublished papers belonging to the estate of Max Brod, Kafka’s literary executor, are spread over half a dozen boxes in Israel and Switzerland (and that’s not counting suspected secret Swiss boxes). These may contain little of interest; they also may contain unpublished letters or stories in Kafka’s hand. The Israeli State Archivist claims that it was understood that Brod’s heirs, the Hoffes, would give the papers to a public archive. The Hoffes claim the papers are their property (and they are considering selling them to the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach, Germany—which already owns the original manuscript of Kafka’s The Trial).

“To the Hoffes,” we are told, “the episode smacks of the heavy-handed statism about which Kafka wrote. Their mother’s entire will—estimated in the millions of dollars—is being held in limbo by the courts while the fight over the documents is litigated.” If you’re looking for an extra layer of irony, you may find it here: Max Brod might be considered one of the worst literary executors in history. After all, Brod published Kafka’s extant novels and stories, and kept all his papers. Kafka wanted everything burned.

In Israel, A Tangled Battle Over the Papers of Franz Kafka [WP]

Today on Tablet

Shalom Auslander talks genocide in his first column

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Shalom Auslander, author of The Foreskin’s Lament, inaugurates his “Diary of a Novelist” column by explaining how to find the funny in mass ethnic murder: “‘There’s nothing funny about genocide,’ you say. That’s what I thought.” For its part, The Scroll will try to find additional, perhaps more traditional things to laugh about.

U.S.-Arab Talks Held, To Pave Road to Peace

Multibillion-dollar arms deal thrown into mix

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There is a flurry of diplomatic activity between the United States and several Muslim countries as America tries to lay the groundwork for Israel-Palestinian peace talks. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with her Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts in Washington, D.C., to talk peace. Half a world away, eight U.S. congresspersons, led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), are touring the Middle East. Yesterday, the delegation met with Egypt’s foreign minister; in the coming days, they hit Jerusalem for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, the Palestinian Territories for Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and Istanbul for President Abdullah Gul.

Unrelatedly—maybe—the Pentagon gave its blessing to a $3.2 billion deal between Egypt and Lockheed Martin for 24 F-16 jet fighters. The Defense Department also okayed smaller deals for Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates to buy American-made weapons.

U.S. Lawmakers Talking Peace on Mideast Mission [JTA]
U.S., Arab States Collaborating To See Mideast Talks Resume[Haaretz]
Egypt, Arab Countries Sign Massive Arms Deals With U.S.[Arutz Sheva]

Daybreak: Was Barak’s ‘Vacation’ a Secret Meeting?

Plus Polanski’s request, another Ponzi scheme, and more in the news

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• Rumors abound that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spent last Sunday and Monday in Jordan secretly meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His aides say he was on “vacation” (presumably not hiking the Appalachian Trail). [JPost]
• Film director Roman Polanski asked a judge to sentence him in absentia for having sex with a minor. A hearing on this request is scheduled for later this month. [LAT]
• A Hamas-organized protest in southern Gaza led to a rare armed skirmish with Egyptian border guards. An Egyptian soldier died, and several on both sides suffered injuries. [NYT]
• Richard Elkinson, 76, was arrested for allegedly conducting a $29 million Ponzi scheme that specifically targeted elderly Massachusetts Jews. [JTA]
• Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), currently touring the Middle East, will attempt to cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians until they return to peace talks with Israel. [The New York Jewish Week]

Sundown: Rahm Is Pleased as Punch With Israel

Plus the Holocaust Museum on Von Brunn, and more

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• The White House flatly denied that chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel threatened to disengage from the peace process because he was “fed up” with Israel. Haaretz reported he did this morning. [Jeffrey Goldberg]
• Israel’s deputy foreign minister predicted that a nuclear Iran would prompt a massive regional arms race. [Haaretz]
• Scott Rothstein, the Florida man who allegedly orchestrated a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, is working on a plea that would spare him a life sentence. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Fun with Orange County, California, white-supremacist anti-Semitic political parties. [OC Weekly via The Awl]
• Finally, we just received the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s official statement on the death of James Von Brunn: “The Museum’s thoughts and prayers continue to be with Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns’ family at this time. Officer Johns died heroically defending the Museum, visitors and staff. This tragedy is a powerful reminder that our cause of fighting hatred remains more urgent than ever.”

Polish Police Hot on Trail of Auschwitz Theft

Sign-stealers suspected to be in Sweden

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Polish police want to talk to two men in Sweden who allegedly were involved in last month’s pilfering of the wrought-iron “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign that graced the entrance to Auschwitz; one of the two is the apparent mastermind. (The sign was recovered, though it had been cut into three pieces.) The artifact was reportedly meant for an unnamed British Nazi sympathizer. Meanwhile, the replica sign that was quickly put in place will likely remain indefinitely, out of security concerns, though the real McCoy will return to the Auschwitz museum after undergoing tests. The museum, for its part, attracted a record 1.3 million visitors in 2009.

Relatedly, this letter to the editors of the New York Times appeared today:

The lack of security protecting Auschwitz is unlikely to be “perplexing” to anyone who has visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. Visitors are far more likely to be perplexed if not appalled by the utter disrepair of the Birkenau site and the snack bar selling hot dogs and ice cream at Auschwitz.

Poland Questions Two Thieves Over Auschwitz Sign Theft [Haaretz]
Auschwitz Draws in Record Number of Visitors in 2009 [Ynet]

Holocaust Museum Shooter Dies

Von Brunn, 89, succumbs in prison hospital

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Flowers marking the death of the Holocaust museum security guard, last June.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The man who last June allegedly shot and killed a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., died today in a prison hospital in Butner, North Carolina. (An anonymous government official has confirmed the death.) James Von Brunn was facing a potentially capital charge of first-degree murder, as well as several smaller charges, including one for committing a hate crime. In the 1980s, he served over six years in federal prison for threatening people in the Federal Reserve Board headquarters with a sawed-off shotgun.

If you want a refresher on Von Brunn’s bizarre racist and anti-Semitic beliefs, TPM published the go-to rundown when the shooting occurred:

Von Brunn, apparently a World War II vet, has a long history of white supremacist writing. His book, Kill The Best Gentiles, embraces Adolf Hitler’s view that Jews concocted World War I as part of a scheme to stab Germany in the back—a myth the Nazis used to justify the Holocaust.

He also wrote an Internet posting complaining that Obama’s birth certificate and other documents have not been made public.

In 2003, he claimed to have conducted an investigation into the ethnic and religious background of Tommy Franks, the CENTCOM commander at the time, after some U.S. troops were placed under British command in Iraq.

Holocaust Museum Shooter Dies in Prison Hospital [AP/Fox News]

Earlier: So What If Von Brunn Hated Jews?
Related: James Von Brunn: A Profile [TPM]

British Men Want to Marry Rachel Weisz

Jewish actress wins new poll

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Weisz at a premeire last month.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

The question was asked British Esquire, and Weisz (pronounced Vice), a 39-year-old London native, took top honors. Congratulations, Ms. Weisz!

Really, though, the heartiest congratulations are due to American-Jewish director Darren Aronofsky: he is Weisz’s fiancé. Well played, sir.

Rachel Weisz—A Woman We Love [British Esquire, via The Jewish Chronicle]

U.S. Asks Israel for Security Advice

After Christmas Day bombing, Israel knows best

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The Homeland Security Department is already consulting Israel, whose airport and plane security is famously stellar, over how to head off attacks like the one that almost occurred two weeks ago. Today, Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Jane Holl Lute met with Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transportation minister; Katz promised to share the benefit of his country’s extensive knowledge and experience. Afterward, Lute visited Ben Gurion International, outside Tel Aviv, to inspect Unipass, a new biometric system there that enables fliers to complete much of Israel’s extensive pre-flight security procedure by themselves. We have to get us some of that.

Katz Vows To Aid U.S. in Aviation Security [Ynet via Vos Iz Neias?]
Israel, U.S. To Accelerate Security Memorandum on Terror [Ynet]

Earlier: How To Prevent Plane Bombings? Ask Israel

Meet The Likely Next Jewish Senator

Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal expected to win Dodd’s seat

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Blumenthal campaigns for Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Senate primary.(Bob Falcetti/Getty Images)

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) will tell the world this afternoon that he won’t run for reelection. Right after he does, Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general for the past two decades, will announce his candidacy for the open seat. Blumenthal is immensely popular, and various commentators note he is likely to win in November. Is it too late to start calling Blumenthal “The Jewish Kennedy” again?

For Blumenthal is an almost laughably perfect politician, “blessed,” Slate’s David Plotz argued in a memorable 2000 profile, “with every political virtue except recklessness and luck.” After Harvard, a stint in the Nixon White House under Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Yale Law, and a Supreme Court clerkship, Blumenthal was named Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney at the age of 31—making him the youngest lead federal prosecutor ever. As state attorney general, he got ATM fees banned and helped lead the Big Tobacco lawsuits. He is one of the hardest-working retail politicians to boot.

Plotz writes:

A generation or two ago, a politician with Blumenthal’s brains and drive would have been reserved a Senate seat because Democratic Party elders would have ensured it. But in today’s more chaotic politics, the prudent Blumenthal has kept waiting and waiting and waiting for his turn.

Richard Blumenthal’s turn has finally arrived. If he is elected in November, he would become (by our count) the 14th Jewish senator, and also the 14th Jewish senator who either is Democratic or, if we wish to include Connecticut’s other senator, at least caucuses with the Democrats.

Senator Dodd Will Not Seek Re-election, Democrats Say [NYT]
Richard Blumenthal [Slate]

Today on Tablet

Remembering Sharon, and what he did

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Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Seth Lipsky takes stock of Ariel Sharon’s career four years after the then-prime minister lapsed into his current coma.

One feature, no doubt, was that Sharon was an includer, a welcoming figure. This didn’t comport easily with his image through much of his career as a hawk. But one could see it in various encounters, beginning with the way he and his wife, Lili, ran his breakfast table at his farm in the Negev desert.

Also, The Scroll will take stock of the news and semi-news of the day.

Gilad Shalit Negotiations Progress

If the end is in sight, it’s still on the distant horizon

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Shalit, from a video allegedly filmed in September 2009.(AFP/Getty Images)

What’s the latest on the biggest story in Israel (if not necessarily Israel’s biggest story)? Yesterday, the German mediator shuttled back into Gaza to convey Israel’s counteroffer to Hamas. While Israel has agreed to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for its abducted soldier, it is still reportedly balking on a few high-profile individuals. It is also insisting on deporting many of these folks either to Gaza or overseas, which Hamas objects to. The likely next step will see Hamas refusing the exact counteroffer but not shutting off talks altogether.

To end this post the way they might in an Israeli publication: Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and then taken into Gaza 1,291 days ago.

Mediator in Gaza for Response [Ynet]

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